Movie Review: Despite a nearly complete turnover of legacy characters, the “Scream” franchise keeps on rolling – and it may be as good as any since the original hit theaters in 1996. “Scream 6” gets bolder and better, and it builds on the best aspects of Radio Silence’s last installment of the franchise.
The sequels for “Scream” have always struggled to live up to Wes Craven’s original 1996 masterpiece. It’s the inherent issue of trying to catch lightening in a bottle a second time after the first struck a nerve with a widespread audience well versed in the rules of the horror genre – if you drink, have sex, or do drugs, you’ll probably die by the time the credits role, or that you’ll surely not be back if you utter that you’ll be right back. These rules forged the franchise, and ever since the franchise has worked harder and harder to justify its own existence. Yet with “Scream 6,” the gang seems ready for the big time – and big changes.
In this installment of the blockbuster franchise, sisters Sam and Tara Carpenter have moved to the Big Apple to escape their haunted past and start a relatively new life away from their trauma in Woodsboro. Tara (Jenna Ortega) has started college at Blackmore University with her friends that managed to survive the onslaught of “Scream 5,” while Sam lives every day concerned that the Ghostface killer may resurface once again.
And, of course, the killer does with one gruesome cold open that wrongfoots you and twists your sense of direction immediately. One criticism that’s been shared over the years with the “Scream” franchise is that the plot essentially recycles itself each time and that the movies are diminishing returns of the original. I’ve sure felt that way with some of the attempts to continue the lineage. “Scream 2” is a copy-and-paste of the first but set on a college campus instead of a small high school. “Scream 5” goes to extreme lengths to remind you of the original – to a point that, while I still found that movie fun and interesting as an idea, I can see the pushback.
But “Scream 6” feels like the most overt attempt to redefine what a “Scream” movie could, and should, look like. Its biggest change, and the ultimate marketing point of the movie itself, is that it trades in the “Halloween”-like smalltown home invasion kills for larger set pieces and an audacious third act that “Scream” movies haven’t tried to go to before. The movie feels like it was crafted with these few larger set designs and kills in mind.
The pacing works about as well as any “Scream” movie in the past. It’s violent, abrupt, and insistent on getting to the next bloodbath. “Scream 6” features more stabbing, slicing, and piercing than any installment before it, even if it means tearing into legacy characters from the original cast or from “Scream 5.” Courteney Cox is the sole remaining character from the film that started it all. To fill in the massive gaps left by previous cast members David Arquette and Neve Campbell, “Scream 6” opts to call in Hayden Panettiere’s character from “Scream 4.”
There are a lot of moving parts with these characters all coming together in “Scream 6.” Courteney Cox acts as the last connective tissue for a franchise that feels like it could be completely transforming into something new. Jasmin Savoy Brown and Mason Gooding return as Mindy and Chad, a sibling pair stemming from the bloodline of Randy Meeks. Dermot Mulroney joins this installment as the detective filling in the shoes of Officer Dewey. There is also an extensive cast of classmates and neighbors to meet for the Carpenter sisters.
This is all to say that I do believe “Scream 6” is the most ambitious of the bunch. Although it doesn’t always fully immerse you into New York City, the towering sets make for a fresh spin on the concept. Large sequences of characters scaling between buildings and through convenience stores justify the swap in location from a small-scale residency. The trailers ahead of its release may have given away a bit too much of the acrobatic work that many of the cast members would have to complete, but not enough to soil the experience.
Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (aka Radio Silence) pull out all the stops to improve on their last entry. The movie is inventive in a way that actually makes me think of “Ready or Not” much more than it does “Scream 5.” It bounces around the city the same way “Ready or Not” went from room to room and invented new ideas for action and violence. The scene on the subway that’s prominently featured in the trailer is one of their best concoctions yet as it’s increasingly unnerving as it goes on.
And the ending lands for me. That’s not always the case for “Scream” movies. Even the last one I could see an audience member finding too self-indulging or unoriginal. The ending to “Scream 6” is surely the first time an ending of this magnitude has been tried in a “Scream” movie. It’s gory, dramatized, and legitimately the most punishing that I’ve seen these filmmakers take it. Some will find the stakes slightly diminished when the movie wraps up, mainly because characters seem to be able to take a lot of stabbings without dying. I didn’t have much of a problem with it – new reboot, new rules. I like these rules. I’ll go ahead and stake my claim now: “Scream 6” is the best in the franchise since the original “Scream” way back in 1996. It’s a blast.
“Scream 6” is now available to stream on Paramount Plus
Previous “Scream” Movie Reviews
“Scream 6” Cast and Credits
Melissa Barrera as Sam Carpenter
Jenna Ortega as Tara Carpenter
Jasmin Savoy Brown as Mindy Meeks-Martin
Mason Gooding as Chad Meeks-Martin
Courteney Cox as Gale Weathers
Dermot Mulroney as Detective Bailey
Jack Champion as Ethan Landry
Liana Liberato as Quinn Bailey
Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpi, Tyler Gillett, Radio Silence
Writers: James Vanderbilt, Guy Busick, Kevin Williamson (Original Writer)
Cinematography: Brett Jutkiewicz
Editor: Jay Prychidny
Composer: Brian Tyler