Radio Silence’s “Scream VI” moves the thrills and bodybags away from Woodsboro and onto an exciting new path.

Caution: I will obviously not be discussing spoilers to this film, because I’m not cruel and the whole point of these films is the fun “whodunnit” of it all, but I am somewhat forced to discuss some spoilers from Scream (2022), as it directly contributes to the plot of Scream VI.

When Radio Silence (the teaming of directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, and producing partner Chad Villella) made the 2022 requel (of the film’s own words), they accomplished what many believed was impossible: they captured the spirit that Wes Craven so lovingly imbued into the first four Scream films with their own stylish flair. Following Craven’s death in 2015, most believed we would never see another Scream film again, and especially following the downfall of Dimension Films with the Weinstein scandal of 2017, it seemed almost certain. Now, not only has Scream returned, it is thriving with a hot new cast, as well as legacy characters intertwining their stories as new lovers of the Ghostface murders continue to wreak havoc on our protagonists. Looking to re-capture lightning in a bottle, Radio Silence wasted no time in concocting their follow-up to Scream (2022), returning the series to its numbered titles with Scream VI (stylized cleverly as SCREAIVI), and transporting the survivors of the 2022 Woodsboro killings to the Big Apple, setting Ghostface loose in an urban jungle. Jasmin Savoy-Brown’s Mindy says plainly that requel sequels have to go much bigger, badder, and bolder than before, but is taking the franchise to such big heights so soon biting off more than the franchise can chew?

Scream VI

L-R: Melissa Barrera (“Sam Carpenter”) , Jenna Ortega (“Tara Carpenter”), Jasmin Savoy Brown (“Mindy Meeks-Martin”) and Mason Gooding (“Chad Meeks-Martin”) star in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group’s SCREAM VI.

A year after the Woodsboro requel killings, the now aptly titled “Core Four” survivors, Samantha (Melissa Barrera), her sister Tara (Jenna Ortega), and twins Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding), all have relocated to New York either for school, or in Samantha’s case, to protect Tara while she attends school. While Tara, Mindy, and Chad look to move on, Samantha struggles as corners of the internet have created conspiracy theories that Samantha was the orchestrator of the Woodsboro killings, and that Richie and Amber were merely innocent pawns, helped not by Gale Weathers’s (Courteney Cox) less-than-flattering book about the murders (of which she said she would not write, but did). Quickly, as expected, our protagonists, as well as new friends Ethan (Jack Champion), Anika (Devyn Nekoda), Quinn (Liana Liberato), and Danny (Josh Segarra), must escape the brutal tactics of the new urban Ghostface, and discover their identity with the help of NYPD Detective Bailey (Dermot Mulroney) and FBI Special Agent and surprise Scream 4 survivor Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere).

Scream VI

Ghostface in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group’s SCREAM VI.

If Scream VI sounds similar to Scream 2 due to the whole “changing settings as the survivors all seem to go off to the same college together where copycat killings occur,” you would be correct! You also would be a few steps behind Scream VI, as they are perfectly aware of this light mirroring and toy with it greatly. Providing a level of comforting familiarity lulls the audience into a false sense of knowing what’s going to happen, and like every first-time watch of any Scream film, you go through your phases of prediction, almost like the five stages of grief. Is it the obvious pick? Is it the new character? Is it the lovable weirdo? Or what about the legacy character? Who’s to say that they haven’t snapped under the trauma of decades of violence? While predictions can be fun, rarely do I ever actually get it fully right, and that’s what makes the Scream films so damn fun and rewatchable. There’s something new every time that you watch. I still pick up on new things I missed watching Scream (1996), a film I’ve seen probably a dozen times at this point, every time I watch it. Much like the best murder mysteries, from the classic Agatha Christie novels to the modern Knives Out films (the joke of Rian Johnson having directed the Stab reboot is one of my favorite small touches of this requel series), the Scream series has perfected (yes, even in its low moments) the mixing of horror and mystery into something that almost feels like a game with every new release.

Scream VI

L-R: Melissa Barrera (“Sam Carpenter”), left, and Jenna Ortega (“Tara Carpenter”) stars in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group’s SCREAM VI.

Transporting Ghostface to the Big Apple is no easy feat, and for a minute, I thought I might dislike the change as Scream thrives in sparsely populated, isolated environments. Even Scream 3 took its Los Angeles setting and placed it in Hollywood Hills mansions and Burbank film sets, but Scream VI hits home right in the center of Manhattan. Despite this, I never found the new location to be completely overbearing, nor does it change the overall vibe that comes from a Scream film. It innovates where it needs to, but never loses sight of what it needs to be beyond its setting. Sure, there are a few moments where…let’s just be real here, New Yorkers can be glib at the sight of people in distress, but even I know that someone bleeding out in a very public area after being gruesomely attacked isn’t cause for an entire city population ignoring said person. Still, had that logic been applied elsewhere, we also wouldn’t have gotten Jada Pinkett Smith’s opening scene in Scream 2.

Scream VI

Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group’s SCREAM VI.

The strongest element of any Scream film is always its cast, and while I had to take some time to really warm up to the new ragtag group of adolescents introduced in Scream (2022) a little more than I did with the originals, or even those of Scream 4, I found them to really come into their own in Scream VI. The chemistry between Barrera, Ortega, Brown, and Gooding (who really gets a chance to shine here, where I found him to be rather stiff previously) really makes this new team feel like worthy successors to the original three of Campbell, Cox, and Arquette. Barrera and Ortega, specifically, run this bitch like it owes them money, and their sisterly bond is really quite compelling, and it shows that there’s a reason that they’re the new It girls in the industry. The new characters also, while many acting as proverbial bloodbags for the murder mystery to proceed, still, like always, add a funny, lovable sense of depth that makes it so easy to root for their survival…or maybe that’s what they want you to feel about them…trust no one.

Scream VI

Dermot Mulroney (“Detective Bailey “) stars in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group’s SCREAM VI.

Though, despite heavy bias since she was my favorite when I was 14 and Scream 4 came out, the return of Kirby is absolutely the highlight of Scream VI, and everything about her return, from the randomness of it to the pretty batshit turn of her becoming an FBI agent to hunt serial killers after surviving one, is so perfectly random, but also weirdly in line with what I thought Kirby would do with her life. It’s just weird enough that it works wonders, and Panettiere is so clearly elated to be back in the role that it’s infectious.

Scream VI

Hayden Panettiere (“Kirby Reed”) stars in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group’s SCREAM VI.

A very important topic of discussion needing touching upon here is that of Neve Campbell’s absence, and why it came to be. The long of the short of it is that Paramount (and I believe Spyglass Media Group) would not meet the request of Campbell’s pay, and refused to budge with her, prompting her exit from the series. How a studio can so readily discard their main star over money that they very clearly have, still feels gross even a year after the story dropped. Regardless, what we’re left with is a surprisingly good narrative excuse to explain her absence, one that really made sense with the character development we got with Sidney in the previous film. It’s clear Radio Silence don’t like the studio bureaucracy that forced Campbell out as much as any of us, and they handle it with as much respect as they can. It also brings the “Unfortunate for Campbell, but Fortunate for Cox” effect of Gale really getting her time in the spotlight, and Cox, as always, makes every moment of it.

Scream VI

Courteney Cox (“Gale Weathers”) stars in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group’s SCREAM VI.

Also, very small thing, but I wish I could’ve seen how they utilized 3D in this series for the first time. While it somewhat feels like a knee-jerk conversion after the success of Avatar: The Way of Water (which ironically also stars Jack Champion), 3D conversion technology has improved so much since its first initial go-around that I’d love to see if it works here.

Scream VI

Ghostface in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group’s SCREAM VI.

While I love Scream 2, I don’t believe it fully lives up to Scream (1996) as that was simply, and without exaggeration, a cultural reset of horror films. Scream (2022), while a great film also, didn’t reinvent the genre the way the original did, and with that, it’s easier for me to declare that I find Scream VI to be a further improvement on the previous film. Everyone just feels more at home here, the cast feels more fleshed out, the screenplay is less focused on nostalgia and is ready to build its own world, Radio Silence seem far more comfortable behind the camera as they don’t have to prove the impossible with taking over Craven’s spot like before. It all just meshes together in a way that isn’t head-and-shoulders above Scream (2022), as that really was a wonderful reboot, but rather, feels like the natural progression of what I believe is the best for the series. They’re rarely ever perfect, and they’re always far more clever than they are ever subtle, but I find such a thrill in watching a new Scream film for the first time, and that thrill has yet to subside with anything Radio Silence did with Scream VI. Keep them coming.

As for the ending, I found it crazy how the killer wa…(*is immediately yanked off stage by a Paramount-branded Vaudeville hook*)

In theaters March 10th, 2023.

For more information, head to the official Scream VI website.

Final Score: 4 out of 5.

Categories: Films To Watch, In Theaters, Recommendation, Reviews

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