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  • Writer's pictureJames McCleary

Scream VI // Film Review

Who cares about movies?

The biggest challenge that comes with calling your film Scream 6 is the question of required reading.

Should potential viewers be expected to watch all five of the series’ previous entries before buying a ticket? Some have argued that the 2022 ‘requel’ to which this film is a direct sequel is sufficient homework, but even that film plays directly off beats and characters from the 1996 original, and Scream 6 has a similar relationship to 1997’s Scream 2. Complicating it further is the prominent return of Scream 4’s breakout Kirby Reed (Hayden Pantettiere), so that one should probably go on the list too. Checking the till, it appears that the only ‘skippable’ Scream film is the third one, which suits me just fine.

I mention this because, by-and-large, we should know what to expect from a Scream film by now. There is always a masked killer with a fetishistic love for slasher movies, targeting a gang of whip-smart teens who know all the tropes they're up against, culminating in a big third-act reveal of one or more familiar faces beneath the iconic Ghostface mask. It’s a faultless format, collapsing only on the one occasion where then-screenwriter Kevin Williamson tried to break it (see above snarky comment about Scream 3).

Scream 6 is obessed with this rulebook, and the ever expanding lore of a franchise with such an easily predicted rhythm. The film’s central character Sam Carpenter (Mellisa Barrerra), exemplifies this best as the daughter of Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), the original Ghostface. Sam spends her life burdened by this association, and trying desperately to be seen as her own person beyond the backstory.

Her latest Ghostface rival is in a similar position, being not only the most savage to date but also the most nihilistic. Whoever is under the mask really, really hates scary movies, and wants the whole world to know it. Through these two avatars, directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett endeavour, and almost succeed, in telling a Scream story about breaking free from the reputation of their franchise and its impenetrable lore.

Multiple times throughout the early acts, the film tries to hammer home that this is no ordinary Scream sequel, and that this time ‘no one is safe’. Even legacy characters like Kirby or Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) are expendable now, because as Mindi Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown, divine) explains - in a scene consciously mirroring a similar one in Scream 5 - franchises thrive on escalation; every entry needs to be bigger, and more shocking than the last.

In that respect, Scream 6 is a triumph. The series has never seen spectacle like this, with the New York setting utilised to its fullest across a series of set-pieces which up the ante in brutal, almost sadistic fashion. One particular kill scene, largely hidden from the trailers, ranks as the series’ best by some margin, with the heavily advertised showdown between Gale and Ghostface also standing out as a sequence destined for the Stab Hall of Fame. By the time we get to the long-awaited climactic showdown between final girls Sam & Tara (Jenna Ortega) and the Ghostface Killer(s), we are fully convinced not only that anyone could die, but that this particular enemy is capable of unprecedented cruelty.

Unfortunately, this is also to the film’s detriment. Scream 6 is fixated on the idea of cutting ties with lore and subverting our expectations for wider serialisation, but it is still a Scream film and its final movements struggle to shift the Williamson format in any meaningful way. Anyone can die… except not really, as the film gets carried away with its own violence, including a few too many fake-out stabbings. It doesn’t matter what kind of wounds Ghostface inflicts, because certain characters will always survive simply out of necessity. An argument can and will be made that the reveal of just how many wounded characters have ultimately survived is intended to be comical, but the true message is clear as day; they’re needed for Scream 7.


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