The Scream franchise has always walked the tightrope that comes with being a horror film that acknowledges the tropes of its genre and plays on them, and the sixth installment is no exception. Where Scream VI forges its own, new path is by following the fifth movie’s leanings towards bloodshed and tension instead of the more light-hearted and even comedic scenes that were prevalent in early 2000’s Scream entries.
With so many twists and turns in the previous films, it’s hard for Scream VI to tread entirely in new territory — and it gets away with using familiar threads because of its ability to be self-referential, both in Scream‘s ‘real world’ storyline as well as the ‘Stab’ franchise in-world. None of the Scream movies (except for perhaps the first) are perfect by any means, though Scream VI remains a solid entry that is sure to satisfy fans of the series.
Major Spoilers for Scream VI below…
Scream VI sees the ‘Core Four’ survivors of the Ghostface murders in 2022’s Scream (or Scream 5) looking for a fresh start in New York City, with friends Tara (Jenna Ortega), Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) sticking together for college. That, in and of itself, is a bit of a reach, but it’s easy enough to put that aside given the chemistry the three share.
The first five minutes of the film open up with the brutal killing of college professor Laura Crane (played by horror darling Samara Weaving), and Scream VI keeps things fresh by having Ghostface reveal his identity after the murder. Of course, Scream fans (and anyone awake and paying attention) will realize that this, of course, will not be the antagonist of the film.
Honestly, it may have been interesting for the series to take the approach of giving a glimpse behind the mask, letting the audience be aware of one of the killers and building suspense as more is revealed, instead of saving for a big reveal at the end, as is the series’ formula. But nonetheless, Scream VI sticks with what has worked for the rest of the series, and fans can feel comfortable in that aspect.
The copycat Ghostface and his accomplice are soon dealt with by the real Ghostface of Scream VI as the series’ most violent and brutal murders begin. Where earlier entries in the series used the slashings to further the more story-driven plot, Scream VI is content to let the blood fly in more terrifying detail than ever before.
Mindy is the film’s sole source of comedic relief that also sets the ‘rules’ for the film and its franchise, letting viewers know that no one — not even the main characters or the ‘legacy’ returning characters like Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) are safe from death. This is the only real gripe to be found with the film, and anyone who found the character of Mindy nerve-wracking in Scream 5 will find no relief here.
In the previous installment, Mindy’s character was introduced as well as a soft-reboot, so having a horror geek character like Scream‘s Randy made sense. In Scream VI, however, Mindy’s character could have been given more depth instead of being one note again. The film does try to push Chad’s character further by giving him a romance with Tara, but the development between the two feels forced and, honestly, cringey.
Scream VI does manage to play a nice game of cat and mouse with the viewer, leading veteran Scream fans down a rabbit hole and then completely misdirecting them multiple times. It does this cleverly by setting up returning Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) who is conveniently always at the right place at the right time. It makes sense in the Scream universe for the film to throw a twist at the viewer like having Kirby snap and go on a killing spree, and when the film reveals her to have done just that it’s very much a ‘haha, my intuition was correct!’ type moment. Of course, you have to throw your intuition out the window when it comes to Scream, and when the true killers emerge, you can’t help but applaud the series for keeping things exciting.
Even if the ringleader of the Ghostface killers being police officer Wayne Bailey (Dermot Mulroney) feels obvious, his partners are much less so. If anything, I was expecting Wayne and Kirby to be working together, and the revelation that Bailey’s daughter Quinn (Liana Liberato) was actually alive was a bit of a surprise.
While Scream 5 was eager to explore Sam (Melissa Barrera) and her familial ties to Scream‘s Billy Loomis, that storyline takes a backseat in the latest installment, although Sam’s murderous side and killer instincts are still very much at play. The film even seems to hint at Sam’s descent into eventually taking on her father’s mantle as Ghostface at the end, as she discards the original Ghostface mask on the ground to join her sister Tara — the killers throughout the film were leaving Ghostface masks at the scene of their crimes, just as Sam did after brutally murdering them herself.
The entire cast worked well with what they were given, though naturally some were given more than others to work with. The film also did well to tie up any loose ends and implausible parts of its story (namely: how did two college students have the money to rent an old theatre was explained, as was how the evidence and murder weapons were moved to the theatre to become this ‘museum’.)
The film’s main problem, though, was the horrendous levels of plot armor that protected so many characters. It’s very unbefitting for the Scream series, which is usually all too keen to kill just about anyone to keep people on their toes.
The most egregious survivor has to be Gale, who, six films later, deserved the perfect death scene that Scream VI provided. She had an intense and thrilling fight with Ghostface, putting up an insanely good fight and almost outsmarting him before taking what would normally be fatal damage. But, of course, plot armor provided her a ‘weak pulse’ as paramedics rushed onto the scene. Granted, Cox is one of the series’ best and it makes sense to keep her on as long as she’s willing, especially in Neve Campbell’s absence, but after such an artfully done attack on Gale, this would have been the perfect moment for her to die, and it will be hard to Scream to provide as satisfying a scene when/if her eventual death does come in the future.
Plot armor also ridiculously protects Chad, who is stabbed by two Ghostfaces at the same time and left for dead as the film reaches its climax. Miraculously, he’s pulled out at the end — and even Sam and Tara question how in the hell he’s still alive. The only reason he lived was his status as one of the ‘core four’, and that’s the exact reason he shouldn’t have lived.
It was totally reasonable for Mindy to live after another attack from Ghostface (and the eventual realization to the audience that the only person with her at the time was the other killer donning the mask.) Both Ghostfaces had to get to the theatre to trap Sam and Tara, so getting Mindy to the hospital and finishing her off later makes the most sense from their perspective.
What doesn’t make sense, though, has to be Mindy signing herself out of the hospital while on ‘so many drugs she can’t feel below her shoulders’ to rush to the crime scene at the very end and join her brother. Scream VI takes a lot of liberty with what characters realistically can and cannot do in this film, and its to the film’s detriment.
Previous films have made sure that when a character seemingly survives the impossible, they’re ‘dealt with’ using a good old bullet to the head. Or, in the case of the good guys who should be dead, their life continues on because they are crucial to saving others — like how Kirby has been attacked by the Ghostface killers and is left for dead, only to come back to life to buy Sam and Tara time with her gun. This just isn’t the case for Gale or Chad, though, who have been deemed too important to go.
Perhaps Scream 7 will shed more light on why these characters survived. With Scream 7 greenlit and beginning filming this year, it’s reassuring to see the series is able to hold its own without staple character Sidney leading the way. As much as Sidney has defined Scream, it was nice to see the series take a risk and branch out to not use her as a crutch. Whether Campbell will return in the future remains to be seen — but I’m sure that as long as Scream films keep getting made, there’s always the possibility that Ghostface will want to finally kill the character that’s had the most impenetrable plot armor so far.
Overall, Scream VI is a solid film that continues Scream 5‘s trend of leaning more into the horror side of the basis of the franchise. Twists and turns are unexpected, clever, and abundant, and fans will surely enjoy the series moving away from Woodsboro and to the Big Apple. Scream VI relies on tried and true formulas from previous entries, but also is unafraid to branch out and experiment, showing that there’s still life in this 90’s franchise.