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“Scream VI”: Merciless In Manhattan

If Scream (2022) served as a tribute to Wes Craven‘s legendary movies; Scream VI gives director team Radio Silence (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett) the chance to really have some fun. After two viewings so far, I have to say, Scream VI is already high in my rankings. In fact, it may be my favourite sequel since Scream 2 (1997). The original sequel takes our survivors out of Woodsboro. It pits them against another Ghostface in a bigger, broader setting, amping up the chase scenes and kills. Writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick take this winning formula and apply it to this latest installment. They set Ghostface on a bloody rampage through New York City.

Sam, Tara, Mindy and Chad are back and trying to get on with their lives when the new killer emerges. In Scream VI, the “core four” are given a lot more development and material to play with. Melissa Barrera shines as protective big sister Sam Carpenter, working through her own trauma and family baggage. Despite being one of the main protagonists, Sam’s methods aren’t always typical for a hero. I’m interested to see how the series explores this. Fresh from her success in Netflix’s WednesdayJenna Ortega returns as Tara Carpenter. She uses very different coping mechanisms than her sister, but both of them have moments of vulnerability and ferocity.

What about the twins? Jasmin Savoy Brown‘s Mindy Meeks-Martin is just as funny, bright and openly queer as ever. She does her Uncle Randy proud with her delivery of the latest set of movie rules. Mason Gooding is charming and endearing as Chad Meeks-Martin. In this outing, he reminds me of Derek from Scream 2 at times; protective and caring, and not just your typical jock. It’s a joy to see Courteney Cox return as journalist Gale Weathers.  This certainly isn’t her first time at the rodeo, and she has some brilliant scenes. She shows heart (and a bit of her old ruthlessness) with the Carpenter sisters, her trademark sass, and most importantly, her survival instincts. The confrontation scene from the movie’s trailers is thrilling, fast-paced and an instant classic. She’s definitely someone you’d want on your team.

I’m also so happy to see Hayden Panettiere return as fan-favourite Kirby Reed from Scream 4 (2011). She is confident, self-assured and I love her interactions with Gale and the “core four”. One of my favourite scenes in the movie involves a glimpse into her old horror fanatic ways. One could argue that her return is pandering to the fans, but consider me sold. There are also a host of new additions to the cast. Josh Segarra, Jack Champion, Tony Revolori, Dermot Mulroney, Samara Weaving, Liana Liberato and Devyn Nekoda each have some memorable moments in the big city. In particular, it’s great to see Radio Silence’s breakout star Weaving join the franchise.

Ghostface really isn’t messing around this time. They are menacing, brutal and relentless, and perhaps one of the scariest overall since the original. The gore is definitely turned up a notch compared to the previous movies. Olpin and Gillett have some wonderful shots of Ghostface. They creep me out and bring back the feeling of the first time I watched a Scream movie. One of the best is from Gale’s apartment, they definitely aren’t someone you want to find in your home. Another highlight is the bodega scene. While some fans were up in arms about Ghostface’s choice of weapon, I would argue that they never solely stuck to knives throughout the franchise.

Moving the action to Manhattan is a bold and interesting move. While suburbia can be disturbing, the city presents a new kind of menace. What is scarier, someone hiding in a quiet street, or among so many people you will never find them? It’s an interesting debate, and here, the location opens up a host of opportunities for the movie. Set pieces such as the New York City Subway, alleys and apartment buildings add some new iconic scenes to the franchise. There are some very tense moments! I don’t think I’ve held my breath so much since the chase scene in Scream 2 with Gale and Dewey in the sound booth.

One of the key elements of a Scream movie is its opening scene. While the original will always be the benchmark for humour, horror and suspense, the franchise toys with the formula each time. This time around, the creative team really use the opportunity to introduce us to the new setting. It’s a solid opening, with the requisite phone call, movie discussion and ramping tension. What I particularly enjoy is that it makes some bold moves and keeps you guessing. If only more of these characters followed Randy’s rules.

Long-time fans of the Scream franchise are in for a treat. One of the main locations we have seen since the trailers is full of easter eggs from every other movie. Weapons, outfits and major props are on display like some sort of macabre museum. It fits with the meta nature that the series is famous for and provides a hit of nostalgia. The movie also features some classic motifs and themes from the old soundtracks that tug on the heartstrings amid the mayhem. One of my only minor gripes with Scream VI is the visual effects used in certain moments. I’ll keep it rather vague but let’s say for me it creates an almost uncanny valley effect at times. I would also like a little bit more of an epilogue, but really I’m greedy to know what happens next.

Overall, Scream VI is solid entry to the franchise. It combines legacy and requel characters while placing them in a new and exciting location. It also retains the core ingredients of a Scream movie while turning up the pace and danger. I can’t conclude without addressing the elephant in the room. Scream VI is unique in its absence of original hero Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell). It’s a shame, but I totally understand Campbell’s decision. Character-wise, I’m actually glad Sidney gets to sit this one out, she deserves a break from the relentless pursuit. While she means a lot to Scream fans, the movie holds up without her. Like many, I’d still love to see her return to the franchise some day. Either way, the Carpenter family have proved they know how to handle Ghostface.

Are you a Scream fan? What do you think of Scream VI? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter!

About the author

Michael Dobbinson