Scream VI Review: Ghostface Hits the City Streets
By Daniel Rester
After the success of last year’s Scream (2022), a sequel to that requel was rushed into production – following the quick turnaround pattern of Scream 2 (1997) for Scream (1996). The new film, Scream VI, follows the new characters introduced in the 2022 film and veteran Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox). Notably absent is main character Sidney Prescott after Neve Campbell and producers couldn’t come to a contract agreement. So the big question is this: can the Scream series survive without Sidney?
Scream VI follows new final girl Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera) as she relocates to New York City and struggles with her dark family ties and the bloody events from a year before. Her sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) and friends Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding), also survivors from before, come with her and attend college in the Big Apple. It isn’t long before the phones start ringing and a new Ghostface shows up to do some stabbing. And that is all I will say about the plot so as not to spoil the fun since the Scream films always rely on a whodunit sequence of events.
Following the 2022 film, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett return as directors, James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick return as writers, and Brett Jutkiewicz returns as cinematographer. My guess is this team will continue on with a seventh chapter. It would be nice to see executive producer and series creator Kevin Williamson step back into a writing role for further sequels though.
This new writing team provides some exciting scenarios, but some of the dialogue in Scream VI falls flat and lacks the bite and intelligence of Williamson’s writing; even some jabs at long-running franchises and blaming the victim feel a bit forced in in order to provide meta touches. The third act reveals are pretty predictable too as I predicted about 80% of what was going to happen in the finale by minute 25. The killer(s) reveal presents some major plot holes for earlier scenes in the film too.
Despite the writing hiccups, Scream VI is a thrilling ride and better than most sixth chapters in horror franchises. I even liked it a touch more than the fifth film, and it proves the franchise can move forward without Sidney. Sam comes into her own more as a lead character (Barrera is also much better in the role this time around) and the set pieces in NYC (though shot in Montreal) are highly suspenseful and brutal.
While Sam is interesting and Barrera does a fine job, the returning supporting cast helps a lot too. Ortega shines again as Tara while Gooding is a standout in some scenes as Chad (who amusingly calls the previous survivors the “Core Four”). Cox gets one energetic and terrific scene as Gale and proves again why she is a fan favorite. Brown, a standout in the 2022 film, overdoes it at times as Mindy here but is still entertaining to watch.
The new cast making up students, detectives, friends, etc. includes Jack Champion, Tony Revolori, Josh Segarra, Samara Weaving, Liana Liberato, Dermot Mulroney, and more. Hayden Panettiere, who played the much-loved Kirby Reed in Scream 4 (2011), returns as well. Segarra is excellent as a mysterious neighbor of Sam’s and Revolori and Weaving get one of the best scenes in the film. Mulroney is the only weak link among the fresh faces, hamming it up at times.
Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett help make up for where the script lacks. They keep the pacing brisk, stage the attack scenes with an expert eye for detail, and make Ghostface extra mean this time around. Whether on a subway train, in a bodega, or in an alleyway, the directors find ways to add small but flavorful touches while also tightening the tension before providing the explosive — and very stabby — kills. The opening scene and another scene involving a ladder are especially strong.
Scream VI doesn’t match the high quality of the masterful 1996 original or the better sequels in the series, Scream 2 and Scream 4. However, it is better than the only weak link in the franchise, Scream 3 (2000), and also a slight step up from the 2022 requel in my eyes. The sixth film proves the series can move on in new directions without Sidney, but the filmmaking touches of writer Williamson and original director Wes Craven are still missed. Hopefully the writers step up their game a bit for the inevitable seventh film – or just bring back Williamson instead.
My Grade: 7.3/10 (letter grade equivalent: B)
Running Time: 2 hours and 3 minutes
Scream VI released in theaters on March 10th, 2023.