When does satire stop being satire and instead becomes the thing it once poked fun at? The Scream franchise – now six films deep and a spin-off TV series to boot – is arguably at that point. But that doesn’t mean it is showing signs of ageing either, producing one of the best entries into the classic slasher franchise.
After doing a stellar job with 2022’s Scream “requel”, Scream VI is once again helmed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. This time, Scream VI branches out of Woodsboro surprisingly for only the second time. New York is the setting this time, which just basically means a bigger playground for Ghostface to do their killing.
Scream VI opens up in traditional Scream fashion with Ghostface setting the overall tone for the rest of the film. The unlucky person this time is played by Samara Weaving, who starred in Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett’s breakout horror Ready or Not back in 2019. But this opening isn’t content with sticking to formula and subverts everything within the first 15 minutes. It’s a timely reminder that Scream VI isn’t afraid to play with your expectations.
That message continues throughout the film, and even when Scream VI gets to the meta portion of the film, it will actively remind you of this: with such an established franchise and characters from nearly 30 years of films, no one is really safe anymore. Characters can come and go as they please, sometimes through choice, sometimes at the hands of Ghostface.
Of course, the elephant in the room is the lack of Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott for the first time. Allegedly unhappy with the offer given to her for appearing in Scream VI, she decided to not make an appearance this time around. But honestly, as brilliant as she has been in all the films, she isn’t needed here. Again, it all goes back to the franchise being bigger now than any single actor. Just ask poor David Arquette.
It isn’t devoid of returning characters, however. In fact, Scream VI likely introduces the fewest number of new characters for a sequel. Courtney Cox returns as Gale Weathers, much to the chagrin of everyone else as usual, and Hayden Panettiere pops up as Kirby Reed after her unseen recovery from the events of Scream 4. Reed is now an FBI agent, who helps the also returning Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera), Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega), Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad Meeks-Martin (Mason Gooding) navigate this latest Ghostface copycat.
The kids find themselves in New York on account of them choosing to go to college there. Or rather, Tara, Mindy and Chad did. After the events of Scream 2022, Sam has a hard job of letting her sister out of her sight so decides to head to the East Coast right behind them. Her protectiveness is admirable, but also lands her and her sister in trouble. Their squabbling is recorded and posted online, with rumours beginning to circulate that Sam herself is this latest Ghostface, purely based on her father being original Ghostface, Billy Loomis. This theory is then compounded by her ID being found at one of the killings, along with a specific Ghostface mask that has been used before.
But this new Ghostface isn’t afraid to ratchet up the tension this time around. Almost toying with his victims, the set pieces in Scream VI go hard. Standout moments are dotted throughout the film’s 122-minute runtime; the shop holdup, the apartment escape and the subway chase will leave you breathless.
The reveal of Ghostface is always a highlight of a Scream film and this is another good one. The reasoning behind the killings is a bit wishy-washy and almost a repetitive idea, but it also isn’t afraid to throw more twists at you. No spoilers here, but this was the first time I had managed to guess who the killer was from the very beginning.
But where Scream VI really excels is how it subverts viewer expectations. Those who are coming into this sixth film having not watched any of the others will still have an enjoyable time, but the real fun comes to those who have avidly watched the franchise. It plays with your expectations, whilst providing more throwbacks than you will ever need to the previous films. Whilst it could be argued that both Scream 4 and Scream 2022 were reboots, Scream VI is most definitely a sequel where prior knowledge is needed.
Scream VI was announced three weeks after Scream 2022 released, and the turnaround between films has been super quick. As a result, the franchise is in a great place and at its strongest since the release of the second film. Scream VI is one of the strongest in the franchise, keeping those meta overtones whilst having plenty of gratuitous violence that fans have been enjoying for nearly 30 years. And whilst Scream 7 has yet to be announced, I am sure it will be another strong entry with this new core cast.
But remember, no-one is safe.