From the opening scene of Scream VI, it’s clear that the tagline was no joke: we’re in a new city and the rules have changed. Directors Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin (Scream 2022) return to pull the rug out from under audiences’ feet immediately, delivering surprises—and surprising brutality—in quick succession. The result is a film that feels instantly more dangerous and unpredictable than the franchise has felt in years, while still delivering on the meta-humour that sets the series apart from other slashers.
Shifting the action from Woodsboro to New York City, Scream VI sees survivors Sam (Melissa Barrera), Tara (Jenna Ortega), Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown), and Chad (Mason Gooding) attempting to move on from the latest Ghostface massacre. But despite running about as far away from California as it’s possible to get without leaving the country, the group can’t leave the past behind and are soon fighting for their lives once again.
With no Sidney (other than a passing mention) and fewer legacy characters to occupy screen time, James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick’s script has the space it needs to let the franchise’s new stars shine—though it still leaves plenty of doors cracked teasingly open for potential returners. Moreso than the previous entry, Scream VI feels like a passing of the torch; the return of beloved characters like Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) will sell tickets, but it’s Gooding’s Chad who is likely to become a firm fan favourite after this entry, while Brown continues to prove that her character is a worthy successor to Jamie Kennedy’s Randy Meeks. Neve Campbell’s absence is certainly felt, yet the film doesn’t feel empty without her, with Barrera and Ortega stepping up admirably, the sisterly bond and shared trauma between their characters given added depth.
The script also makes good use of its new location, moving from apartments to bodegas, Central Park to the subway. Characters can no longer run up a flight of stairs to get away from Ghostface; now, they are trapped in a cramped high-rise apartment with flimsy doors. And those doors really take a beating, because this is the most vicious and relentless Ghostface yet. Previous killers to don the mask have toyed with their victims and taken slow pleasure in twisting the knife, but the kills cut fast and deep in Scream VI, barely giving the audience a moment to breathe after another pulse-pounding chase.
These high-octane kills help to balance out the campier aspects of the material, which Scream VI leans harder into than the series has in some time. As the first Scream film made after the death of Wes Craven, Scream (2022) handled the franchise with immense care and reverence, but the filmmaking team seems more at ease in Scream VI. The series’ typical themes—family, obsession, trauma—are still here, but there’s also a willingness to embrace the absurdity that creeps in naturally when you get this deep into a sprawling franchise.
Where Scream (2022) felt like an attempt to recreate the experience of watching the earlier films, Scream VI is unafraid to carve out its own identity and take the franchise in a bold new direction. A strong indicator of the series’ ongoing potential, the film proves that you can take Ghostface out of Woodsboro, but you can’t take the fun and thrills out of this franchise. Stick through the end credits for one final reminder of that fact.
Words: Samantha McLaren (@themeatispeople)