Having never seen any of the previous Scream movies, Scream VI made me realize I have been missing out.
As a person who reviews movies, it is always surprising when you haven’t seen a film in a franchise, especially a film that has its sixth installment releasing. As a professional, you either do a crash course and try to get caught up, or you embrace the chaos and go into the movie with ignorant bliss. I went in an uninitiated moviegoer, and came out a fan! I have been missing out. Sure when the first one came out I was not old enough to see it, as well as the second, and the third. By the time Scream 4 came out, I felt I needed to catch up first. But just never did.
Now, I have jumped into the deep end and am eager to experience it from the beginning. But let’s talk Scream VI first.
Scream VI is a Dynamic Legacy
Going in, unaware, it was made abundantly clear that Scream is not just a movie, it is a legacy. A legacy of reflection, homage, and satire. The film is brilliantly written, crafted, and performed. It is meta meta. It knows what it is, tells you what it is, and that it is not going to be what it is. It geniusly tells you how smart it is, shows you how smart it is, then subversively does very stupid things to show you it is also dumb in the best way possible. Personally, I’m a huge fan of meta humor, homages, and commentary, and the brilliant meta breakdown of the situation and meta-ness of the opening scene instantly won me over.
Then there is the legacy aspect. While the legacy continues, it does not care, or cares a lot in spirit, of what came before it. If you haven’t watched the trailer you can tell from the image above, it is apparent that multiple Ghost Faces are featured. Without giving anything specific away, there are connections to the previous films. It’s the sixth film in the franchise, it makes sense. However, it is obvious it is a franchise and franchise means legacy is no longer safe. So characters featured in previous films do not get plot armor. If you are to believe the trailers.
And the film makes sure to reinforce that the trailers weren’t kidding.
Scream VI, in just words, is a lot to take in and hard to make sense of. It acknowledges itself, contradicts itself, acknowledges it contradicts itself and contradicts its contradictions, and so on, in an intricate meta series of events. It would not work if it were just words on a page, as evident by that previous sentence I proofread to make sure it actually makes sense but also does not spoil anything. It works so well because of the stars of the movie. The stars provide anchors to the reality of Scream VI and the franchise. It makes it not just easy to follow, but enjoyable.
You instantly feel and connect to characters, and also turn on them when needed.
Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega are the two driving protagonist of the film, and effortlessly make the burden look light as they take the audience through this wonderful mind game. They sell the emotion, the terror, and the resolve of true horror movie protagonist. Horror movies end and they are the ones bringing Scream VI there. But they aren’t alone and are wonderfully supported by all of the other returning characters. Hayden Panettiere and Courtney Cox in particular exemplify what it means to be Scream Queens and not all characters being hunted by a serial murderer are helpless victims.
Mason Gooding is in on the joke, but also a full-on archetype. He’s the hero of the group who is not scared to stand up to the killer and has a believable chance of overpowering them. They even give him a shirtless scene to drive the point. In contrast, there is Jasmin Savoy Brown, who is the inside-outside observer. She knows she is part of the franchise and knows exactly what that means, yet somehow still bound to the world and rules of the franchise. The contrast between the two, who are siblings in the world of Scream, set up everyone in the film to experience the full spectrum of whiplashing emotions.
This is what makes the new cast members so instantly polarizing and gives the film such high stakes.
Masters of Manipulation
Scream VI masterfully controls the tension creating incredible jump scares. Some are predictable, others are unpredictable, and then also predictably unpredictable and somehow unpredictably predictable. The use of sound, lighting, focus, framing, and basically every aspect of the senses engaged in watching a movie are masterfully manipulated by this brilliantly crafted film. The story does the same with the writing and direction. Horror is a smart genre, and Scream VI is overtly braggadocious about being top of the class or purposely getting a C. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett definitely give off “F* it! C’s get degrees.” vibes.
The final layer that really seals the deal is the costumes, effects, props, etc. department. The gore is subtle but poignant, really selling the damage done to the victims. It truly dials in the performances as it looks completely real. The blood, disheveled attire, and unwieldy hair let you know exactly the physical and mental state characters are in. It all comes together seamlessly to draw audiences into a horrifically fun thrill ride.
Maybe a Little Too Smart?
This borders spoiler territory, but nothing specific will be mentioned outside of the feeling created. There is a major moment that feels completely out of place. A performer, who has been a cornerstone to grounding the story, suddenly feels like they came in from a different movie that is of a different genre, MPAA rating, and budget. While it is apparent the actor is not delivering, it almost does not seem like they do not have the ability to portray it as needed to follow the story, emotions, and vibe thus far. It feels purposely out of place and campy. And It only makes sense for it to be a directorial decision.
Scream VI went through shooting, editing, and the rest of post-production, so it feels like an odd directorial choice was made. Maybe upon further reflection, it will make sense down the line, but it is a jarring contrast to the fully engaged and thoroughly enjoyable experience I experienced in every other aspect of the movie.
Scream VI Cuts Deep
Minus a confusing choice that feels off from all of the other brilliant decisions made, Scream VI is still a genuinely fun and thrilling experience. Scream VI is so much fun I feel guilty. It is a perfect blend of terror, comedy, and commentary that enables it to be both horrific and wholesome. The film is brilliantly crafted from conception to execution masterfully manipulating the audience to feel how it wants you to feel. All of which are channeled through the amazing craft team and stellar performers. Scream VI knows exactly what it is and will give audiences everything and absolutely nothing, and will be graciously thanked for doing so.
For being so unabashedly meta, emotionally manipulating (in a good way), and just a thoroughly great time, I give Scream VI an 8/10.
Scream VI releases exclusively in theaters on March 10, 2023.
About Scream VI
Release Date: March 10, 2023, exclusively in theaters
Directed By: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett
Executive Producers: Kevin Williamson, Gary Barber, Peter Oillataguerre, Chad Villella, Courteney Cox, Ron Lynch, Cathy Konrad, Marianne Maddalena
Produced By: William Sherak, James Vanderbilt, Paul Neinstein
Based on Characters Created By: Kevin Williamson
Written By: James Vanderbilt & Guy Busick
Production Companies: Spyglass Media Group, Project X Entertainment, Radio Silence
Distributed By: Paramount Pictures
Post Credits: 1 After the Credits
Cast: Melissa Barrera, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Jack Champion, Henry Czerny, Mason Gooding, Liana Liberato, Dermot Mulroney, Devyn Nekoda, Jenna Ortega, Tony Revolori, Josh Segarra, Samara Weaving with Hayden Panettiere, and Courteney Cox.
Following the latest Ghostface killings, the four survivors leave Woodsboro behind and start a fresh chapter. In Scream VI, Melissa Barrera (“Sam Carpenter”), Jasmin Savoy Brown (“Mindy Meeks-Martin”), Mason Gooding (“Chad Meeks-Martin”), Jenna Ortega (“Tara Carpenter”), Hayden Panettiere (“Kirby Reed”) and Courteney Cox (“Gale Weathers”) return to their roles in the franchise alongside Jack Champion, Henry Czerny, Liana Liberato, Dermot Mulroney, Devyn Nekoda, Tony Revolori, Josh Segarra, and Samara Weaving.