June 3, 2023
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Life & Culture

Review: New ‘Scream’ installment stabs its fans in the back

Scream VI

Paramount Pictures

Last year, the “Scream” franchise was revitalized for a new generation of slasher fans with a majorly successful fifth installment. With how well “Scream” (2022) did in making the series feel fresh, while also playing to its strengths, “Scream VI” had a lot to live up to. Although its tagline, “New York. New rules.” promises to continue the trend of evolving “Scream” as a property in part because of its brand new exciting location, “Scream VI” just barely delivers.

After narrowly surviving the events of the last film, friends Sam (Melissa Barrera), Tara (Jenna Ortega), Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) move from Woodsboro, California, to New York City to regain control of their lives and start fresh. Unfortunately for them, it is not long into their stay in the Big Apple that a new slew of Ghostface killings throws a wrench in their plans.

A strong opening filled with multiple smart twists immediately sets the audience up for a plot that will mix up the tried and true formula. Throughout the remainder of the film, the exciting prospect that anything can happen begins to quickly unravel, especially during a weak final act.

“Scream VI” does many things right in its first half, one of which is reaffirming the strong dynamic between the “core four” survivors of the last film, as they are dubbed here in what is a fan-favorite “Scream” trademark of incredible meta humor. Their genuine family dynamic feels refreshing and the audience cares about their survival because of how clear it is that they care for one another. The relationship that the four of them share provides “Scream VI” with a sincere beating heart.

Furthering the audience’s interest in these new characters was important for the film to nail considering that “Scream VI” largely lacks fan-favorite characters. The core four proves in “Scream VI,” after a promising introduction in “Scream” (2022), that they have what it takes to carry the franchise forward. However, they are not completely on their own this time around as legacy characters Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) are featured prominently.

While Kirby has a reason to be involved in the events of “Scream VI” that is intriguing enough, the same cannot be said for Gale. Outside of being the subject of one phenomenal Ghostface sequence in the second act, it does not feel like her inclusion was necessary.

The number of characters to care about in “Scream VI” should have raised the stakes significantly. However, by the third act, viewers will quickly realize that there truly are no reasons to fear for the lives of any of the film’s major characters.

Although the Ghostface sequences in “Scream VI” are more intense, vicious, gory and creative than ever, they often ask the audience to suspend their disbelief and think of the characters as superhumans rather than real people. More than any of the previous entries in the saga, characters take deep, fatal stab wounds like mere punches in the face.

With the sheer level of unrealism on display, one can at least hope that the killer’s reveal and motive this time around are worth all the meaningless bloodshed. While “Scream VI” sets up extremely interesting ideas about how past trauma can turn people into the thing they most fear and constantly hints that this theme plays into Ghostface’s motive, the actual reveal is significantly less interesting. Not only is it an utter disappointment, but it does not even make sense with what the audience has witnessed over the course of the film leading up to the moment when the mask comes off.

“Scream VI” had an incredible amount of potential. Regardless of the genuinely frightening and blood-pumping thrills it provides, it ultimately squanders its core themes in what feels like a step backward for the franchise after having such an incredible return to form. The film’s conclusion leaves ample room for a fascinating character arc for Sam to be further explored in a future installment. However, “Scream VI” may very well leave even the most diehard “Scream” fans feeling stabbed in the back and uninterested in seeing what comes next.

Evan Miller can be reached at emiller11@ithaca.edu