Scream 6 delivers everything you would want out of a slasher sequel and manages to top its last outing in the Scream franchise.
When it comes to horror movie sequels, most directors have a tough time. The killer is exposed, the formula is revealed, and generally, the scare factor is knocked down a few notches. However, Wes Craven’s iconic Scream movies have managed to subvert our expectations time and time again. And, Ghostface’s latest outing in the legendary horror series continues to induce shock,and delight all of us slasher hounds with its gory fun.
Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, Scream 6 is the direct sequel to Scream (2022) – aka Scream 5 – which introduced the new final girl, Billy Loomis’ daughter Sam Carpenter (Mellissa Barrera). Following the events of the last film where Sam, her sister Tara (Jenna Ortega), and the twins Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding) encountered Ghostface, the gang have decided to seek a fresh start in New York City.
However, things become complicated once a familiar masked killer pops up in the Big Apple. Soon Ghostface makes his mark and begins framing Sam for his murder spree while also leaving a trail of masks from previous Ghostface killers in the franchise. Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) of Scream 4 fame pops up to help solve the case, and Sam must navigate being labelled as a killer while fighting not only Ghostface but also her newly awakened murderous thoughts.
In my Scream 5 review back in 2022, I commented on how the sequel felt as if the franchise had run out of steam, and how the writing fumbled in its handling of tone and pacing. And I’m pleased to say that I can’t make those same criticisms for the new movie in Scream’s long-running series.
Scream 6 feels closer to Craven’s original tense but immensely fun approach to the franchise than ever before while also offering enough fresh changes. The result is a graphic slasher that induces gasps and seldom leaves us bored with its plot.
While changing the setting from Woodsboro to New York can seem like a gamble and give every horror fan some ‘Jason Takes Manhattan’ anxiety, Scream 6’s new backdrop works perfectly. The directors use the crowded city, subways, and high rises to their benefit resulting in high-stakes action scenes and genuinely nail-biting Ghostface encounters. Similarly, the writers have finally cracked Sam’s character in this sequel – giving us a worthy fill-in for Neve Campbell’s missing Sidney Prescot.
Let’s be honest; in Scream 5, Billy Loomis’ daughter was a bit stale, and the big reveal of her identity seemed haphazard. However, Sam’s trauma and the ghost of her Ghostface father really find their stride in this follow-up.
Seeing Sam constantly battle between her killer instincts and morals in the face of certain death offers Scream 6 a captivating internal subplot that is entertaining to watch and, above all, puts a spin on the final girl slasher trope. Will Sam become the first final girl turned new Ghostface? Well, I can’t answer that, but trust me: you will contemplate the possibility throughout the film.
The increase in quality in Scream 6 also leaks into its action scenes and camera work. Ghostface is brutal in his kills, slashing city passersby and even taking up a shotgun to get the job done. The camera zooms in on the carnage at the right moments, walloping viewers with the violence and amping up the stakes as we are reminded that this Ghostface means business.
Cheap jump scares are replaced by genuine anticipation as Ghostface is typically visible throughout the thriller movie – stalking his victims in plain sight, unafraid of the consequences and using the crowds of New York as his camouflage. Scream 6 is captivating, actually builds on dynamics with its new core characters, and even has a few artistic Giallo shots complete with red and blue lighting for all us slasher nerds to enjoy.
However, that being said – it still isn’t perfect. While the writing has improved leaps and bounds from Scream 5, expositional heart-to-hearts between Tara and Sam drag the flick down. Exposition also leaks into the big killer reveal during the film’s climax – which, without giving anything away – ends up resembling a delightfully campy James Bond villain monologue.
Similarly, while the action scenes in Scream 6 are exciting, they overstay their welcome. Some Ghostface chases last for minutes, and unfortunately, the longer Ghostface chases his victims, the quicker the tension fizzles out.
In moments such as an apartment confrontation, and the big Ghostface unmasking fight, horror elements are basically thrown out the window and Scream 6 turns into an R-rated action movie instead. The cat-and-mouse game morphs into a brute-force battle with classic fear substituted for one-liners accompanied by adrenaline-filled punches and kicks.
But minor faults aside, I can honestly say that Scream 6 is a blast. With Kirby Reed and Gale Weathers back in action, the new film hits on the nostalgia while also taking enough franchise-altering risks to keep us hooked. With brilliant performances all around and a sense of well-crafted and clean fun, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett have finally found their horror footing in Craven’s beloved IP.