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Scream VI (A Movie Review)

SCREAM VI (2023)

Starring Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Jack Champion, Mason Gooding, Liana Liberato, Dermot Mulroney, Hayden Panettiere, Courteney Cox, Devyn Nekoda, Josh Segarra, Tony Revolori, Samara Weaving, Henry Czerny, Thomas Cadrot, Andre Anthony, Max Laferriere, Frank Fiola, Skeet Ulrich and the voice of Roger L. Jackson.

Screenplay by James Vanderbilt & Guy Busick.

Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett.

Distributed by Paramount Pictures. 123 minutes. Rated R.

Just a couple of years ago, the Scream franchise was pretty much dead in the water. The most recent film in the series, Scream IV, had been something of a disappointment when it was released in 2011. And even that film was a bit of a reboot of the series, coming 11 years after the original trilogy ended. (The first three films were released from 1996 to 2000.)

Now, suddenly, with the release of the second Scream movie in just about a year, apparently they are all in with the series again. It’s up to debate as to whether the series was that in need of another reboot after all this time (let’s face it, only the original 1996 film was truly special), but Scream VI does what it can to make the old formula palatable for a new generation.

In the horror franchise parlance, this film would be the Ghostface Takes Manhattan chapter of the saga, where the kids from the small town move to the big city, only to find the violence they are trying to leave behind has relocated as well. (Although the story is supposed to take place in New York City, Scream VI was actually filmed in Montreal, a difference which is somewhat noticeable throughout.)

As with most of the previous films, Scream VI is a mix of old and new characters. Although the production made the gossip columns last year when original Scream star Neve Campbell refused to appear in the new film (apparently, she was not offered enough money to make it worth her while), there are a few character returns from the older films to mix in with the new blood… so to speak.

Courteney Cox – who is the only actor who has actually been in all six of the Scream films – returns in the role of Gale Weathers. Hayden Panettiere also returns in the role of Scream IV survivor Kirby Reid, who is now an FBI agent on the trail of the latest Ghostface killers. Also Skeet Ulrich has a few short cameos as the spirit of original killer Billy Loomis.

However, the characters from the past are not really what Scream VI is selling, it actually works pretty well because the two new lead characters are so interesting and well played. (I say new, but they both appeared in the fifth Scream chapter last year, as well.) Melissa Barrera (In the Heights) and Jenna Ortega (Wednesday) carry the film with confidence and charm as two sisters who survived last year’s slayings and moved to New York to escape (and for the younger sister to go to college), only to find that the evil has followed them.

Both are terrific – particularly Barrera – and they make Scream VI one of the more intense and intriguing chapters of the saga. (Well, at least until the sort of stupid and unlikely reveal of the identities of the latest Ghostface killers, but that isn’t their fault.)

Scream VI is more violent than many of the previous films. (In the series’ normal postmodern snarkiness, it is pointed out that later films in a franchise always do everything bigger.) It’s actually also one of the funnier episodes, and suspenseful, too. (At least until that silly climax.)

It has all of the normal Scream problems. The whole idea that the kids try to evade the killer due to horror film rules rather than real life rules still seems a bit too smug and post-modern. And the Ghostface killer is actually kind of a ridiculous bogeyman (although there have been multiple Ghostfaces over the run of the franchise). He (or she, or they, or it… I’m not telling…) is clumsy, easily knocked off balance and fairly regularly defeated. And yes, I get that is sort of the point, these are just a bunch of normal insane people playing copycat, but it makes the character a bit clownish as well as scary. Which, again, is probably part of the point.

But, okay, Scream VI, you’ve got me. As long as you keep following Barrera and Ortega around, I’m in for another chapter or two.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2023 All rights reserved. Posted: March 10, 2023.

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