New York New Rules
New York New Rules
Radio Silence’s Scream VI takes the franchise in an exciting new direction and expands upon characters and themes in an engaging and heartfelt way. Kicking off a year after the events of Scream (2022), the action moves to NYC and follows our four Woodsboro survivors plus legacy characters Gale Weathers and Kirby Reed. Of course, Ghostface is back, more ruthless and menacing than ever, slicing up some of the most creative kills the franchise has seen to date. We’re also introduced to a dynamic cast of up-and-comers who truly hold their own and are a welcome addition to the Scream family. An insightful introspection of franchises is explored as our characters dive into the rules that come with the territory.
In its opening weekend, Scream VI exceeded expectations and crushed the franchise’s opening record previously set by Scream 3 in 2000 ($34.7 million) with an outstanding $44.5 million in ticket sales. While every sequel has its flaws, this one mostly thrives from its firm direction and sharp writing. For a 6th entry in a franchise, Scream VI is not only gorier and more action-packed but it feels surprisingly fresh. Directors Tyler Gillet and Matt-Bettinelli-Olpin stay true to the original and honor the tone of Wes Craven’s first four films while taking some big swings and truly making this one their own. We’re in a more elevated space than sequels like Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers and Freddy’s Dead, and Scream proves to still be the most consistent slasher franchise.
Scream VI is tightly connected to the events of Scream 5 and dials up the humor, suspense and kills through its stimulating and emotive screenplay. Following the format of my Scream 5 review, I’ve compiled a list of 6 things that worked well in Scream VI and 6 areas for improvement.
6 Things I Love About Scream VI
1/ Homage to Past Ghostfaces
Scream VI truly is a love letter to Scream 2 and has some striking similarities, but the Easter eggs don’t end there. This time, the killers manage to get a hold of evidence from past murder sprees, including the masks of the 9 Ghostface that have come before. They leave a mask behind at each attack as a countdown to the final showdown. This is a cool concept and reminiscent of the killer leaving behind photos of Maureen Prescott in Scream 3. Kirby, who is now working as an FBI agent (so that monsters can fear her instead of the other way around), gives a quick overview of each Ghostface through a well-executed monologue.
Skeet Ulrich again reprises his role of Billy Loomis in Sam’s visions and it doesn’t feel overdone, simply a refresher of their father/daughter relationship. Stu is honored as well, with one of the killers being executed in the same way he meets his demise in the original. We’re given another thoughtful shoutout to Halloween when it’s confirmed that grandma Ghostface Debbie Salt’s real name was Nancy Loomis, after the actress who played Annie in the 1978 slasher. Roman Bridger even gets his long-overdue respect as being the only solo killer in the franchise. Of course, the motive of the movie is centered around Jack Quaid’s character Richie Kirsch in Scream 5, and while he may not be one of the most memorable Ghostfaces, it’s still an interesting angle to explore.
2/ The Legacy Characters
There’s no denying Neve Campbell’s presence was missed this time but Sidney not being around played out in a realistic way. The same can be said about David Arquette. Both were given proper respect in this film and their characters were handled with grace. Gale and Sidney’s bond is built upon even with Neve’s absence and it’s clear their relationship is still strong.
Courteney Cox and Hayden Panettiere take the reins and the two undoubtedly give grade-A performances. Viewers are reminded why Kirby is a fan favorite as she connects with the characters from Scream 5 and leads the investigation into this new mystery. Scream VI is Gale’s first solo venture without Sidney and Dewey and while she’s used quite minimally, all of her scenes are compelling. She brings a strong energy to each film and this one is no exception. I do love it when she is included in the finale, and the films where she is seem to be ranked highest for me, but her jaw-dropping apartment attack makes up for it here. Kirby and Gale have some playful banter with each other in this sequel and it’s giving Gale/Jennifer vibes from Scream 3. I wish we got even more of it!
3/ The Chase Scenes
It’s clear the filmmakers were taking fans’ opinions into play as the biggest complaint about Scream 5 was the lack of chase scenes and they greatly made up for it this time. Chases are in high supply here and they are more drawn out and exhilarating. In fact, taking place over a shorter time span of a Halloween weekend in NYC, the film doesn’t really have any slow moments and is a rollercoaster ride from start to finish.
Since we’re in the big apple in VI and on Gale’s turf, I wanted to see more of her in her element and thought a chase through her New York studio would have been iconic. Still, the chase we get in her luxurious upper west side apartment is one of the highlights of the film. The stakes are high and it’s right up there with her sound booth scene in Scream 2. I truly didn’t know if Gale would live or die but I’m relieved she pulled through. There’s a moment at the end of that scene where she tells Sam to let Sidney know the killer never got her and it’s heart-wrenching to watch. We’re reminded that Dewey’s death brought Sidney back to Woodsboro during the previous killing spree and it shows that Gale, who at that moment doesn’t know if she’ll survive, just wants to keep Sidney and her family safe. It’s a high-energy sequence filled with emotion. SO well done!
4/ The New Location and Set Pieces
Taking things to the big city opens up a realm of deadly possibilities and makes for a killer playground for our beloved characters. The cinematography in general is a step up from the director’s previous installment. Scream VI proves that the Woodsboro setting, although nostalgic, isn’t necessary for a Scream film to be successful. I already believed this as I adore the Hollywood atmosphere of Scream 3 and think it would be a fitting location for a concluding chapter of the franchise.
Scream VI introduces fascinating set pieces like the theatre setting for the Ghostface shrine, the dark underground subway and of course the highrise ladder segment which is arguably the tensest moment of the film. Even though we see quite a bit of the bodega scene in the trailer, it still keeps the audience on the edge of their seats and feels like an homage to the kitchen attack in the original Jurassic Park. Overall, the NYC setting is an innovative location for this entry to take place in.
5/ The Core 4’s Chemistry
Character development is handled well in Scream VI and we are able to make a greater connection with the four Woodsboro survivors. The Core 4, a nickname introduced by Mason Gooding’s character, is used throughout the film. At times it’s a bit cheesy, which most of the characters seem to agree with, but it’s still a cute label for this group. Jenna Ortega and Gooding have incredible chemistry as their characters Chad and Tara form a deeper relationship. Again, this raises the stakes as you want to see what the future holds for them.
Melissa Barerra really shines in VI and knocks it out of the park as the troubled Sam Carpenter. She depicts a more vulnerable side in this film but also successfully sells the fact that she’s not one to be messed with. Barerra was a true highlight of the film for me and is quickly becoming one of my new favorite final girls as I also enjoyed her in Scream 5. She delivers a badass energy and has some of the best one-liners in the 3rd act. She also shares a handful of touching moments with Tara, although at times their dialogue feels a little forced. It’s nice to get an explanation as to why the Carpenter’s mother isn’t in the picture anymore, and a brief mention of Gale’s family life too for that matter.
6/ The New Blood
The newbies in Scream VI play off the returnees well and even with limited screen time we get a feel for each of their characters. Liana Liberato, Josh Segarra, Jack Champion and Devyn Nekoda all delivered notable performances. Being least familiar with Nekoda, I didn’t have any real expectations for her character, but she was the standout star amongst the new cast. Anika is like the Cici Cooper of this film, and for a minor character, she really sold the tension and suspense during her emotional death scene. Segarra’s Danny Brackett feels original and has some interesting layers to him. The filmmakers seem to know their audience as he serves as eye candy as the “cute boy” next door. I do wish Thomas Cadrot’s Brooks had a few more lines of dialogue with Gale before biting the dust so we could better establish what that relationship was. She didn’t seem too phased by his death.
6 Things That Could Have Improved in Scream VI
1/ The Opening
When you have an actress like Samara Weaving on board you make the most of it. Sadly her portion of the opening sequence was a missed opportunity and ended too quickly. I do think the opening had a clever twist but I would have appreciated a more drawn-out game of cat and mouse with Samara’s character, Laura, who had the potential to deliver an epic scream queen performance. Her death felt like Lucy Hale’s in the Stab opening of Scream 4 when it should have been on Drew Barrymore’s level. Still, the reveal of Tony Revolori as a 4th killer was an intriguing aspect to explore.
2/ Repetitive Elements from Scream 5
Scream VI introduces a lot of fresh ideas but there are a few elements repeated from Scream 5 that feel derivative. The twin’s fate and Mindy’s monologue are probably the two main examples of this. I do appreciate Mindy’s explanation of the rules of a franchise but it could have been handled in a different way like how Jamie Kennedy’s Randy and Dewey had a one-on-one about sequel rules in Scream 2. We don’t need her schooling the full group each time, especially if she suspects some of them may be the killers. I don’t think VI works as well as a standalone film as 5 does but that is to be expected since we’re now dealing with a sequel to the requel. Casual audiences may feel a bit lost with this entry but given how action-packed it is they should still have a fun time regardless.
3/ The Superhuman Element
Our main characters seem to have superhuman abilities and a stab basically has the same effect as a punch in this latest entry of the Scream franchise. I understand that with these films there are times when you have to suspend disbelief but things are becoming overly unrealistic and we’re almost desensitized to the stabbings at this point. If a character needs to be injured there are a variety of ways they can be taken out of the action, but to have them get stabbed 10+ times and still be alive is unnecessary. The new cast has too much plot armor and the film needed higher stakes. Adrenaline activation is a thing but when our characters are continuously stabbed in vital areas and show no signs of weakness it loses its effect. Gale’s attack seemed the most based in reality since paramedics arrived on the scene as it occurred.
Saying this, I would have been sad with any of the survivors being killed off but I think from this group it may have been Mindy’s time to go. She’s had the least character development and there wasn’t really a reason why Quinn didn’t finish the job. Had the subway attack been her demise it would have referenced both Randy’s death and the opening of Scream 2, and surely would have been ranked a top death scene in the franchise. Instead, she gets almost fatally stabbed and continues to make jokes. I question why the filmmakers didn’t just go for it.
4/ The Soundtrack
While Brian Tyler’s score adds to the intensity of the film, the actual soundtrack falls a bit flat this time. Demi Lovato’s Still Alive and Mike Shinoda’s and Kailee Morgue’s In My Head are nice additions and it’s great we got these original tracks for the movie, but the rest of the soundtrack isn’t nearly as listenable as that of Scream 5. For how fierce the film is I expected that feeling to translate into the song selections. This is probably nitpicky as there aren’t a lot of negatives to include but the soundtracks have always been an important element of the Scream films and this one may be the weakest. A Too $hort track from 2006?
5/ The Killers
Liana Liberato, Jack Champion and Dermot Mulroney play our first Ghostface trio of the franchise as Quinn, Ethan and Detective Wayne Bailey, family members of Richie Kirsch. The reveal just didn’t pack as much of a punch as I expected and I had a hard time believing them to be a family unit. They lacked the chemistry past duos have shared and ultimately even with three killers they seemed to be ineffective as everyone made it out of the third act alive except them. Bailey’s reveal felt monotone as he explained “Yeah, of course it’s me”.
The marketing for the film claimed Ghostface was something different but what was really different about them? Their motive was good old-fashioned revenge, which was a nice nod to Debbie/Nancy in Scream 2, but it wasn’t original. The reveal needed more depth to it and to be further fleshed out. Dermot didn’t sell me as a killer but I thought Liana and Jack did a decent job; however, the crazy could have been dialed up a little more in all three performances. Still, with the last few films having a movie or fame-related motive, it was nice to go the revenge route again.
6/ The Third Act
From being on such a wild ride throughout, the third act felt underwhelming and needed refinement. It lacked the smoothness of previous installments and felt too contrived. How did the killers think they’d possibly get away with all of it? Did they care if they were caught? Some key elements seemed set up for conveniences, like Quinn and Ethan being roommates with the Core 4, and Detective Bailey getting a job with the NYPD under a fake identity. There are definitely loads of cheer-worthy moments during the climax of this film, it just would have benefitted from some further editing.
Overall Scream VI proves to be a fun viewing experience and one that gets even better with rewatches. The directors honor their predecessors and thoughtfully craft a bloodier, razor-sharp legacy sequel with exceptional performances from the entire cast. The film sets up a cohesive closeout for the Carpenter’s story in a potential Scream 7, and although I hope that these new films are given their proper breathing space, I’m always on board to scream again.
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