Scream 6 Review
Like so many others before it, somehow…Scream returned. While the infamous slasher/horror/parody franchise has had two legacy sequels prior to the most recent entry, the relatively rapid release of Scream 6 just over a year after Scream 5 makes it safe to say that the series is definitely back. Despite not reaching the same heights as the first two or fourth movies, Scream 6 adds an entirely new level of meta parody on top of the already meta-heavy franchise while also managing to make fewer explicit nods than its immediate predecessor making for an overall decent Scream movie and a massive step in the right direction for the series as a whole.
The plot of Scream 6 follows the basic Scream formula of a whodunit mystery with a decent twist at the end. A new Ghostface shows up and starts killing people drawing closer and closer to the main protagonist sisters, Sam and Tara who return from Scream 5. But unlike previous Scream movies the Ghostface featured in Scream 6 is significantly more methodical in their killing making the unraveling of the mystery seem much more purposeful and intriguing rather than the random killings in previous movies. Despite being a somewhat bog standard Scream romp, Scream 6 had enough new elements like the masks of previous Ghostface’s being left at the crime scenes and there being a clear pattern to the killings to make the plot of Scream 6 feel like a more classic and proper progression of the series.
With the return of the main cast of Scream 5 the torch has seemingly officially been passed and considering the marked improvement made to those returning characters, that passing of the torch means a bright future for the series. Three of the cleverly named “core four” that return experience significant character growth. Melissa Barrera’s Sam is much more proactive this time around than she was in Scream 5 and feels as though she is consistently keeping pace with the plot being just as much a driving force as Ghostface. Jenna Ortega’s Tara grapples with processing the events of Scream 5 rather than suppressing them making her performance more challenging for Ortega and rewarding for the audience. Scream is never going to be a series that consistently churns out Oscar-worthy performances but Ortega shines as believably emotionally complex truly elevating her character beyond what she achieved in Scream 5. And Mason Gooding’s Chad is given more material to work with and Gooding capitalizes in a huge way. He steps out of the shadow of his twin sister Mindy and into an admittedly stereotypical but much more important enforcer/love interest role that feels much more independent than he had previously.
Unfortunately, the final member of the “core four” fails to grow and is instead utilized in a way that makes her even more insufferable than most of the characters were in the fifth movie. Jasmin Savoy Brown’s character Mindy fills the Randy role from the original trilogy. Both Randy and now Mindy are intentionally written to be the annoying know-it-all whose job it is to directly address the audience. While this responsibility is arguably the most difficult to act and depends on the writers more than any other, Brown doesn’t do much in the way of making up for the weak material that was given to her. Mindy comes off as condescending to both the audience and the characters around her and seems wholly unlikable with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
But the new cast that has taken over aren’t the only characters in the movie. At this point, Scream is old enough to have plenty of fan-favorite characters to bring back into the fold. Courtney Cox’s Gale Weathers returns in what looks to be a wrap for the character and regrettably regresses significantly. Gale’s arc over the previous five movies has seen her grow from being the cutthroat invasive journalist into a compassionate and strong woman who understands the value of prioritizing those close to her and gained a better understanding of her own humanity. So to see her regress back to that bloodthirsty reporter again in Scream 6 was both out of character and disappointing. Hayden Panettiere also returns to the series for her second go-round as Kirby Reed. Panettiere brought Kirby to life with her raw charisma in Scream 4 and does so again in Scream 6 making her the most enjoyable character in the entire cast.
Notably lacking from the cast though was Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott. The combination of Sidney’s absence, Gale’s finality, and Kirby’s prominence as a significantly younger legacy character makes the passing of the torch undeniable. Sidney finally sitting out a Ghostface attack and Gale being bested nearly to the point of death leaves little doubt about both Cambell’s and Cox’s continued involvement in the series. Honestly, the time has definitely come for both actresses to step away from the franchise with which they have been synonymous. Still, the biggest shame about Cambell’s exit was in the fact that she was simply written out without a final appearance. The audience, the character, and Cambell herself all deserved to either see Sidney walk away to her happy ending or meet a gruesome end as a Ghostface killer finally got the better of her. Not showing this exit on screen made Campbell’s departure from the series feel hollow and unplanned.
Overall the cast of the new cast of Scream seems to be coming into their own quite nicely with the one major exception being Mindy. Scream 6’s Ghostface struck a perfect balance of unique and derivative while also flawlessly feeding into the meta of the franchise. And Panettiere’s Kirby stepping up as the new legacy face of the franchise is such a perfect fit that I can only hope she continues to be a series mainstay in any subsequent sequels. James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick needed a bit of time to get into the headspace required to write their newer characters but after doing so have really nailed it. But with as great an understanding as Vanderbilt and Busick have of Sam, Tara, Chad, Kirby, and even Ghostface their handling of Sidney, Gale, and Mindy (AKA Randy), shows that the movie could have benefited from having a legacy writer assist with the legacy characters.
At the core of the Scream franchise has always been a meta-commentary and the sixth installment is no exception. At the end of the movie’s first act comes the traditional Scream monologue in which the movie openly recognizes what it is in a pseudo address to the audience. In this monologue Mindy explains to her fellow characters and the audience that Scream 6 isn’t just a sequel; it’s a sequel to the requel that was Scream 5. Requel, in this case, means a sequel that also functioned as a reboot. So because 6 is being treated as a sequel to the requel, then it must closely parallel the events of the original’s sequel, which would be Scream 2. And that parallel is done extremely well; the setting, characters, and motivations are all lifted from Scream 2 but also given their unique twist to make the movie still feel new and exciting. The film is shamelessly derivative and in doing so creates a unique flare that no Scream movie has had before, truly a needle that I have never seen threaded nor even attempted in the past.
While the shameless derivative flavor of this sixth installment in the franchise is interesting and fun, it also works to make what will presumably be the Scream sequel trilogy nowhere near as relevant or impactful as the originals. Scream 1, 2, and 3 were all made for the express purpose of lampooning the horror genre as a whole, immediately following the countless sequels to some of the biggest names in the industry, and Scream 4 was made to openly mock the trend of legacy sequels that was occurring in Hollywood at the time. The first four movies were all made as a means of providing a counter-culture commentary on the trends of Hollywood. Scream 6 was presumably made as a result of the success Scream 5 realized which was itself only made as a part of the reboot/sequel trend currently sweeping Hollywood.
So while the first four movies were products of a counter-culture criticism of trends, Scream 5 and 6 are both a direct result of chasing the modern-day equivalents of those trends. Because of this loss of sight of the driving force behind the Scream movies entirely, the Scream sequels will always lack the heart that made the originals so special. And without that heart, the best the sequels can ever hope to realize is a similar quality to that of Scream 3 which is exactly where Scream 6 lands.
Scream 6 is an enjoyable movie that will have its audience leaving the theater satisfied. By checking all the boxes that make for a great scream movie the writing/directing team of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, James Vanderbilt, and Guy Busick have made a movie with all the momentary thrill and excitement of the older Screams but still lacking the essence of what made Scream great. Unfortunately, until the creatives in charge of the series now settle on a commentary that actually needs to be said and is authentically counter to whatever is popular in Hollywood, Scream 6 is pretty much the best audiences can hope for.
- Patrick Morris