Scream 6: Review
Sinister horror foe Ghostface returns to the zeitgeist when the survivors from his last attack relocate to bustling New York City in Scream 6.
As the second feature in the franchise's modern reboot, Scream 6 exists in the shadows of one of the most acclaimed horror brands. I had not until recently had a chance to indulge in the entire series, but once I did, I instantly understood its appeal.
Director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson struck gold with the 1996 original. The whip-smart feature deconstructed the lionized legacy of slasher films, morphing the subgenre's well-known cliches into clever strengths as it subverted expectations with humor and thoughtfulness. Scream 2 is just as good, if not better, than its predecessor thanks to the film's refined critiques on sequels' mindless inevitability. Scream 3 offers more of the same allures with some diminishing returns, and Scream 4 successfully continued the series' winning streak by shaping itself through its vapid social media era prism.
Many reflect on the Scream films as crowd-pleasing entertainment. However, that notion overlooks the fascinating concepts brewing under their surface. The first four Scream entries intelligently depict trauma manifesting from one person's intimate burden into a captivating spectacle for the world to consume. Sidney Prescott, the film quartet's central protagonist, confronts her most daunting adversary as her painful past becomes a cultural footnote for media consumption across movies and sensationalized news reports. Fan favorite supporting characters, such as the good-natured police deputy Dewey Riley and the cutthroat TV journalist Gale Weathers, also represent juxtaposing moral pillars in her life. Dewey wants nothing more than to protect and heal Sidney, while Gale commodifies her deadly experiences with Ghostface as a fascinating story to profit off.
To no one's surprise, Hollywood discovered a new opportunity to revitalize the franchise with 2022's Scream. The competent remake established some charms from its mockery of legacy sequels and its promising young cast, although it was clear that some of the franchise's distinct strengths were left behind. Unfortunately, Scream 6 sinks the franchise to scary new lows. This tired and contrived sequel haunts the Scream legacy by delivering the series' worst entry to date.
Scream 6's shortcomings are not without a sincere effort from writer/directors Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin. The creative duo showcase their horror aesthetic acumen with a few grisly showdowns that take full advantage of the New York setting. Seeing Ghostface emerge amidst the city that never sleeps offers some creative opportunities for deadly encounters in broad daylight, whether it's a tense standoff inside rickety subways or an enthralling chase on the top floor of towering apartment buildings.
I also appreciate the young cast assembled here. Labeled as "the cour fore," Jenna Ortega, Mason Gooding, Jasmin Savoy Brown, and Melissa Barrera possess natural chemistry as the franchise's modern stars. When the film allows the characters to breathe onscreen, their lived-in rapport showcases a deft inclusion of emotionally resonant moments. The inclusion of other fan favorites, such as Scream 4 star Hayden Panettiere as hard-edged FBI agent Kirby Reed and Courtney Cox as Gale Weathers, additionally infuses some intriguing wrinkles into the ensemble.
Outside these facets, Scream 6 scarcely resembles the franchise's glory days. Gillet and Bettinelli-Olpin's strengths in orchestrating creative kills do not translate into their listless screenplay. The script is shockingly lifeless and tame, rigidly following a by-the-numbers formula without injecting the self-aware streak Scream is synonymous for. The buoyant comedic energy that made the first four Screams enthralling genre fusions is entirely absent, with half-hearted attempts to continue Scream 5's ruminations on media legacy going nowhere of note. Fans of the franchise will be left missing the days when side characters like Randy Meeks made salient observations about how horror films operate. Even as Scream 6 seems to acknowledge the mundanity of its very existence, the film lacks the acidic wit to morph that deficiency into a strength.
So much of Scream 6 feels like a half-hearted rendition of what the franchise used to represent. Narrative threads centered on lingering trauma and the mythologization of tragedies come across as tired leftovers from what previous entries have already explored. A few intriguing elements are introduced, such as the strained sister relationship between Barrera and Ortega's characters, yet their promise is never explored to its full potential. This mixture of lazy rehashes and undercooked new ingredients leaves Scream 6 stuck in an unappealing no man's land - one where the film is not building any substantial ground on its own merits or forwarding the legacy of its predecessors.
What kills Scream 6 the most is how played-out its central narrative is. Part of what I grew to love about Scream is that the series always keeps viewers second-guessing through a bevy of clever red herrings and chaotic plot twists. The third acts of the series are often wildly engrossing as the creative team reaches for the stars in their embrace of out-of-the-box revelations. Here, Scream 6 settles for the most banal and predictable third-act reveal imaginable that viewers will likely guess from a mile away. The uneventful conclusion ends up being an unfortunate encapsulation of the many ways Scream 6 does not get the formula right.
Scream 6 is a middling horror feature and an even worse Scream film, stumbling severely in its wayward attempts to modernize the series' well-respected roots. Seeing the franchise embrace the type of stale horror contrivances it used to mock so effectively is an immense disappointment. Let's hope the inevitable release of Scream 7 infuses new life into the declining franchise.
Scream 6 is now playing in theaters.