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Review: ‘Scream VI’ Slays Hard for a Killer Time at the Movies

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As a die-hard fan of the Scream franchise (and an ardent defender of 2011’s Scream 4), I hated 2022’s Scream “requel.” It was a lazy attempt at weaponizing the nostalgia of the original with a newer cast who couldn’t match the incredible chemistry Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette had in the previous installments. Worse yet, none of the performances from the legacy cast (including Force Ghost Billy Loomis!) were inspired. Of course, it doesn’t help that they were badly shoehorned into the story for nostalgia’s sake. And I easily figured out who the killers were for the first time in the franchise. No surprises, no thrills, and lame kills made the first “reboot” of the Scream franchise the most forgettable installment yet, even if they were moving away the intrigue from Woodsboro to New York (this Montrealer wants to remind movie studios that Montreal looks nothing like New York City). It didn’t bode well for Scream VI.

Bringing back the same team that mishandled what Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson built did not excite me. Sure, the last one made tons of money. That’s fine, but I did not want to see another Scream installment made by the same filmmakers and screenwriters. To my surprise, Scream VI is a clever and frequently exciting sequel that twists what audiences expect to its head and delivers a brutal and unflinching chapter that’s more akin to Star Wars: The Last Jedi than 2022’s Scream could be compared to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

[Warning: mild spoilers and impressions about Scream VI below]

Scream VI subverts expectations from its opening scene

After the cleverest opening sequence of the franchise since Scream 4‘s, Scream VI reunites audiences with Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera) and Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) as they try to move away from the most recent Woodsboro killings living in New York with Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown).

scream 6 group
L-r, Melissa Barrera (Sam Carpenter), Jenna Ortega (Tara Carpenter), Jasmin Savoy Brown (Mindy Meeks-Martin), and Mason Gooding (Chad Meeks-Martin) star in Scream VI. (Paramount Pictures)

However, that gets shortlived as a new Ghostface starts to murder people in close connection with Sam and Tara. With Detective Wayne Bailey (Dermot Mulroney) on the case and Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) in town, the new “Core Four” will have to figure out who the killer is this time around.

There are plenty of surprising twists and turns to keep the viewers on their toes, although it’s relatively easy to guess who the killer (or killers) may be. But the best aspects of Scream VI are its elaborate sequences where Ghostface confronts characters.

Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett make terrific use of Montrea–I mean New York’s claustrophobic setting, with setpieces inside a cramped apartment building, a subway train, or even in the streets of the Big Apple. Ghostface could be lurking anywhere, and he is far more brutal and nasty than any other iteration of the Scream franchise.

One scene in particular, where Ghostface stalks Sam and Tara in a corner shop, is particularly terrifying at how aggressive he is and how he will stop at nothing to kill them, even if it means disposing of patrons inside the shop with a knife or a shotgun.

The most violent entry of the Scream franchise yet (but shouldn’t be seen in 3D)

And the filmmakers don’t hold back at the violence. The knives enter deep into the victim’s bodies, grinding their internal organs to the point that their mouths are filled with insane amounts of blood. Yeah, it’s that violent. Barrera wasn’t wrong when she said the film was “potentially a hundred times gorier” because it is.

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Ghostface in Scream VI. (Paramount Pictures/Spyglass Media Group)

Some will dislike it, but as someone who has wanted the franchise to go all out for a long time, it felt like Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett finally understood what must be done to reinvent themselves. They seemed to have been limited by the shackles of nostalgia for 2022’s Scream. But now that Sidney Prescott is out of the picture and Dewey Riley (Arquette) has died, they don’t need to rely on them consistently. Instead, they tell a purely original story with its new cast, even with Panettiere and Cox being fun “legacy” additions.

In terms of “reinvention,” Scream VI is also the first of the franchise to be in 3D. For some reason, Avatar: The Way of Water‘s massive 3D sales has reignited the horrible post-3D conversation trend that followed after the release of the first Avatar, and the results are as dreadful as you’d expect. Only one scene effectively used 3D through vertiginous overhead shots. Still, the rest uses the format as a complete afterthought or a method to charge audiences more money for a darker movie version. However, if Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett want to make a seventh one, the door is open for them to shoot it in 3D. Wouldn’t that be something?

Regardless, Scream VI was better than it had any right to be. It doesn’t pull any punches on its gratuitous violence, the chemistry between the leads is palpable (especially Jenna Ortega, who is a massive standout). And like any good sequel, it smartly subverts expectations from the moment it begins. It’s perhaps the most subversive entry in the Scream franchise and will make you clamor for more.

My rating for the film:

★★★★ / ♥♥♥♥♥

Scream VI is hitting theaters now. Have you seen Scream VI yet? Let us know what you think on Twitter @mycosmiccircus or on The Cosmic Circus Discord. 

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