THE STORY – Four survivors of the Ghostface murders leave Woodsboro behind for a fresh start in New York City. However, they soon find themselves in a fight for their lives when a new killer embarks on a bloody rampage.
THE CAST – Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mason Gooding, Courteney Cox, Hayden Panettiere, Dermot Mulroney, Jack Champion, Liana Liberato, Josh Segarra, Tony Revolori, Henry Czerny, Devyn Nekoda & Samara Weaving
THE TEAM – Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett (Directors), James Vanderbilt & Guy Busick (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 123 Minutes
Like so many college-bound young adults, the “Scream” franchise has departed its hometown for the big city. The latest edition of the legendary slasher franchise leaves California for the very first time to rack up a higher body count in New York City. But the location isn’t the only different thing – “Scream VI” wisely moves away from the “requel” trappings of the last film, instead focusing almost entirely on the self-proclaimed “Core Four” who managed to survive the previous bloody entry. It’s fun, brutal, and just might be the best “Scream” since the 90s.
After the latest round of Ghostface killings, the young survivors have relocated to the Big Apple, looking for a fresh start. But yet another masked psychopath seems to have fixated their attention on the group, especially Sam, who has become a fascination point for online conspiracy theorists looking to blame her for the murders that came before.
After last year’s “Scream” (thankfully, this film brings back numeric titles), the franchise seemed to be at a crossroads. For obvious reasons, David Arquette’s character Dewey couldn’t possibly return for “Scream VI.” Because of behind-the-scenes negotiation troubles, it had been announced that Neve Campbell wouldn’t be a part of the film. That left it up to Courteney Cox to carry on the mantle as the only legacy character from the original trilogy who would be reprising their role. Besides her and Hayden Panettiere (who is a welcome addition, reviving her role from “Scream 4” as fan favorite Kirby), “Scream VI” has no choice but to focus nearly entirely on the newest characters who were introduced in 2022’s “Scream.” And miraculously, it works. Whereas the last film has trouble with the balancing act of trying to establish these new characters while also paying due respect to the older generation of survivors, “Scream VI” successfully gets the audience completely invested in the Core Four. Smartly, a good portion of the film’s first hour is devoted to getting reacquainted with them and setting up compelling stakes for each individual member of the quartet. Cox and Panettiere are as consistently magnetic as usual, but this film undeniably belongs to the kids.
Campbell’s Sidney is, however, sorely missed, and the script’s hasty explanation for her absence is comically succinct. Clearly, the film wants the audience to quickly move past and not think about the Sidney-shaped hole at its center, but thankfully, the newer characters capture viewers’ attention so well that it’s not too much of a distraction.
Each of the Core Four shines in their own way. Jenna Ortega further proves that she’s a star with her winning performance as Tara, the younger half-sister of the main character Sam. Jasmin Savoy Brown and Mason Gooding are a charismatic pair as twins Mindy and Chad Meeks-Martin. Gooding upends the trope of the meathead jock by emphasizing the character’s more compassionate side, and Brown is especially hilarious as the film’s resident horror movie expert. Unlike most comic relief characters in scary movies, her one-liners and observations are genuinely funny rather than annoying. Barrera has a heavy burden as, unlike in the previous film, Sam is undoubtedly the central character of “Scream VI.” Her inner conflict is surprisingly not too different from that in “Scream” – she’s still struggling to confront her legacy as the child of Billy Loomis, one of the killers from the original 1996 classic. Still, this time with the added trauma of the murderous violence she was forced to commit at the end of the last movie. At times, Barrera doesn’t portray Sam as emotionally deeply as might be expected, given the characters’ past and present circumstances. But when the film reaches its inevitable bloody finale, she has no trouble showing off her character’s more badass, combative side.
Even hardcore horror fans may be taken aback by how uncompromisingly nasty “Scream VI” is. The stabbings are more visceral, and the wounds are gorier than in any other film in the series. The gleeful violence and the kinds of entertaining chase sequences that every slasher needs will surely lead to plenty of audible audience reactions. And the film is paced wonderfully, with a suspenseful or scary moment popping up right when needed to ensure viewers are enjoying the ride. Sure, when it all leads to the grand finale, things get a bit absurd in terms of scale and what exactly could be considered believable (the necessary final monologue is hilariously lengthy, even by the franchise’s standards). Still, you’d be hard-pressed to find a horror series that makes it to six entries without getting a bit preposterous. Most importantly, even the more ridiculous aspects don’t bring the fun energy down.
The “Scream” series inspires much passion from fans, as the previous film pointed out and even skewered. “Scream VI” aims to please not only the most devoted of followers but the more casual viewers who have helped make the franchise into the success it’s consistently been for over a quarter of a century. Thanks to a talented group of young actors and a thrilling, enjoyable tone that never wavers, it’s sure to slash its way into audiences’ hearts.