If I had to pick a movie that shaped my love of horror, it’s Kevin Williamson’s Scream—and the subsequent sequels. Now on its sixth film, it’s a franchise baby, and with that comes a completely new set of rules and a shirking of everything we knew before. Scream VI marks the return of directing duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, with James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick writing.
Following the latest Ghostface killings, the four survivors leave Woodsboro behind and start a fresh chapter in their life in New York City. Sam (Melissa Barrera), Tara (Jenna Ortega), Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown), and Chad (Mason Gooding) are settled into a new life and trying their best to move on or ignore the trauma completely. But instead of a normal college life and a bright future, the Woodsboro survivors find themselves in yet another mass killing, this time leaving behind nods to every Ghostface that came before.
Scream VI pushes the gas pedal down to the floor and doesn’t let it up from the cold open to the spectacle of a finale. Two franchises keep improving as the next comes out while still honoring and preserving what makes the previous special: Mission Impossible and Scream. Scream VI manages to build up on everything we know about Woodsboro, honor it, and build something new.
While Scream VI brings back franchise icons Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) and Gale (Courteney Cox), nostalgia isn’t the name of the game in this entry to the series. This is a story about the Carpenter sisters, Sam and Tara and it’s unshadowed by previous films even as it nods back to each and every one. There is a lot to chew on for fans o the franchise, but at the same time, Scream VI can be your intro the series and what feels like the first story that detaches itself from the original Woodsboro survivors. Gale, in all of her journalistic glory, is fully on display only in how she relates to Sam and Tara and even Kirby revolves around them. And this isn’t a bad thing. Scream (2022) passed the torch, and now Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega are carrying it forward. And damn, do they know how to lead a franchise.
For her part, Barrera’s Sam is scared and vulnerable as much as the part of her calling to Billy Loomis is intimidating. She loves her sister, and much like Syndey was in Scream 2, she’s on her guard, hyper-vigilant of the world around her. Instead of having people there to see her as a hero and a victim, she’s alone, treated like a pariah, and trying to solve everything around her. On the other hand, Tara refuses to engage with her past, pushing it away at every turn and trying just to move forward. But no matter what, Sam is there, trying to protect her and smothering her simultaneously. Sam and Tara are stunning characters alone, but together they bolster each other with undeniably stellar sibling chemistry.
But it isn’t just the Carpenter sisters that bring out the best of the film. The entire ensemble cast is stunning, memorable, and hilarious. Each of the ensemble cast stands out in their own right, most significantly Mindy and Chad. Like Sam and Tara, Mindy and Chad are siblings through and through, believable in every way. Jasmin Savoy Brown and Mason Gooding hold your attention in their expanded roles in Scream VI, and these core four are absolutely new horror heavyweights.
Each entry in the Scream franchise is a time capsule of its era, using societal moments and touch points to inform Ghostface and the people core group we’re rooting for. At the same time, Scream (2022) skewered both reboot culture and the Letterbox-obsessed rabid fandoms of the internet. That said, Scream VI turns uses a different reality of online lives, conspiracy theories. More importantly, how internet conspiracy theorists desperately want to make villains out of heroes and how easily the truth falls away when subreddits and tweets start churning rumors around tragedy. The Final Girl is enemy number one, whether there is evidence or not.
The bloody cherry on top of the fantastic character work in Scream VI is the kills. It’s what horror fans love, it’s what slasher fans crave, and it’s what the film delivers in spades. With new gutting moments and inventive stabs, Scream VI is bloody and finessed. The film manages to up the ante on kills without drowning them in blood. The physicality of the actors, of Ghostface, and the inventive ways to fight all just work. Yes, even when Ghostface uses a gun.
Scream VI is better left watched than talked about, and the way the film manages to twist and turn the story in ways that feed the slasher spectacle that horror fans love. While the trailers show a lot, none of it connects in the ways you expect. The film’s final act manages to be the biggest ending of a Scream film in ways that made me lean in and even restrain myself from jumping out of my seat in the middle of the theater.
Scream VI is even better than the last and proves that this franchise, with all the rules thrown out still, has ways to excite, entertain, and keep building a mythos around Ghostface that has no signs of shrinking. And before this review ends, I absolutely have to call out a knife clean in the second act; it’s delightfully sinister, and you’ll know exactly what it is when it happens.
Scream VI is playing in theaters nationwide March 10, 2023.
- Rating - 9/109/10
Scream VI is even better than the last and proves that this franchise, with all the rules thrown out still, has ways to excite, entertain, and keep building a mythos around Ghostface that has no signs of shrinking.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.