“You fuck with my family, you die!”
Scream VI is a 2023 Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group feature directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett off a screenplay written by James Vanderbilt and Gary Busick based on characters created by Kevin Williamson for the cult classic first Scream film in 1996. The Wes Craven-directed Scream (I) is the second highest-grossing slasher film in history, only eclipsed by Halloween in 2018. Though Scream 3 wasn’t received well by fans or critics, the decision was made to turn the trilogy into a franchise. Scream 4 (or as it was known, Scre4m) was the last film directed by Craven before his death and ties up most of the plot threads dangling at the end of the trilogy. The fifth movie, 2022’s Scream has much less of a connection with the earlier story, introducing a slew of new characters for the Ghostface(s) to eviscerate. Scream VI is a direct sequel to that predecessor and stars Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Liana Liberato, Josh Segarra, Jack Champion, Jasmin Savoy-Brown, Dermot Mulroney, Mason Gooding, Devyn Nekoda, and Tony Revolori along with Hayden Panettiere, Courteney Cox, and Roger L. Jackson who provides the voice of Ghostface.
With their friends’ gutted bodies strewn about in the wake of the deranged attacks of the double Ghostfaces, Tara (Ortega) and Sam Carpenter (Barrera) along with twins Mindy (Savoy-Brown) and Chad (Gooding) have fled sunny California for the upper west side of Manhattan. Mindy, Chad, and Tara have enrolled in nearby Blackmore University while Sam works two jobs to keep a roof over their heads. The Carpenter sisters share an apartment with Quinn (Liberato), who is taking advantage of her college experience by copulating as frequently as possible. Mindy gets involved with a girl named Anika (Nekoda) while Chad struggles to integrate his awkward and shy roommate, Ethan (Champion) into their tightly-knit friend group. Sam strains under the weight of the traumatic events of Woodsboro and silently bears the knowledge of her true parentage; she is the illegitimate daughter of Billy Loomis, one of the original two Ghostface killers but despite her violent heritage, she is determined to do the right thing and defend her sister from any threats at any cost.
The internet is abuzz with stories of the Stab films and the most recent Ghostface killings depicted in the last Scream movie. Social media has made Sam a star due to her involvement in those events and she is frequently recognized even on the busy New York streets. Sam finds this fame makes it difficult for her to function. She spends her days guarding her sister vigilantly, trying to calm her inner turmoil and dealing with her feelings of guilt. She also spends her time pining for the hot guy Danny (Segarra), who lives across the way and who she seems afraid to talk to.
Suddenly, a series of slayings rocks their neighborhood as a woman is butchered in an alleyway and two film students are hacked to pieces in their dorm nearby. Mindy knows them. They were in her class. Quinn’s dad Wayne (Mulroney) is a detective in the NYPD and he tells them that his officers found something that could only be described as a shrine to Ghostface in the apartment of the two killed college kids. The next morning, Sam’s shrink is found dead, repeatedly stabbed about the head and shoulders. Her file is missing from his office. She’s brought in for questioning, but Wayne manages to get put on the case to Sam’s relief.
Tara and Sam are out for a walk, having a talk when Sam gets the call. Ghostface is on the line, playing his usual game but Sam just isn’t in the mood and barks defiance at him. It’s not her best plan. Out of an alley, Ghostface appears before them, knife bared and ready for blood. The sisters haul ass and race to a corner Bodega, screaming for help. This is also not their best plan, as the methodical masked murderer follows. This Ghostface moves more deliberately, relentlessly; His masked visage, dirty and weathered.
He follows them into the shop and is given a hearty New York welcome by the locals. Ghostface stabs his way through two tough guys as the girls plead with the shop owner to show them a way out. He has other ideas and reaches for a sawed-off from beneath the counter. Again, not the best plan as the slasher sidesteps the first shot and then swiftly disarms the shopkeeper. The gun belches again, blowing the Bodega-guy’s head off.
The sisters are able to outwit and evade the black-robed revenant long enough for NYPD to arrive en masse, but other than the shattered glass and blood splatters, all they’re able to find is a Ghostface mask replica left on the shop floor.
The FBI is on the case. Special Agent Kirby Reed (Panettiere) has history with the Ghostface killings and a set of knife scars to prove it. The press has also caught wind of what’s afoot and the connection to Woodsboro. The Carpenter sisters are confronted by Gale Weathers (Cox), who wants to talk to them about what just happened. Weathers is interested on a personal and professional level as she too has an intimate connection to and a personal investment in the several series of interwoven murder sprees, the last of which took the life of Sheriff Dewey Riley, her ex. Tara slugs Gale in face for betraying their trust the last time by publishing their stories without consent and making herself rich at their expense. As the sisters stalk off, Gale resolves to do some digging on her own.
Sam wants to drop everything and bug, just get out of dodge, but Tara is resistant. She’s trying to build a life, she’s trying to get a good education and make something of herself, so Sam relents. They decide to bunker down with the twins, hoping to ride out the storm.
Who is this new Ghostface, clad in a decrepit, dirty mask and what is his deal? Will Sam work through her feelings from Woodsboro and open up to the world again? Will she let her sister breathe and give Tara the room to grow on her own? Will Chad and Tara stop screwing around and actually start screwing around? Will Mindy stop making out with Anika long enough to figure out who the figure is under the Ghostface mask? Will Gale get past the guilt she feels for Dewey’s death and find something useful or become another victim for someone else to write about? Will Kirby get her man or more stab wounds to add to her collection? Will Ethan die a virgin? Will the Core Four catch the killer or will they die one by one like their classmates? Will Sam stop moping about and start making out with the hot guy across the way? Will the sisters survive? See Scream VI if you’re inclined to find out.
“Who gives a shit about movies?”
It’s fair to say that Scream VI will have nothing like the seismic impact of the first Scream. Many people will be surprised to discover this franchise is still ongoing. Scream I was clever and subversive, less of a pastiche and more of a parody of the innumerable horror franchises that came before it. Wes Craven’s work functioned on multiple levels; it was funny but a very, very black comedy. It was a blood-spattering gore-fest. It was a mockery of the many tropes found in those very gore fests and it let the viewer in on the joke. Scream VI is proudly part of a film franchise. It embraces that very thing with open arms and shouts it to the sky, to the detriment of this particular movie. Scream VI is too busy setting scores from earlier entries and laying the ground for subsequent stories that it doesn’t have much room for itself.
The acting is fine, with Jasmin Savoy-Brown’s Mindy and Devyn Nekoda’s Anika as notable standouts. Blackmore is thinly-veiled Columbia University with a couple of signs slapped on it. In a nice touch, Skeet Ulrich returns for a brief cameo as Billy Loomis. There is an attempt at cleverness: Many of the murder victims are watching horror films, the events of which are echoed on screen. True to the franchise, there is subversion going on in the plot, though certain patterns persist (in their group, the slut gets it first, as the tropes demand). The cute guy across the way tells Sam her best move is to trust no one.
Scream VI is a black comedy with only a few laughs, a whodunit where the who was sort of obvious, and a social commentary with awfully little to say about society. All the ropes, cables, and chains suspending my disbelief stretched to the breaking point at so many moments during this film: People are really, really drunk until they’re just not minutes later. People get stabbed so, so many times and yet they function. People get stabbed in the arm, the arm works. People get stabbed in their bellies, their guts ripped open as the knife pulls up visibly, yet in the very next scene are crawling vigorously on their hands and knees with no blood, no bile, no intestines dangling. This reviewer lost track of how many times Tara was cut and deeply stabbed during the final confrontation, yet after everything, she just sat for a chat instead of doubling over from blood loss.
Scream VI needs more. More humor, more horror, more gore. It needs more fan service, more scares, and needs to make more sense. It’s a perfectly adequate entry into a franchise but seems like it’s full of everything Scream I poked fun at. Before the film started, emblazoned across the screen is a small notification under the massive logos and images, “Ghostface is a registered trademark of Fox World Div Easer Unlimited Inc. @ 1999, all rights reserved.” All rights reserved, indeed. May the franchise carry on.
Scream VI is in theatres now.
Ghostface and associated characters created by Kevin Williamson.