When the sequel to 2022’s “Scream” franchise reboot was announced, fans of the classic slasher series were ecstatic at the opportunity to follow the new group from the fifth installment to whatever murderous plot awaited them.
Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin this time, sisters Samantha (Melissa Barrera) and Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) attend a New York City college after the violent events of the previous film. The two are joined by familiar faces, including Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown), but the film also does its job of providing a heaping helping of fresh blood. Roommates Anika (Devyn Nekoda), Ethan (Jack Champion) and Quinn (Liana Liberato) are only some of the new characters introduced in the big-city setting.
Most viewers know what they are getting themselves into when they sit down for a “Scream” movie. There’s gonna be meta-commentary, campy humor and a whole lot of blood and guts. “Scream VI” is no different. Writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick oversaturate the script with references to overused horror tropes through their Randy Meeks stand-in, and this time comic-relief Mindy takes the helm. The script is mind-numbingly self-referential and could have used a lot more subtlety in that area. It is missing the cleverness of Wes Craven’s original dialogue and definitely bogs itself down with forced humor and meta-commentary. Just because you write a joke about continuing the “Scream” franchise as a means to boost the IP doesn’t make it any more forgivable. There were multiple instances of Mindy both calling out the franchise for having Courtney Cox reprise her role as Ghostface-guru Gale Weathers and overtly foreshadowing the events of the film with her “even legacy characters aren’t safe” wisecracks. The “Scream” meta-commentary has been done so many times, even by similar films like 2011’s “Cabin in the Woods,” that it feels a little tired by this point in the cultural sphere.
While on the topic of the script, it would be worthwhile to pick apart what was probably the weakest part of the entire project — the writing. Leading ladies Ortega and Barrera do a fine job of handling the awkward dialogue but honestly, it does nothing to save the film from a slew of cringe-inducing moments. The students don’t speak remotely like students, much less like a group of people who have just had the most traumatizing experiences of their lives. It is legitimately difficult to care about any of these people beyond a very basic surface level because of the complete shallowness of all their characters. Vanderbilt and Busick hint toward a conversation on mental trauma in a therapy scene at the beginning of the movie, but do absolutely nothing with it by the time the credits roll. The plot is nothing special and by the end of the movie, it completely ran out of steam.
It isn’t all bad, though. It is a “Scream” movie, of course — we aren’t here for profound themes or social commentary, just some laughs and a good kill or two. And man, it delivered on those fronts.
The action sequences were an absolute delight. They were choreographed beautifully, and despite some shaky camerawork, were filled with ripe beats of suspense and combat that were really thrilling to watch. A frat party fight scene early in the story comes to mind, in which Denzel Curry’s “Walkin” plays triumphantly in the background as the group dukes it out with a creepy frat brother. Ghostface had some of his best moments in years, one of them occurring in a supermarket brawl, another in the group’s dingy walkup apartment and a third in a poorly lit subway station. If you’re here for some blood, you’ll be especially content with what you see.
As previously stated, the humor was solid. It wasn’t gut-burstingly funny, but it was there and it worked. A couple of the jokes fell a little flat in what was a surprisingly packed movie theater, but overall the audience stayed laughing throughout the movie. It was a comfortable welcome back to a franchise that uses comedy extremely liberally in tandem with the more terrifying elements.
Now, for what everyone is really interested in — the scares. Look — you aren’t going to go home and shudder at the thought of Ghostface prowling your halls at night, but you will certainly wince a few times at the surplus of jump scares and gore in the film. The cinematography and costume design is another pleasant surprise, with both the set pieces and characters looking better than they had in some of the earlier installments in the franchise. All of these aspects working together manage to make the script somewhat enjoyable to watch play out, but unfortunately not much could have been done to revive writing that is more out-of-touch with humanity than most big-budget productions.
Overall, “Scream VI” was a relatively pleasurable moviegoing experience and one that I would recommend to fans of the series and horror fans alike. It isn’t much more than that, though. It had little to nothing to add to its own conversation on meta-commentary and is getting dangerously close to overdone and monotonous. It might be about time for Ghostface to hang up the knife and mask before this series leaves a painfully bad taste in the mouths of “Scream” fans everywhere.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars