Scream VI: Bigger, bolder and bloodier
By Ana Bodevan, March 30 2023—
Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers to the movie Scream VI.
Scream 5 (2022) arrived in the cinemas as a paradox. It was the fifth chapter of a beloved franchise returning to the cinemas after almost two decades but it also brought a completely new creative team to reboot the franchise. Treated as fanfiction by some and as a testament to a new age for the franchise for others, Scream 5 quickly secured a sequel in Scream VI.
If Scream 5 focused on a comfortable return to the universe, Scream VI was all about newness. However, the filmmakers know that innovation is relative within a subgenre that is used to obey the rules of slasher horror. The solution was to transform limitation into a tool, a tactic verbalized in the film. By describing the slasher as a heap of clichés that can give rise to raw art, Scream VI launches itself into a challenge that it meets, but with a few reservations.
The first big change is of locations, as we leave Woodsboro for New York, the city home to the fifth feature’s surviving quartet. As freshmen in college, they live between paranoia, a state of denial and the will to move on. Issues come together when a new killer wearing the famous ghost mask begins killing in the new neighbourhood.
New York was the playground of screenwriters James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, who returned from Scream 5 ready to shake the audience’s expectations either with new concepts — as in the excellent opening scene — or with an approach that updates resources used previously in the saga. However, they were not successful in connecting the ideas, making their sequencing a bit loose.
This difficulty becomes clear first in the use of metalanguage. Even though this is something Scream has always done so well, this aspect leaves something to be desired in the sixth chapter. In the best cases, it seems placed in New York merely because the saga demands it. At worst, it becomes invasive to the audience.
Luckily, the film has a charismatic cast that compensated for a weak dialogue. At this point praise of Jenna Ortega is like taking sand to the beach, but the actress serves as the main thread by being given more space than in the previous feature. As Tara, she is the soul of the protagonist group and fosters dynamics that make the team endearing. This is the case with the overprotection of her sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) and the development of the complicated relationship with Chad (Mason Gooding). Only Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) doesn’t need the push as a more charismatic version of movie geek Randy Meek.
Some old faces, like Gale (Courtney Cox) and Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) return, as long with new characters played by Dermot Mulroney, Samara Weaving, Tony Revolori and Liana Liberato enhance the film by honouring some of the franchise’s most fundamental roots, ranging from comedy to menace.
Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett also have to be praised for their handling of horror. The suspense and unpredictability of each attack make Ghostface a sinister figure, and the plot skillfully keeps viewers guessing the killer’s identity. However, the more dramatic parts lack quality and inspiration in whole scenes that seem to be there just to meet some expectations of the franchise fans. Besides provoking comparisons with the old films, these sequences demonstrate how much the production relies on the conventions it pretends to challenge.
With that said, it is a fact that Scream VI is far from being as clever as it believes it is. However, the frankness in not pretending to reinvent the wheel ensures that these slip-ups draw less attention than the production’s high points. A source of genuine tension and full of reverence for the films that made this franchise great, Scream VI is not revolutionary in any way, but a fun, entertaining and passionate addition to the franchise.