Review: “Scream VI” takes a stab (and some misses) at the Big Apple

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Sixth sequels in horror franchises have historically been mixed bags, from “Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers” to “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.” After so many sequels in the Scream franchise, is it worth seeing our favorite characters struggle time and time again?

Poster for “Scream VI.” Contributed photo by Paramount Pictures.

“Scream VI” follows the four survivors of the Ghostface killings in 2022’s “Scream.” Sam (Melissa Barerra), Tara (Jenna Ortega), Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) now attend the fictional Blackmore University in New York City. However, when the bloodshed starts up again, the quartet reunites with “Scream 4” fan favorite Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) and legacy character Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox).

In terms of new characters, though, they weren’t really all that interesting compared to the returning cast. None of them received enough screen time to develop relationships with the main characters, which is a problem that the franchise has struggled with since “Scream 2.”

Also unmemorable is the film’s score, which was composed by Brian Tyler (returning from the previous film) and Sven Faulconer. As a longtime fan, I really prefer Marco Beltrami’s scores from the first four films.

A common criticism of the 2022 film is its lack of chase sequences. Taking this into account, “Scream VI” features one great scene involving Gale and Ghostface in a high rise apartment. However, prior installments featured multiple chase scenes, which helped build suspense rather than immediately murdering characters after a jumpscare.

Most notably absent from this film is actress Neve Cambell, who previously played the franchise’s flagship final girl, Sidney Prescott. During pre-production, Hollywood Reporter revealed that Cambell chose not to portray the character after salary disputes with producers left her feeling undervalued. As much as I love the character, Sidney’s absence doesn’t hurt “Scream VI,” since her arc has been resolved since “Scream 3.”

Sisters Sam (Melissa Barerra) and Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) are hunted down by the Ghostface killer in a Manhattan bodega. Contributed photo by Paramount Pictures.

That being said, there are some aspects of the film I thought were great. It’s a great choice for the in-person theater experience. Watching a scary movie in a crowded, dark theater on opening weekend added to the atmosphere, especially while hearing the audience react audibly to frightening or humorous moments.

Dating back to Drew Barrymore’s iconic appearance in the 1996 original, the opening scene is arguably the most important part of any Scream film. In this opening, film professor Laura Crane (Samara Weaving) waits for her dating app match to arrive at a restaurant when things turn dire. The scene was a clever misdirect, and without giving anything away, it broke from the usual formula.

The New York City setting is a breath of fresh air after having the previous two films set in the fictional small town of Woodsboro, California. It placed the characters in unique situations and was a subtle, but well-appreciated homage to “Friday the 13th Part VII: Jason Takes Manhattan.”

However, the Halloween setting is underused in the plot. Save for a fraternity costume party and a subway car filled with iconic horror character costumes, the film doesn’t really take full advantage of placing the story around this holiday. It almost doesn’t matter what time of year the film took place, so I’m not sure why Halloween is present.

From left to right: Kirby (Hayden Panettiere), Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown), Ethan (Jack Champion), Sam (Melissa Barrera), Tara (Jenna Ortega), Chad (Mason Gooding) and Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) visit a shrine to the Ghostfaces from the past five films. Contributed photo by Paramount Pictures.

The film also relies too much on easter eggs and legacy characters that arguably require viewers to have seen all previous installments. What makes the first film so enjoyable is its original ideas and characters, along with metatextual references to other franchises. Especially since “Scream 4,” each sequel has been bogged down by constantly referencing other Scream films and shoehorning new characters into the archetypes of legacy characters like Sidney.

As of writing this review, “Scream VI” has grossed over $100 million at the global box office and is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, so another sequel will probably happen. While this new film definitely moves the franchise out of its usual formula in some regards, it also falls back on tired cliches and tropes that I’m hoping a seventh film will ultimately kill off.

“Scream VI” is now showing in theaters and is rated R for strong bloody violence, language and brief drug use.

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Carrson McDaniel
Social Media Manager | + posts

Carrson McDaniel (he/him) is the Social Media Manager for the Journal. He has been a part of the Journal staff since the Fall of 2022. He is a media studies major and public relations minor at Webster University. He is also a member of the Webster Chain-Link Improv club. Outside of the Journal, he enjoys collecting vinyls as well as spending time with friends & family.