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REVIEW: Scream VI: Ghostface takes Manhattan

By Santiago Brion | March 27, 2023

Spoilers and Disclaimer for graphic details of violence and language

Scream VI is the sixth installment of the horror franchise, Scream, and the sequel to Scream (2022), also known as Scream 5, or 5CREAM. The film takes place a year after the events of Scream (2022) in which the Carpenter sisters, Sam and Tara, played by Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega, move to New York City for a better life. When the presence of a new Ghostface killer(s) pops up in the Big Apple, the sisters and twins Mindy & Chad fight to stay alive with help from returning character from Scream 4, Kirby Reid.

The Scream Franchise is well known for the opening sequences in their movies, with the most famous one being Drew Barrymore’s character, Casey Becker, being brutally murdered in the original. What made the openings so memorable was the tension between the victim and the person behind the Ghostface mask in which the killer asks trivial questions. If you answer the last question wrong or you don’t answer, you die. The voice of Roger L. Jackson as Ghostface is terrifying, giving memorable lines like “You hang up on me again and I’ll gut you like a fish”, “I Never Said I Was In Your Closet” and “What’s Your Favorite Scary Movie?”.

The opening sequence from Scream VI is on par with the original. Samara Weaving’s character, Laura Crane, an associate professor from Brighstone University, is the first casualty of the movie. While Laura waits for a blind date, she is lured into an alley and promptly killed by Ghostface, who is revealed to be a Brightstone college student named Jason. Upon returning to his apartment, Jason finds his roommate dismembered in their fridge and is killed by another Ghostface killer who says the memorable line, “Who gives a f–k about movies?” It is an opening that’s completely different, fresh, and perfectly establishes the kind of “Scream” plot that fans will get out of it.

Putting the new Scream movie in a new setting like New York City was a big risk for co-directors, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, but somehow they made it work. There was also doubt about the future of the Scream franchise without the original director Wes Craven, who died of a brain tumor in 2015, and franchise writer Kevin Williamson. Luckily, the duo are fans of Scream, and so are co-writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick. The team perfectly captured what made the Scream movies great in the first place. The creative team perfectly brought back the gist of “Scream”, specifically its meta-commentary on slashers like Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and Friday the 13th. The movies satirize the basic rules of surviving a horror movie and even make fun of the current horror landscape, specifically the conversation on elevated horror (horror movies with complex themes) vs. traditional horror.

“Scream VI” improves upon the last installment in terms of developing its leads, Sam & Tara Carpenter, with Tara having much more to do than being bedridden in a hospital for most of Scream 2022. Sam proves that she’s a great new face for the franchise. While Sam is certainly not Sidney Prescott, she gets the job done. The absence of Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott not returning to the iconic role of my favorite final girl was cause for concern, as Sidney was the main character for all 4 Scream movies. However, the film handled her absence well.

What makes Sam Carpenter interesting is that she is the daughter of the original Ghostface killer, Billy Loomis, who was also Sidney’s ex-boyfriend. The movies do really well with how they explore her backstory and her darkness within, and how it affects other people in her circle.

Courtney Cox’s Gale Weathers, a news reporter, author, and an ally to Sidney and co., also makes a return. While Gale had limited screen time, she did well with the scenes that she was given. There’s one memorable scene where Gale is talking to Ghostface for the first time in the franchise and holds her own against the killer when he comes into her bougie Upper East Side apartment.

Jasmin Savoy Brown and Mason Gooding reprise their roles as Mindy & Chad Meeks, the niece, and nephew of Randy Meeks, played by Jamie Kennedy. Randy is popular for his expertise in surviving horror movies. Mindy channels Randy’s knowledge on both horror movies and sequel movies, and the rules on how returning franchises work. Her monologue on the concept of the “requel” was brilliant in Scream 2022 and she further steps it up in Scream VI, even taking a dig at Letterboxd, a popular site where users rate and review movies.

Mason Gooding was good as the lovable and jacked goofball, Chad. In Scream VI, both Chad and Tara develop chemistry throughout the film. In one scene both characters bond at an old movie theater over candies that have been sitting in concessions for 20 years. As far as their bonding, I feel like it was implemented in the movie just for the sake of a slasher movie having a romance to add to the plot formula.

The return of Hayden Panettiere’s Kirby Reid, now an FBI agent, was met with uproarious applause in the theater when introduced at an NYC precinct sitting in a conference room. She did well with the screen time that she was given. One of her highlights included sitting with Mindy and chatting about their favorite movie of each franchise, showing both characters are very much alike. She showed strength during the third act when she was stabbed and shot and managed to stay alive in the end.

The film also deals with setting up new characters who honor the legacy of the franchise and the theme of living up to expectations of being the new final girl. It pays homage to the previous movies by incorporating a shrine of props like Stu’s broken TV, the knife that killed Casey Becker from the opening sequence in the original, and Randy’s VHS player among other things.

This version of Ghostface is a different type of killer who is more sinister and less clumsy, with each version having campy lines and stumbles while trying to take their next victim.

The third act of Scream VI was another highlight which breaks tradition on who the Ghostface killers are. In almost every installment, there’s usually two killers. In this one, there are three. The killers are revealed to be Detective Wayne Bailey and his son and daughter, Ethan and Quinn, who was related to Sam’s boyfriend, Richie, who was the Ghostface in Scream 5. Both Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega were good in this sequence, showcasing the final girl energy of the two proving that the Scream franchise is not at the end of a sharp weapon.

I have a couple of nitpicks with the movie, including the fake-out deaths involving Chad being stabbed multiple times while still ending up alive at the end, and the constant and abstract time changes.

As far as where it ranks in the Scream franchise, it certainly doesn’t beat the masterpiece that is the original or Scream 4. It’s an improvement from the previous movie, so I put it above both Scream 5 and Scream 2.

Overall, Scream VI is a good time in the theater. Most of the characters were amazing, the New York City setting makes the movie better than what Friday the 13th attempted to do with their own NYC-based movie, and it’s got nonstop sequences of tension. Jenna Ortega proves that she’s the scream queen of this generation, while also letting other characters shine in their respective scenes. If anything, it proves that Scream 2022 was not a fluke and Scream VI is not just a cash grab.

I give it a 9.5/10.

You can see Scream VI at Regal Crossgates and Regal Colonie Center.


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