Scream 6 is a bloody good time – but it ends feeling too familiar
Scream 6 — or, officially, Scream VI — arrives in cinemas a little over a year after 2022's Scream and presents an altogether different challenge.
Where last year's so-called "requel" was the first Scream movie in more than a decade and had fan nostalgia to draw from as a result, this new film had to ensure it avoided being the kind of horror sequel Randy would despise: a quick cash grab. We'd already been reunited with Ghostface, so would need more.
Adding to the challenge was the unexpected departure of Neve Campbell, marking the first time a Scream movie wouldn't feature Sidney Prescott. Luckily, Scream established a new batch of leading stars, including Jenna Ortega (who's since gone stratospheric with Wednesday), to soften the blow.
But does shifting the action to New York City freshen up the franchise enough to justify such a speedy return? Scream 6 might not be as strong as 2022's offering, but that won't stop fans from having a bloody good time.
A year on from the events of Scream, Sam (Melissa Barrera), Tara (Ortega), Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) have done the right thing and gotten the hell out of Woodsboro.
They're all dealing with their trauma in their own ways, such as Tara choosing to not let three days ruin her entire life. But however they're moving on (or not moving on in Sam's case), their attempts at starting new lives are about to hit a dead end. Literally.
Ghostface is back to end things, and the "core four," as Chad christens them, face another fight for their lives. Luckily, they've got help from Gale (Courteney Cox) and Scream 4 fan favourite Kirby (Hayden Panettiere), who has her own grudge to settle with Ghostface.
Will their help be enough when Ghostface has an entirely new setting to slaughter in? There will be blood.
Much has been made of this being a new kind of Ghostface, seemingly confirmed by the divisive use of a shotgun as seen in the trailers. You'd think it was just a marketing ploy, but the excellent cold open to Scream 6 will make you think otherwise.
It has all the elements of a classic Scream opening — down to the menacing phone call — but returning writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick add a surprise reveal. It effectively twists the sequence into two cold opens in one, subverting fan expectations and setting the stage for what could be a totally new type of Scream film.
The main disappointment, then, is that eventually Scream 6 does start playing by familiar rules. Yes, there's a new setting, but that's mostly the only thing that makes this sequel feel fresh — especially once we get to the lacklustre big finale, which ends up being a mash-up of Scream elements we've seen before.
Not all fans loved the reveal of Amber and Richie as the killers in Scream, but at least it allowed the filmmakers to mock a current trend in cinema with toxic fandom. Scream 6 feels like it's come too soon to have a new trend to playfully subvert, settling on its "rules" being about franchises... which the Scream series already was, long before the requel.
Where Scream 6 excels is in its set pieces. With the new sandbox to play in, we get an unpredictable subway ride (with our heroes split over two trains) and a tense stalk-and-shoot in a bodega. The standout, however, is Gale's showdown with Ghostface, giving Courteney Cox the best sequence she's had in a Scream movie in some time.
Most, but not all, sequences are capped with brutal kills, with Ghostface showing a particular penchant this time around for stabbing in various parts of a victim's face. We also get the gory outcome of a dismemberment and a memorable unfortunate landing from a top-floor apartment, if the stabbings aren't bloody enough for you.
With the meta gags pared down from the previous couple of movies (although there are Easter eggs galore), the tone is darker and the kills feel more horrific. The movie does frustratingly pull its punches at times, though, which ends up at odds with Mindy's declaration that all bets are off this time around.
However, there's now such a strong cast that you'll forgive the movie for being a bit blunt at times. The returning Hayden Panettiere is an excellent legacy stand-in for Sidney's absence, while Jenna Ortega is the strongest of the 'new' core cast, as she's given a deeper arc to explore after being stuck in the hospital last time.
Whatever the frustrations, it's always clear that directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett have true reverence for the Scream franchise and it's safe in their hands. If they get to return for a third outing to complete a 'requel trilogy', though, hopefully all bets will truly be off.
As it is, Scream 6 is sure to satisfy fans, even if it ends up being a bit too familiar for its own good. (Sorry, Ghostface — don't come after us.)
Scream VI is in cinemas now.
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