Hello horror fans and slasher stans, it’s Slick Dungeon here! I finally made it out to the theater to see the sixth installment of the Scream franchise. This review is full of spoilers for Scream VI with possible spoilers for every previous Scream movie. If you haven”t seen this movie yet, you may not want to read this post. But if you’d like to see in depth reviews of the other Scream films you can do so here – Scream, Scream 2, Scream 3, Scream 4, Scream 5. And you can check out my spoiler free review of Scream VI right here.
Scream VI in Historical Context
Scream introduced us to meta criticism in the first film. The second and third films expanded that technique when applied to sequels. The fourth Scream movie got into remakes and reboots and the fifth Scream took us on a tour of what a “requel” was and wha that meant. Scream 5 was generally positively reviewed and took home a healthy amount of box office. This may have been more than could be expected for the film considering this is the first one where Wes Craven could not take part. The movie brought back some main characters but more importantly introduced us to a few new ones who were set to essentially take over the franchise.
And franchise is the operative word here. Scream VI is giving us a take on what it means to be a franchise and how that can both hurt and help art. Yet. at its core, this is still a slasher film.
This also moves our characters from the more familiar territory of the fictional Woodsboro to the real world environment of New York City. (Although as many movies set here do, this one was mostly filmed in Canada)
Probably the most famous incident of a horror franchise going to New York was Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. While that movie franchise really needed something fresh to make it work, the majority of that film takes place on a boat with only a minimal amount of action happening in New York at all. It’s not the best of the Jason movies but it can be fun to watch on a lark on occasion.
So Scream VI plays into that right off by switching the standard Arabic numbers in the title with Roman numerals. The filmmakers are already daring us to call this Ghostface takes Manhattan. And in a nice bit of logo design they use the last part of the M in Scream to make the symbol in blood red font.
There was a ton of pressure here for the film to do well for a few reasons. First, if this failed, what was the point of even making another Scream? Second, our main hero of the whole franchise, Sidney Prescott herself, Neve Campbell could not return for this film. She made it clear to the filmmakers this was a business decision and nothing personal. Simply put, it seems the studio was not willing to give Neve Campbell her due. This decision not to pay Campbell well is baffling considering how central she is to the whole franchise. This meant that Scream VI not only had to carry over new characters, it had to make sure these characters were interesting, and they couldn’t bring back the biggest star of the show for the film. It was uncertain if a Scream film could work at all without Sidney Prescott.
So, did the film succeed in what it was trying to do? Or, was it another wasted attempt to keep a film franchise fresh by moving locations and hoping for the best? Let’s dig in and find out.
Spoilers follow below!
The Cold Open
Every Scream film starts with a phone call. This one starts with a text on a dating app. We see Laura Crane (Samara Weaving) nervously waiting for a date to show up at a bar in Manhattan. She gets a message her date is lost. She does her best to describe the bar she’s at and where it is over the app. But then her date asks if he can call her. Laura has to decide if she trusts this guy enough to talk to him or just call it a night. It’s a horror film so, of course, she takes the call. We hear her talk to her date who seems sweet enough but just lost. He starts asking for descriptions of the place as he tries to figure out what street he is on and they get into what Laura does for a living. She’s a film professor who has expert knowledge on slasher films.
Despite her expert knowledge, and the fact she is a woman living in a city where women need to be on their guard, Laura goes outside to look for her date who says he thinks he sees the place. Laura walks into a deserted alley when the voice on the phone changes to that of Ghostface. He pops out of nowhere and stabs Laura.
Normally this might be where a Scream opening would end. But in this one, Ghostface removes his mask. This is absolutely unheard of in these movies. We’ve only ever seen Ghostface revealed when the third act happens. This gives us the impression we might see the movie from an entirely new point of view. That of the killer.
The man behind the mask puts the costume away in a backpack and walks down the street as if nothing happened. This person is Jason Carvey (Tony Revolori). On his way home, Jason bumps into Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) and speaks to her. They clearly know each other from class and are on friendly terms with one another. Again, this gives the impression we’re going to know way more than we usually do about the killer in a typical Scream film.
When Jason gets back to his home we see he has a shrine to Stab and Ghostface. He gets a call from his roommate Greg. He admits to Greg he was a bit overeager and wanted to “practice” before the main show. But, this is not Greg, it’s Ghostface. Jason tells what he thinks is Greg that Laura became less and less human to him the more he stabbed her. That she was like a piece of meat to him. Eventually Ghostface asks this guy to play a game with him. The game this time is not movie trivia, it’s hot or cold. The man gets hotter as he gets to the refrigerator where he opens the door to reveal a very dismembered Greg.
Jason is then stabbed. Ghostface asks if Jason feels like a piece of meat. Jason wants to know about the “movie” he and Greg were going to make and Ghostface says, “Who gives a f–k about the movies?”
That line right there had me intrigued. We’ve never seen a Ghostface who doesn’t, in some way, care about the movies. I saw the potential for this movie to go about a thousand ways here, including someone who had maybe never even seen a Stab movie just wanting to kill people who have done real world violence in the name of Stab movies. We’ll get more into whether or not this line makes actual sense later in this review but this is where my head was at when I saw this the first time. I was exceptionally intrigued here.
We then cut to the title screen for Scream VI.
A Tale of Two Sisters
We go back to the party where Tara is having a bit too much fun. She’s past the point of good judgement and seems way too willing to go upstairs with a guy she just met. But, lucky for Tara, she has friends in the vicinity. These friends include Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad Meeks-Martin (Mason Gooding), her new roommate Quinn Bailey (Liana Libereto) and Chad’s new roommate Ethan Landry (Jack Champion). Chad warns Tara not to go anywhere with a stranger but Tara doesn’t want to live her life based on what happened to her over three days a year ago.
Meanwhile, Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera) has taken steps to process through her trauma. She has been going through therapy, taking medication, and trying to confront the fact that not only does she come from a lineage of killers but understand how she felt in touch with some of her darker feelings when she defended herself and killed Richie in the last movie. In fact, Sam is so intense in this that she’s been unable to keep a therapist who is willing to work with her.
Sam eventually meets up with Tara at the party just as Chad is pulling Tara out of a bad situation. Sam gets into a bit of an argument with someone who throws a drink at her. Sam, justifiably yells back at the person but the whole thing is caught on film. It seems there has been an internet conspiracy in the last year saying Sam was the real killer in Woodsboro and making Richie out to be a hero. It’s obvious this footage will not look good for Sam but she was simply defending her sister.
Tara is annoyed at how overprotective Sam has become but considering what happened in the past, it’s hard to blame Sam.
We also find out Mindy has found some happiness with a new girlfriend Anika Kayoko (Devyn Nekoda). Chad is a good friend to his roommate Ethan and what Chad dubs as “the core four” from the last movie are living relatively happy lives. But we know this can’t last for long.
A Detective Bailey (Dermot Mulroney) calls Sam into questioning because her ID was found at the scene of Jason’s death, along with a Ghostface mask worn in the previous attack. This detective is also Quinn’s father. Things are starting again and as the audience we know there is no stopping it.
Some Familiar fAces Return
On the way to the station, Sam gets a call from Richie’s phone. She apparently never deleted his contact from her phone and, of course, the voice on the other end is that of Ghostface. Ghostface then jumps out and attacks Tara. Sam and Tara make their way into a local bodega where several New Yorkers try to help the sisters but they all end up dead. This Ghostface is fine with killing in public, using guns, and seems way more relentless than in any of the previous films.
The sisters do manage to get away and make it to the police station. Word travels fast and when they get there, the Carpenters meet not only Detective Quinn but Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) who was last seen in Scream 4 but was never confirmed to be dead. Apparently, she has decided rather than be a victim, she’s going to catch perpetrators and is now an agent of the FBI. Why she never showed up in the last movie is a little unclear, especially since she says she has a special interest in Ghostface attacks.
Also, since this is her hometown and this is of special interest to her, Gale Weathers shows up as well. The sisters are not happy with her because she wrote a book about the previous attacks even though she promised not to. Gale lets them know Sidney has gone into hiding due to the attacks. I’m not sure how much sense this makes considering she has talked about how hiding doesn’t work but at the same time we all want Sidney to have her happy ending so this is somewhat welcome news.
The Attacks Escalate And the Rules are Established
The next victim is Sam’s therapist. Ghostface makes quick work of it and then steals Sam’s file. So far, at each crime scene there has been a Ghostface mask left behind. Each one is from a different previous Ghostface killer and it seems to be counting down from the most recent one towards the original ones worn in the first film.
Mindy, the film expert of this movie, lays down some rules. First she says the killer is making a “sequel to the requel.” But she says they aren’t in a sequel because no one just makes sequels anymore. This, is a franchise. Not just a one off movie, not a sequel, but a huge juggernaut type of franchise. Kinda like Scream itself.
Here are Mindy’s rules:
- Everything is bigger than last time.
- Whatever happened last time, expect the opposite. Franchises only survive by subverting expectations.
- No one is safe. Legacy characters are only cannon fodder at this point, usually brought back only to be killed off.
- Franchises are just continuing episodic installments designed to boost an IP. Main characters are expendable in these films. And Mindy rattles off a bunch of final girls here to demonstrate her point. She even includes James Bond, Iron Man and Luke Skywalker as main characters who died so the franchise can continue.
Mindy then goes through the suspect list and points out Ethan and Quinn as potential suspects. Mindy even calls out her girlfriend as being a suspect because you can’t trust the love interest. Ethan and Quinn and Anika fire back reasons for Sam, Chad, Mindy and Tara to be suspects.
Kirby and Detective Bailey figure out the connection to the masks and before anyone knows it, there are rumors Sam is the prime suspect in the killings. We all know this to be false but it looks plausible from the outside.
Sam is upset when she sees this on the news and she and Tara make up a little bit. Chad dubs Sam, Tara, Mindy and himself as, “the core four.” And things look a little better for the group. It doesn’t last.
Sam has been seeing a neighbor across the street romantically. This is Danny (Josh Segarra) and he sees someone in a Ghostface outfit looming over Quinn Bailey. He calls out and tries to help but no one sees or hears him in time. The person in the mask kills Quinn’s boyfriend as he showers. Then we hear sounds of Quinn in what everyone thinks are the throws of passion but she’s being attacked. Quinn is no more.
Mindy gets hit in the arm and Anika is practically gutted but she still seems to be able to move around. Danny maneuvers it so a ladder goes from his window to Sam and Tara’s window. And there is an incredibly tense scene where they have to go across the ladder with a killer after them. Anika does her best but falls and dies.
I will say this about this movie. Usually in slasher films you don’t really care that much when someone dies because they typically haven’t been developed enough as a character. Anika has a short amount of screen time here but with the way Mindy reacts and the connection she had to Anika comes through, her death actually feels really meaningful and like a huge loss to poor Mindy.
Sam blames herself for the situation. Someone took their knives so they couldn’t fight back and Danny tells her not to trust anyone, including him.
Ethan was the only one of the group who wasn’t around at the time but he says he was in the study hall. Mindy moves him to the top of her suspect list.
Quinn’s dad shows up and says he was taken off the case and seems pretty upset. He says if you mess with his family you die. And he says it in a really awkward and creepy way.
Gale shows up to the scene and says she knows where the masks are coming from. She takes everyone to what amounts to a hidden museum of Stab memorabilia. It’s an old theater full of all kinds of stuff we’ve seen in the other films.
While they are looking around Sam takes a look at the display of her father and starts seeing him talk to her again like she did in the last movie.
Mindy and Kirby have a really good conversation about horror and have to admit they are both horror experts.
Gale has a chat with Sam and at one point we hear Dewey’s theme and it just brings a little lump to your throat.
Gale Gets a CAll
The Carpenter sisters come up with a plan to lure the killer out by tracing the phone call. Kirby thinks she’ll be able to catch him but Mindy does point out that in public in broad daylight is exactly how her uncle Randy died.
Sam does get a call and it is traced. But there’s a twist. The call is coming halfway across the city, from Gale’s apartment. The killer is not near Sam and Tara, the killer is near Gale. Sam and Tara steal Detective Bailey’s cop car and race over there.
Gale then gets a call and Ghostface mentions he and she have never spoken on the phone. And I realized, holy moly, he’s right. Out of all the legacy characters, the only one who never got a call from the killer was Gale Weathers herself.
Gale’s boyfriend is quickly disposed of. Gale puts up a good fight but ultimately, she is stabbed and does not make it. Sam and Tara do show up in time to chase Ghostface off before Gale dies and her last words are to tell the Carpenter sisters to tell Sidney the killer never got her. Kind of an odd thing to say since this one obviously did.
The Most Intense Subway Ride of All Time
Sam considers just letting the killer take her because its all about her. But the core four reject that idea outright. They get the idea to lure the killer to a secure location to end the killer for all time. Detective Bailey suggests they go to the Stab shrine where it is sealed off. He also tells them to travel in public to give the killer less of a chance to catch them.
Due to crowded subways, Mindy and Ethan are separated from Sam, Danny, Tara and Chad. In both of the crowded subway trains there are tons of people in horror themed masks. Seriously, there are so many horror easter eggs in this scene I couldn’t catch all of them.
And because it’s actually two subway rides with two sets of people it’s anyone’s guess as to who the killer is or where they are. The whole sequence is absolutely brilliant and heightens the tension immensely. The end result though, is Mindy gets stabbed. Ethan comes to her aid but Mindy was hurt badly.
Mindy, more than being hurt, seems pretty annoyed she didn’t guess the killer correctly again.
The Killers Are Revealed
Sam makes Danny wait outside of the closed off crime scene while Sam, Kirby, Tara, and Chad go into the Stab theater/shrine. In the museum, Sam starts seeing more visions of Billy Loomis and she grabs the knife he used in the first movie so she can have something to defend herself with.
Detective Bailey calls Sam and says Kirby was fired from the FBI for being mentally unstable. Sam tries to leave when the Stab movies start playing on the old theater screen.
Chad and Tara have a moment and finally kiss. The moment, of course, doesn’t last long. Ghostface jumps out and attacks. Sam meets up with the pair and tells them the killer is Kirby. There is a whole lot of running around and chasing and everything you’d expect from a Scream movie but the main point of these films is always who the killer is.
For a while it seems like there are two killers until Kirby comes in and shoots at one of them. There is a standoff between Bailey and Kirby where it seems like either of them could be involved until Bailey shoots Kirby. I don’t think there were many Scream fans buying it could be Kirby but if there was any doubt, it’s removed here.
Turns out there are three killers in this film. Detective Bailey, as we knew, is Quinn’s father. But Ethan is also one of the killers and it turns out he is also Bailey’s son. The third killer is Quinn who we thought we saw die earlier in the movie but this was just a staged ruse. Detective Bailey is also Richie from the last film’s father. In other words, the Baileys are mad that Sam killed Richie and they just want some plain old revenge. They were framing it to look like Sam just snapped and went on a killing spree.
There is still plenty of action and chasing around but in the end, the Carpenter sisters prevail and it turns out that somehow Mindy and Chad survive as well. It would have seemed physically impossible to me but we’ve seen people in these films already survive extreme amounts of stabbing. Kirby also makes it through.
When Sam kills Bailey we do see her go extreme similar to what happened in the last movie. And for a moment at the very end Sam takes a look at her father’s Ghostface mask as if she might want to wear it again. But, she chooses Tara and drops it. It’s clear if Tara was to die, Sam would be unhinged. But with her sister still there, she has enough restraint not to go mad. First
The last act of this film is by far the weakest as far as plot goes but it’s still fun to watch.
A Few Notes on the Film
First and foremost, long live the Carpenter sisters. Jenna Ortega and Melissa Barrera are fascinating to watch together and the performances here are next level. Chad and Mindy are really fun to watch as well. The whole core four is worth the price of admission.
The third act is problematic because it borders on the ridiculous. Dermot Mulroney comes off as a bit cartoonish through most of the movie so it’s really easy to guess he is involved in the killings. Quinn and Ethan are harder guesses to be sure but there are clues to it and if you are paying close attention you can guess them as well.
There are definitely things in this film just meant to surprise that don’t exactly add a ton of value but on the other hand, I can’t say I wasn’t entertained. Even the sillier parts are still worth watching. And the change of location actually seems to have done some good here. Rather than just be an excuse to show the main tourist highlights of Manhattan, the environment throws a whole new set of obstacles and challenges in the protagonists way.
In my mind there would only have been two ways to make this a better film. The first one, I felt like they almost went with but then abandoned. That would be if we watched the whole movie play out from the killer’s point of view. I think that could have thrown a whole new light on the entire franchise. But, had they done that, it may have come off as nothing more than a gimmick so it would have to walk a pretty tight rope there.
The second way to make this better, and the one I wish they really had gone with, would have been to make the killer be someone who really wasn’t interested in the Stab movies. I mean, what if Ghostface, for one movie, thought he was going to protect the Carpenter sisters and the best way to do that was to eliminate anyone too obsessed with them or the Stab movies? It would have escalated to the point where Sam and Tara would have had to confront this individual and if it was, say, one of the core four, they’d be in a real quandary over whether they should kill a friend who is protecting them but in the worst way possible.
Detective Bailey, as Ghostface, basically says he doesn’t care about the movies. But we know that’s not true at all. Not only did he pay for this Stab shrine of Richie’s, Bailey also came up with this insanely elaborate plan to make sure Sam died there. It would have been a heck of a lot easier for him to have Quinn kill Sam and Tara and have Ethan kill Chad and Mindy, and then do a little behind the scenes police work to cover up the evidence. So, clearly he cares a lot about these movies.
I’m going to compare Psycho to Scream VI for a minute here. No one, and I mean no one, really remembers the last ten minutes of Psycho. The last ten minutes of that film are static shots of Norman Bates sitting in a chair as a therapist explains the pathology Bates has. It’s perhaps the most forgettable, uninspired, and dull ten minutes of any film, let alone a Hitchcock film. Yet, no one says Psycho is a bad film because of it. Why? Because the rest of it is so memorable.
Scream VI strikes me the same way. The third act is ridiculous. It’s silly and it’s full of plot holes. But the intensity and mystery and horror shown in the firs two acts handily make up for those failings in my mind. I’m really curious to see where this franchise goes next. It’s anyone’s guess and I’m sure there are plenty of surprises in store. I just hope they feel more like the first two acts of this film than anything else.
If you saw this one, what did you think? Let me know in the comments below.