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MOVIES: Scream VI - Review

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Six entries into a franchise should produce at least one dud; it’s by the rule of law: Star Wars had the prequels, Rocky had Rocky V, and especially in its genre, the rest of the horror franchise has been remarkably inconsistent: Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween – there are tons of examples of franchises dropping one or two bombs and radically reinventing themselves. Which is why, six entries into a franchise: Scream dares to do the impossible – there’s no bad film here, and Scream VI is no exception – switching up the action to take our protagonists, Sam and Tara, survivors of Scream (2022) to New York, college graduates – who quickly find that no matter where they move, they will always be a target for Ghostface – a masked killer who keeps coming back.

Scream VI's opening kill targets a film professor on a first date; she’s been catfished by one of her students, who takes the mask off to reveal that he’s the killer. This might be the earliest reveal this franchise has ever done – but when they return home? The ‘real’ Ghostface is waiting for them – and just like that, the stakes are raised – the franchise becomes deadlier, more brutal and more intense than before – it's no coincidence that this killer wields a gun, and there’s multiple gruesome sequences that put even the most veteran franchise horror fan to shame. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett are having a great time in playing with our expectations and upending the rulebook, whilst keeping this film faithful to what comes before – the killer has built a shrine dedicated to past events, and everything is well connected, there’s no jumping on here and expecting a good ride: fan favourites from Scream 4 return, with Hayden Panettiere’s Kirby making a welcome reappearance to aid Tara and Sam after the unfortunate news that Sidney wouldn’t return here after Neve Campbell was unable to return.

As ever; Scream has an established set of rules – only this time, it’s pushing the boat out further. Mindy is the first person to recognise this – the meta-insert, mentioning Letterboxd in a way that hits home harder than the killer’s reveal and making it clear to the audience that this film is well aware of its expectations of a franchise – nobody is off the table. Yet for it proclaiming that nobody is off the table Scream VI almost seems to care about its ‘core four’ cast of characters too much; you get Chad and Mindy, sibling survivors of the first two, with Tara and Sam – which shortens down the list of suspects the second it rules them off the table, and then when you bring back Courtney Cox’s excellent Gale Weathers and Hayden Panettiere’s Kirby Reed you know that the space for limited Ghostface suspects in the cast is hard. I did like the inclusion of Josh Segarra as Sam’s new love interest, in a clever subversion of the downfall of Scream (2022)’s unpredictability: cast an actor who’s just been in a movie where they’ve played a member of the Manson Family, and you’ll suspect them instantly – cast Arrow’s Prometheus, one of the show’s best villains, and you’ll expect similar results – but it feels like Scream VI is aware of its typecasting: horror veteran Samara Weaving is also present, and the film handles that rather brilliantly – the scare sequences are at their best here, and I really loved the way the film operated – directors Matt Betinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett are a serviceable horror duo; even if the franchise needs to understand that a real-life Stab movie is not the way to go about it – there’s a reason why they’re parodied.

“fuck this franchise”, will be the rallying cry for those who don’t like the film but the serial killer reveal was anticlimactic to say the least – you knew it was coming from a mile off and didn’t really land the “gotcha” moment that it wanted to. There’s a clever attempt to misdirect, but it doesn’t last – and for a movie franchise built around its killer reveals, sometimes they need to land – but a Scream movie can be entertaining without them working perfectly and this is very much that film. I did like how Scream explored Gail in particular living with the impact of Dewey’s death – Sam called her out early on in that she needs Ghostface to stay relevant in her career; even if it comes at the cost of making her and Tara’s life hell, and the film tackles the interesting idea presented of social media fame – turning Sam’s reputation of a hero and survivor of Woodsboro into a weapon against her and letting her live with the consequences of being the daughter of a serial killer when that becomes public information. Reputation and fame is everything here – and Sam is public enemy number one.

Ghostface going to Manhattan allows the franchise to reinvent itself and it does so admirably – whilst staying true to what hallmarks work the best, Scream is a franchise that has always played tribute to its forebears to a point where it acknowledges its own original cast as legacy characters in the actual film, and the whole identity of Ghostface itself is caught up in the aftermath of Woodsboro. I did feel like this time Mindy’s breakdown of the genre beats became a bit too repetitive unfortunately for the film’s own good – there’s only one too many times the character can say the same thing before it becomes repetitive, but I did like the novelty idea of pairing her and Kirby up as a dynamic – Kirby’s a fan-favourite, and both soar. There’s an attempt to recreate the Gail/Dewey dynamic with two other cast members and it mostly works – one of the more sweeter moments in a recent Hollywood film with the couple sharing more chemistry than your most run of the mill franchises – with Sam still being very much the lead, this is Tara’s chance to come out of the shadow of her sister – helped by the fact that Jenna Ortega is one of the biggest stars in the world at the moment – it’s almost unfair as to how good she is compared to the rest of the cast here; but Melissa Barrera has improved since the previous film and holds her own, well and truly worthy of the franchise – the crowning moment at the end where everything comes together may have been more rewarding with maybe a couple of extra deaths prior to raise the stakes even more, but god – I love this cast so much. It helps she has instant chemistry with everyone she meets – the core four’s biggest strength is that they feel like a family – Barrera, Ortega, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mason Gooding – an authentic dynamic that’s hard to replicate.

Scream VI knows how to use its crazy twists well and finds a way to mostly one-up them – the opening sequence is one of the best in the franchise and the stakes couldn’t be higher. The chase is terrifying and you’re scared for all the characters’ lives at any point – even if it loves them too much, it’s willing to put them through hell – I was reminded of Escape Room and bizarrely, Angels Take Manhattan – which led to a fun prompt what if as though the Statue of Liberty had turned into Ghostface - during the film’s tense subway set-piece, which is one of my favourites in the film. When you’re thrown into a good set-piece Scream VI is able to handle them well and with care and keep you there – this is a Halloween Ends-type level knockout, a franchise going for broke and going for broke in the best way possible.

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