Melissa Barrera - Sam Carpenter
Jasmin Savoy Brown - Mindy Meeks-Martin
Jenna Ortega - Tara Carpenter
Mason Gooding - Chad Meeks-Martin
Jack Champion - Ethan Landry
Liana Liberato - Quinn Bailey
Dermot Mulroney - Wayne Bailey
Hayden Panettiere - Kirby Reed
Courteney Cox - Gale Weathers
Devyn Nekoda - Anika Kayoko
Josh Segarra - Danny Brackett
Running Time: 123 Minutes
Following the latest Ghostface killings, the four survivors leave Woodsboro behind and start a fresh chapter in New York City.
Despite an eleven-year absence from movie theaters and a lack of Wes Craven [due to his unfortunate passing in 2015], 2022’s SCREAM proved to be a bigger success than expected. Doing much better than 2011’s SCREAM 4, the box office gross surprised analysts and proved that Paramount picked up a franchise that was ready to be revived again. Using the idea of re-quels and featuring the main legacy characters of the series to help push new stories along for a newer cast, most audiences enjoyed the return to Woodsboro and wanted more.
As soon as SCREAM (2022) made a quick profit, Paramount wasted no time in greenlighting the next installment. There was a lot of hype for this one for many reasons. One, the characters were leaving Woodsboro for New York City, taking the series into a major metropolitan for the first time in the franchise. Two, there were talks of Ghostface being a much scarier and more violent villain in the big city, upping some stakes. And three, not only would Courteney Cox return as Gale Weathers, but Hayden Panettiere would make her awaited return as Kirby Reed - a character long thought dead but revealed to be very much alive in an Easter Egg in SCREAM (2022).
However, the buzz turned from excitement to worry. Due to a disagreement over pay, series’ star Neve Campbell would be bowing out of this installment. Feeling she wasn’t being paid what she was worth [and I have to agree with her kinda], she refused to take part in the sequel. I’m not sure if Sydney Prescott had a big role or Kirby was her replacement, but it became a test to see if the SCREAM franchise could survive without Sydney.
Luckily in my opinion, I think the lack of Sydney actually benefits SCREAM VI since I think it’s the best installment since, at least, SCREAM 2. Hell, I think I put it above even that sequel, as this movie was just a blast from beginning to end. While I love the series, I’m not a big fanboy like many of my friends are. How I am with the HALLOWEEN franchise [those KILLS and ENDS debates, how fun were those] is how many are with SCREAM and this installment has been no stranger to a divide amongst fans. Personally, this was the first SCREAM film I had a lot of fun with watching since the first movie back in 1996 and would definitely watch this again whenever I get the chance.
I think what made SCREAM VI a fun experience were better written characters I can finally have an attachment to. Let’s be serious here - besides the original group from the first film, did we really care about a lot of these characters? Sure, some snuck in to win our hearts for a bit before getting killed off by Ghostface. But none I really cared about, including most of the new group from the last film. I think only Tara and Mindy were the ones I really connected with, while the others were just there for me. Even Samantha, who has a great backstory being Billy Loomis’ daughter and her struggle with that, didn’t do a whole lot for me because of how she was presented. Maybe it’s because the film wanted to focus a bit on the legacy characters that Samantha didn’t really get to do her thing until the very end of SCREAM (2022). I liked the new group of characters enough, but not to the point where I was concerned if they survived or not.
That changes in SCREAM VI. Without the shadow of Sydney, and even Dewey, the “Core Four” that survived SCREAM (2022) are allowed to breathe and flesh out into characters we can finally care about. Samantha is much more interesting this time around. Not only is she struggling with the trauma of the previous film’s events, but she’s fighting the instinct of becoming her father’s daughter, slowly gaining this thirst for violence and murder. She’s also smothering her sister Tara, who is dealing with her own massive trauma by partying and lashing out at those around her. Tara also manages to flesh out Chad, as they both have feelings for each other, having grown closer since SCREAM (2022). Chad has grown a lot, as he’s the Big Brother and Enforcer of the Core Four and does his best to protect his girls. And Mindy is still awesome, leaning more into Randy Meeks territory while also afraid of being attacked by Ghostface again and doing everything she can to get away from anyone she considers a suspect.
The other characters aren’t as interesting, but some come close. The best one is probably Danny, who is Samantha’s neighbor and boyfriend. He seems like a decent guy, but you’re never really sure in these films. And the return of both Gale and Kirby are pretty great. Gale is dealing with her trauma of losing Dewey by resorting to her old journalistic ways - writing books on the pain of others to make a buck. And Kirby is now an FBI Agent, but seems to be hiding things from the others for some reason. Hmm…
And Ghostface - man, this is the most terrifying portrayal ever. This version of the horror villain does not play at all. Even though Ghostface has a main target, he or she or they have no qualms hurting and murdering people in the way of their goal. Guns or knives - it doesn’t matter how long as the job is done. It was nice having an intimidating Ghostface for once.
SCREAM VI is also a movie where I didn’t figure out the mystery completely. I won’t say how many killers this film has, but I didn’t solve the whole puzzle - which was refreshing. I didn’t see the motive coming either, which I thought was a nice connective tissue to the previous movies. I usually figure out all the killers in these SCREAM movies, so having one where I didn’t see the whole picture was actually fun.
The script isn’t perfect though. There are plot holes all over this film, which I didn’t really think about while watching it. But reflecting back on the movie, yeah, it does things that shouldn’t make sense honestly. The final act feels very rushed and clumsy at times, even though it’s still a blast to watch it all go down. And yeah, people get hurt really badly in this movie. But they can get stabbed a thousand times in vital spots on the body, yet still make it out alive for the next film. I get the writers are attached to these characters and are scared to kill some of them off, but there should have been a higher body count by the sixth movie. I mean, this takes place in New York City! How did Woodsboro get a higher kill count?
The direction by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett is very good. While I wish the NYC location was used more than it was, the subway sequence and certain moments inside apartments, where neighbors can see what’s going on, were used very effectively. In fact, the tension was raised big time in SCREAM VI, as a lot of the chase sequences were suspenseful as hell and gave me a bit of anxiety at times. The bodega scene, a sequence involving a ladder between two apartment windows, Gale’s confrontation with Ghostface and the train sequence all had moments where I couldn’t look away because I was so tense. While not overly scary, SCREAM VI is the first film in a while where I felt the filmmakers were trying to unsettle the audience. I also liked the cool twist on the usual opening sequence and just the level of blocking during many of the scenes to create a thrilling experience. For a two-hour movie, SCREAM VI felt much shorter because I was given feelings I hadn’t felt during a SCREAM movie in a long time.
The cast is wonderful as well. The “Core Four” actors are a lot better and more comfortable this time around. Jenna Ortega continues her streak as horror’s “It Girl” with a layered performance as Tara, while Jasmin Savoy Brown still brings the comedy and geekiness as Mindy. Mason Gooding gets more to do as Chad, making his character more likable than in the last film. Melissa Barrera, however, feels like a different actress here than she did in 2022’s SCREAM. Maybe it’s more character development and screen time, or just feeling more comfortable in the role. But I really enjoyed Barrera here and she proved worthy of carrying this franchise as the series’ lead for as long as they’ll have her.
The rest of the cast is solid. I enjoyed Josh Segarra as Sam’s new love interest, Danny. Hayden Panettiere makes a welcome return as Kirby. Panettiere plays the role a bit differently this time around, which I won’t spoil how, but it’s nice seeing her here. Courteney Cox also had some great moments as Gail Weathers, especially since she was able to stand on her own without Neve Campbell or David Arquette taking away some of the spotlight.
THE FINAL HOWL
Who knew SCREAM VI would be my favorite installment of this slasher franchise in a very long time? Despite the much talked about absence of Neve Campbell, the film actually seems all the better without her presence included. Underdeveloped characters from 2022’s SCREAM actually get arcs that flesh them out in ways that we actually like and root for them. The New York City locale could have been used a bit more, but it’s a great change of scenery from your standard suburban Woodsboro. We have a Ghostface character who takes no prisoners, managing to be brutal and unrelenting to the point where you actually fear him or her (or them). And for a two-hour movie, it felt shorter than some of the other installments. Radio Silence did a great job directing this movie, actually bringing tons of tension and suspense to the point where I actually feared for some of these characters. And the younger cast feel more confident and actually get things to do, especially Melissa Barrera who actually gets to play a lead character that I wouldn’t mind being the center of this newer trilogy. I also thought the returns of Courteney Cox and Hayden Panettiere were fun additions. Despite some plot holes and an annoying tendency to play it too safe with protecting characters - a more brutal Ghostface should have had a higher body count - I think SCREAM VI is the best installment since the first one. Or at least, it’s on par with SCREAM 2, which this film clearly pays a great homage to. Since this movie made a lot of money, we’re clearly getting another one. Hopefully SCREAM VII continues the upward momentum and takes more risks.
(9 out of 10)