We knew it was coming, a new chapter in the Ghostface franchise that has been a staple in the horror genre since the first Scream released back in 1996. Over the years we’ve gotten to see our favorite horror fan/serial killer terrorize the citizens of Woodsboro and even venture out to LA when he terrorized the film set of Stab (you know, the movie within a movie). It was only a matter of time before our killer ventured out of Woodsboro again, and this time he follows in the footsteps of another masked killing icon, Jason Voorhees, as Ghostface sets out to terrorize the Big Apple in Scream VI. Last year’s Scream I felt did a good job at rebooting the franchise (or worked as a requel) and worked as a way of passing on the torch from Sydney and Gale to the next generation, Sam (Melissa Barrera) and Tara (Jenna Ortega). This new film will also be the first time Sydney doesn’t make an appearance on screen, though we do thankfully have Gale (Courtney Cox) and Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) returning in their “legacy” roles. Does Scream 6 manage to impress with the new cast and new locale, or does it take a misstep as Jason Takes Manhattan did for its franchise? Well, to be fair, it kind of did both.
It is crazy to think just how big of a year 2022 was for Jenna Ortega. She started the year off strong with her role in Scream; then she was great in the cult hit X from Ti West; then there was Wednesday, which really put her over as a star, and with the momentum her career path seems to be on, I’m expecting her to reach A-list status shortly. What I really enjoy about her character, Tara, is she’s not just a younger version to replace Sydney. This is a well-written character who a modern generation can root for and care about. Then there is Sam, the older sister who is not just recovering from discovering her ex-boyfriend was a homicidal maniac but is still haunted by the fact her father is Billy Loomis, one half of the original Ghostface killers. Its this relationship that anchors this new film, and when we catch up with them, there is a wedge that is building between them, because Sam is being overprotective and Tara is wanting to rebel now that she is away for college and just wants to move on from her past trauma. Just this element alone and how it is handled elevates this film from the typical franchise sequel and had me happy. Also returning are the brother and sister duo of Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding), who are attending the same college as Tara; you know, survivors got to stick together. The writers seem to be having more fun with these returning characters and basically do a great job of making Mindy a more toned down version of her uncle Randy.
Before I go much further, I need to talk about the film’s opening sequence. This is something that the franchise is known for, having great standalone opening sequences that typically have a big star that gets killed off to help set the tone of the film. This time it is Laura (Samara Weaving) who is first to encounter Ghostface, and let me tell you this opening really flips the script and does something I don’t think anyone expected … that is all I’ll say. This opening is right up there with the first Scream, and while it is a shame this is all we get of Weaving, it was nice to see her reuniting with her directors from Ready or Not.
Catching back up with our main characters, I do love the twist we get early on with Sam. We’re so used to seeing Sydney, Gale, and Dewey being hailed as heroes, but it seems the internet has it out for Sam and has spread a conspiracy that Sam was the actual Ghostface killer, and she blamed it all on Richie to get away with it. Seeing how she and her friend group have to deal with this adds a fun element to the story. Gale and Kirby both pop up in the story after they discover there is a new Ghostface killer prowling the streets of New York. Now while there are plenty of new characters joining the mix, the most recognizable is Dermot Mulroney, who plays Detective Bailey who is running the investigation into the Ghostface killings. His daughter Quinn (Liana Liberato) is also roommates with Tara and Sam.
For the more hardcore fans of the franchise, you’ll definitely catch the connections to Scream 2. There is obviously the college setting, and then we get to see the film also have an entertaining sequence in a movie theater. But where this film thrives is how it takes expectations and it flips them on you. Even clues from the previous films that would help you narrow down the list of suspects, these are thrown out the window, and this really does become an excellent “who done it?” Then delving more into the location change, I love how the film never lets you feel the characters are safe no matter where they are. The set pieces are fresh for the franchise, and I know how people wanted to gripe when Ghostface uses the shotgun in the trailer, but for that sequence and that location it works, and it is genuinely a terrifying moment in the film, because you see just how easily this could happen, and what would you do in the scenario the characters are in? It’s that grounded terror that makes this film work. And then there is the subway scene … so well done; even with nothing is happening you can’t help but feel unease, because that’s how good the directors are this time around with building that dread, and then when you do see something may be about to go down. Just bravo.
Then we have the elevated gore this time around. Despite the body count of the franchise, Scream really hasn’t been all that gory, but that all changes this time around. The kills are mean and plentiful, and there is plenty of blood to go around, but that is where this horror-loving critic found his trouble in paradise. This film I was so excited about. I was having such a good time with this film, but my pet peeve is a major one and maybe perceived as a spoiler, so please read no further if you want a fresh experience. I won’t give details or anything, but I don’t want to taint your experience….
OK, seriously, don’t read any further….
OK, you’ve been warned. My problem is there are too many awesome kills in this movie that suddenly by some miracle the characters somehow manage to survive. Sure, we’re used to seeing near-death encounters in the franchise, but I counted at least five times that someone should have been dead but came back, one of which when we see them again they are walking around like nothing happened to them. Then there is the big reveal, “who is the great killer mastermind?” and their motivation for it all. For me, I just thought it was too convoluted. Maybe when rewatching this my opinion may change, but I felt I found more holes in this reveal than your standard colander.
At the end of the day I still had a heck of a good time with this film, and I look forward to seeing what is next with Scream VII, which was recently announced. As long as we get quality sequels like this, I welcome them with open arms. What I’m curious about is if the directing duo of Radio Silence will be returning, since they are supposed to be gearing up production for their remake of Escape From New York. If they have to pass on the next installment, I’m hoping for someone like Adam Green (Hatchet and Frozen) or maybe even Ti West and bring Mia Goth into the Scream universe. A boy can dream, right?