Despite Ghostface and all its gore, the Scream franchise’s revival persists.
A year after the release of Scream, the fifth installment where a new central cast was presented, Scream VI follows the surviving Core Four to New York City. After their harrowingly bloody experiences in Woodsboro, sisters Sam (Melissa Barrera) and Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) and siblings Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad Meeks-Martin (Mason Gooding) are making new friends, going to therapy and even starting college, hoping to leave their body-filled pasts behind.
Ghostface, however, is not so great at moving on. The murders continue in this new slasher, with all of the same snarky toned script, whodunit mystery and tangled relationships providing big thrills in the Big Apple.
Longtime fans of the franchise will be pleased with the continuation of its themes. Ghostface is still a stab-obsessed conniving murderer with a love of slasher films and terrorizing young adults. Despite the glaring absence of famed Final Girl Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), the return of Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) offers direct linkages between the contemporary killings and past murders.
While the traditional cold opening of the film is refreshing and invitingly misleading, Scream VI attempts to do more with the slasher movie template than it can offer.
Tara is desperately trying to move on, throwing herself into college life with frat parties and fresh hookups. Sam, however, carries her trauma on her sleeve, refusing to let her little sister leave the nest and inciting a fight about trust. Although every sister loves flinging an “I told you so” at their sibling, the fight essentially goes unresolved until the pair is literally facing death. As a result, little growth occurs in the quiet lapses between bloody murders, generating a halting pace that leaves audiences begging for the next on-screen killing to happen.
The romance arcs also feel carelessly thrown into the plot. The tension between Tara and Chad is palpable (what bonds two people together romantically more than surviving a serial killer?), but the will-they won’t-they is plainly obvious and performed disappointingly by both Ortega and Gooding. Sam’s relationship with the hot guy next door Danny (Josh Segarra) is slightly more satisfying, but Segarra’s character is flat and boring to watch when not engaging with Berrera.
Characters seem to be introduced willy-nilly, acting as simple plot devices. The Core Four’s new friend group is a case in point: Mindy’s partner Anika (Devyn Nekoda), the Carpenters’ roommate Quinn (Liana Liberato), Chad’s roommate Ethan (Jack Champion) and Danny are just bodies waiting to be slashed, demonstrating nothing about themselves and adding little to the plot.
Many of the better plot moments are in and of themselves reliant on gems from previous Scream films. After one set of murders appears in the news, the friends meet to strategize and evaluate danger levels. Mindy launches into an entertaining monologue about the drama to be expected that is just a bit too similar to the one she gave in Scream. While the script remains pithy enough, at a certain point, repetition becomes tiresome, showing that “rebootquels” need to be bigger, better and badder to achieve success.
Fortunately, directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett are once again in their element. Every death is cinematic and dramatic. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett make wonderful framing and lighting choices, and the final confrontation with Ghostface demonstrates camerawork that adds to Berrera and Ortega’s emotionality on screen.
Clever filmography and set design cannot save this movie, just like simply running will not save a Ghostface victim. There is a metalevel to the plot hinging on bloodlines and preexisting relationships to deliver the impact Scream VI wants on its audiences. Unfortunately, only diehard fans will enjoy the payoff of those relationships, but even they will feel slighted by the way the franchise writes off Campbell’s character.
Simultaneously boring and overwhelming, Scream VI will lull audiences to sleep in the bland times between murders. Relying on blood sprays and bloodthirsty screams will only get a franchise so far. Who knows if it will limp to a seventh installment.