“Who gives a fuck about movies?” asks Ghostface early in Scream VI, the sixth entry in the beloved, referential slasher franchise that was rebooted with 2022’s unfortunately named but mostly well-done Scream. Like the legacy sequels (or “requels” as the film calls them) that Scream VI skewers, the fifth entry in the series helmed by horror icon Wes Craven was steeped in nostalgia, going so far as to return to the site of the original film’s bloodbath for its own climactic conclusion. Scream VI evokes a different kind of nostalgia, taking what made the franchise’s original college-set sequel great and amplifying it to a 10. Scream VI is bloodier, scarier, and funnier, nodding to its past while carving a brutal path forward for Ghostface and the new franchise torch-holders who find themselves at the receiving end of the blade.
Picking up six months after Richie Kirsch and Amber Freeman’s Woodsboro murder spree, the Core Four — Sam (Melissa Barrera) and Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) and twins Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown) — have gone bicoastal, moving to New York City to attend Blackmore College. Ghostface isn’t too far behind, though, and bodies start piling up as the Core Four, their new friends, and some familiar faces prepare for another bloody showdown.
Scream VI does several things right by following in Scream 2‘s footsteps. The decision to move the action to New York City is an inspired one — feeling helpless is all the more terrifying when hordes of people around you just don’t care to help. With a higher population density, NYC also allows for a much higher body count. Ghostface may be more menacing than ever, but it also looks like they’re having a ton of fun. The heroes might not be as they are chased through subway cars and down dark alleyways, but the raging killer with a sharp tongue and an even sharper knife is gleefully slashing their way through Manhattan and Scream VI is all the better for it.
Naturally, Mindy, taking her throne as the new Randy Meeks, gets another excellent monologue, taking aim at franchise filmmaking, name-dropping the deaths of everyone from Dewey Riley to Luke Skywalker to prove that no one is safe (again). The only one who’s safe is Sidney Prescott, whose absence is briefly mentioned before the slashing continues. Luckily, there are a few legacy characters left. Like the second film, Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) gets a standout chase scene and her first chilling call from Ghostface. It’s the return of Hayden Panettiere’s Kirby Reed that will elicit the most cheers despite an unfortunate wig and medium-sized role. What’s clear once and for all, though, is that this new era of Scream is all about the Core Four and their future (or lack of it).
As Jamie Lee Curtis once said, “It’s about trauma,” and Scream VI hasn’t forgotten that. The film deftly tackles the effects that Scream 2022’s massacre had on its survivors, but it doesn’t lean on this too heavily to become a thesis on the subject. Sam’s unfortunate parentage is still key to her character, but it works to the film’s benefit here, providing an interesting wrinkle in the latest Ghostface investigation. Billy Loomis is also not used as a crutch. Instead, Sam gets to focus on her family, both familial and found, as she watches over Tara, Chad, and Mindy in the Big Apple. The new Scream films have found a formidable cast to carry the franchise forward, with both Savoy-Brown and Gooding proving to be MVPs once again.
Barrera’s performance this time around is also a step up from the wooden inflection sometimes seen in 2022’s Scream, as the In The Heights breakout gets a much meatier arc that promises interesting things to come. Of course, it’s Ortega who’s the star here. After a stellar 2022 that saw her become the newly-anointed Hollywood Scream Queen, Scream VI sees Ortega in top form. Tara was stuck in the hospital for the majority of the fifth movie, à la Laurie Strode in Halloween Kills, but Ortega finally gets to have some fun and get her hands dirty this time around. While there’s still work to be done when it comes to Tara feeling like a fully-developed character, Ortega elevates the material where she can, and it helps that the supporting cast around her is just as game for Ghostface’s antics as she is.
Brutal, bloody, and hilarious when it should be, Scream VI is another step in the right direction for the franchise. 2022’s Scream certainly assuaged fears that the franchise could live on even without the guiding hand of Craven, but the crew at Radio Silence (including directors Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinilli-Olpin) know what they’re doing, and they prove that from the very beginning of this new entry.
Scream VI may very well have the best opening kill since Drew Barrymore was sliced and diced in the California countryside and that in itself is enough to inspire confidence in what’s to come. Despite all the ways in which Scream VI pulls inspiration from the second film, as Ghostface says, “There’s never been one like me,” and that’s just as true for this legacy sequel as it is for the killer that’s out for blood.
Scream VI releases in theaters on March 10. The film is 122 minutes long and rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout, and brief drug use.