Scream VI review

Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Cast : Melissa Barrera, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Jack Champion, Henry Czerny, Mason Gooding, Liana Liberato, Dermot Mulroney, Devyn Nekoda, Jenna Ortega, Hayden Panettiere, Courteney Cox, Josh Segarra
Genre: Horror
Run Time : 122 min
Opens : 9 March 2023
Rating : M18

Scream 2 took our heroes out of the Woodsboro suburb and to college, with the Ghostface killer (voiced by Roger L. Jackson) following them, and in Scream 3, Ghostface went Hollywood. This time, it’s over to the east coast as the main characters introduced in 2022’s Scream make their way to New York for college.

The survivors of the most recent Ghostface killings, Sam (Melissa Barrera) and Tara (Jenna Ortega) Carpenter and Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding) Meeks-Martin, are in college together. In the year since the killings, conspiracy theories suggesting that Sam was the real Ghostface killer have popped up online. Sam and Tara’s relationship is contentious, with Tara feeling that Sam is being overprotective of her. When Ghostface strikes again, the survivors find themselves targets again. Mindy’s girlfriend Annika (Devyn Nekoda) and roommates Ethan (Jack Champion) and Quinn (Liberato), are all caught in the fray too. Kirby Reed, a survivor of the Ghostface killings of 2011, is now an FBI agent and is on the case alongside NYPD detective Bailey (Dermot Mulroney), who happens to be Quinn’s father. Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), journalist and author and survivor of the original Ghostface killings, investigates the new killings while facing hostility from Sam and Tara, after writing a book about their ordeal despite promising that she wouldn’t. The past comes back to haunt our heroes in a big way as they must survive and get to the bottom of the mystery.

2022’s Scream, directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett and written by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, was largely hailed as a successful revival of the franchise. That creative team returns, wasting no time to build on the momentum with a sequel that is very much a direct follow-up to the previous film. Its observations about the state of horror filmmaking and of franchise filmmaking as a whole are not quite as sharp as the previous movie’s commentary on the “re-quel” trend, but it still makes sense in the grand scheme of things. The elaborate shrine to Ghostfaces past in an abandoned theatre is a striking image. There are several good set-pieces here, including a tense escape from one apartment into an adjacent one, across a rickety ladder. The movie’s opening sequence, featuring an alum from a previous movie by this pair of directors, is a fantastic way to kick things off, immediately turning formula on its head in a wickedly playful way.

Unfortunately, things after that feel a little repetitive, especially since this movie is coming out so soon after the last one (mirroring the one-year gap between 1996’s Scream and 1997’s Scream 2). There’s only so much one can subvert and retool, and the big reveal closely echoes that of one of the earlier movies. There is a lot of emphasis on the movie’s New York setting. It was shot in Montreal, and movies set in New York but shot elsewhere are nothing new, but sometimes that crucial inimitable New York-ness struggles to come through.

We see the continued effect of the incidents on the main characters, and the movie does a great job of making us care for them, especially Sam and Tara. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Jenna Ortega’s stardom has significantly increased after her starring role in the series Wednesday between the last Scream and this one. The movie makes great use of her innate charisma and is further evidence of why she fully deserves scream queen status.

Melissa Barrera has some interesting notes to play. In the previous movie, she was haunted by visions of her father Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), one of the two killers from the original Scream. Here, she finds herself facing the question of if she really is destined to be a killer, with the online conspiracy theories getting under her skin. It is a logical place to take the character.

The new characters are not especially memorable, and it’s clear that the movie has chosen to focus on the returning characters from the previous film. Both Jasmin Savoy-Brown and Mason Gooding continue to be likable presences onscreen, with Mindy getting another expository monologue explaining the meta themes. Jack Champion, recently seen in Avatar: The Way of Water, doesn’t get a lot to do.

Fans will cheer the return of Kirby Reed, the heroine of Scream 4. Hayden Panettiere comes out of semi-retirement from acting to put in a confident turn, but isn’t fully convincing as an FBI agent, probably in part because audiences will still be thinking of her as a college-aged character. It is well-publicised that Neve Campbell turned down a role in this movie, citing too low an offer. Campbell’s Sidney is missed, but Gale popping up does compensate for her absence. Unfortunately, both Gale and Kirby’s appearances feel somewhat perfunctory.

Summary: Scream VI serves as a direct sequel to the previous film, continuing the arcs of its main characters. The focus is on the characters who were introduced in and survived the events of Scream (2022), and the movie does make us care for them. Jenna Ortega, who has become a huge star in between the release of the previous film and this one thanks to Wednesday, is in full scream queen mode here. While the movie is often engaging, it can’t help but feel like a bit of a re-tread of last year’s Scream, which benefitted from being the first Scream movie in over ten years. Still, there’s plenty here for long-time fans of the series to appreciate.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars                   

Jedd Jong


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