Stabs, Shrieks, and Suspense Abound in Latest Franchise Home Run in Scream 6 (2023)
Title: Scream 6
First Non-Festival Release: March 10, 2023 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Writer: James Vanderbilt, Guy Busick, Kevin Willaimson
Runtime: 122 Minutes
Starring: Courtney Cox, Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
After surviving the latest Woodsboro Massacre, Sam (Melissa Barrera), Tara (Jenna Ortega), and the rest of the crew plant new roots in New York City to distance themselves from their trauma. As they navigate life after tragedy, a new Ghostface emerges threatening to upend the work they’ve put into healing their collective wounds.
Scream 6 continues the franchise’s streak of creating hot, commentary-laden horror with wit, scares, and heart.
Bringing the scares to New York, or any novelty city, can spell death for a franchise, but not Scream 6. From the cold open, Scream 6 establishes itself as dead-set on subverting the expectations fans have for the direction of the series, not necessarily the film itself. It's a daring take that makes the mystery more compelling, even if the resulting antagonists and motivations are predictable in the end.
What Scream 6 lacks in its mystery, it makes up with the opening of its Pandora’s Box: where can Scream continue as a franchise after it has seemingly lampooned all the potential types of slasher films? From originals, sequels, trilogies, requels, and more, Scream 6 shows that franchises have staying power, and that is what directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett intend to maintain. Instead of a twist script laden with surprises, Scream 6 focuses on fleshing out its new crew of Ghostface survivors to make that a reality.
One of the more complicated yet most rewarding aspects of Scream 6 is the character development afforded to our new lead: Samantha Carpenter. Perhaps one of the most disappointing aspects of the 2022 film’s reception was the brutal assault on Melissa Barrera. Barrera’s treatment by online trolls unfairly put her in a tricky situation regarding her largely fine, if underwhelming, performance from 2022’s Scream. She has the last laugh by giving a scene-stealing performance in Scream 6, which not only shows the potential of Sam as a character, but Barrera as an actress.
Sam’s shaky but compelling arc in the fifth film gets a much better run around in part six now that she has time to truly lead the film. Sam’s journey in battling conspiracy theorists online accusing her of orchestrating the events in the previous film herself mirrors Barrera’s treatment by jerks on the internet who get off on attacking creatives they hate. This bit of meta-commentary is welcome and refreshing, especially in the internet age where actors, and sometimes directors and writers, are relentlessly mocked, insulted, and berated for the crime of not being to someone’s exact taste. Barrera’s handling of Sam feels more personal, giving her an excellent grip on her psyche. It’s more than just disappointing that this stellar performance and turnaround likely came at the cost of her own mental health and anguish.
The entire cast gives their all in the performances, allowing particularly the ‘Core Four’ to take root in the hearts of longtime Scream fans. Fan favorites get their chance to shine admirably in New York. Jenna Ortega and Jasmin Savoy Brown both retain their solid grip as the resident scene-stealers from the new group, while Mason Gooding claws his way up as a serviceable and endearing love interest for Ortega. All three inject dynamite charm and goodwill into their characters making them feel like genuine friends and easy-to-root for survivors without making any of them too perfect. Hayden Panettiere’s welcome return is a little disappointing if only for how little she is given alongside Courtney Cox who is sidelined for a good portion of the film. Even the rest of the new newcomers do well despite having to prove themselves against legacy characters.
Of course, one of the biggest draws of the franchise, is the spectacle of its mystery and the heart-pounding thrill of its chase-and-stalk scenes. Scream 6 offers plenty while making good on its promise to be the bloodiest and goriest yet. Featuring perhaps one of the scariest scenes in the franchise, Scream 6 ups the ante in considerable ways. The chase scenes are longer, the slashings more brutal, and the misdirection plenty. Gorehounds and mystery solvers alike will have plenty to latch onto in Radio Silence’s sequel as it leaves plenty for audiences of all stripes to find something to enjoy in Scream 6.
Perhaps the only low point in this sixth entry is its meta-commentary. While aspects are done exceptionally well, re: Sam’s treatment in the installment, the general picture falls flat in comparison to previous Scream films. In Mindy’s second act lecture on horror movie tropes and cliches, she declares that they have officially entered a franchise film. She then goes on to explain the rules of a franchise that has lived on past its original, sequels, and requels. While the intention is noble, it does fall flat as many of the observations made can be identified in previous entries in the Scream franchise.
Scream has consistently put out quality output since the beginning and its sixth installment is no exception. Taut suspense, gut-busting quips, and cutting commentary on the way fans digest and consume pop culture make Scream 6 an excellent film overall. Despite Neve Campbell’s public distancing from the franchise, the team behind Scream 6 manages to honor the legacy of the film while forging in a new direction. Beyond New York, it is clear there are plenty of exciting journeys that await Scream fans moving forward.
Overall Score? 8/10