Synopsis – In the next installment, the survivors of the Ghostface killings leave Woodsboro behind and start a fresh chapter in New York City.
My Take – Last year saw directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, who along with producer Chad Villella, form the collective known as Radio Silence, breathe live once again into the 25 years old Scream franchise by not just exceeding expectations and revitalizing the slasher series, but by creating a delightfully bloody and entertaining fifth installment that not just retained the original series late director Wes Craven‘s styling, but also managed to stand on its own by bringing its own twist to the formula.
A little over a year later, Radio Silence are back with yet another installment, which despite the absence of franchise mainstay Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and a newer setting, still manages to be surprisingly better.
Most importantly, the sixth film feels closer to director Craven’s original tense but immensely fun approach to the franchise than ever before, while also offering enough fresh changes.
Here, directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett create and curate an experience that excites and surprises, keeping tension tightly coiled throughout with a constant stream of great set pieces unfolding at a break neck pace. Resulting is a graphic slasher that induces gasps and leaves us seldom bored with its whodunit mystery plot and a truly brutal Ghostface.
As a fan of the franchise (yes, even the unconnected yet underrated Scream: The TV Series), just based on the big swings the team has taken here, I found this one to be the best sequel yet.
Taking place one year after the events of the last film, the story once again follows Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera), daughter of serial killer Billy Loomis, and a survivor of the Woodsboro killings orchestrated by Richie Kirsch and Amber Freeman. Still processing the trauma, she has become fiercely protective of her survivor little sister, Tara (Jenna Ortega), as they embark on a fresh start in New York City.
Though Tara just wants to have some college fun and move on, Sam is still fuming over internet rumors that she is the actual killer and not her psycho ex, basically struggling with everything.
Luckily, they’re joined by fellow survivors, Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and her brother, Chad (Mason Gooding), to give them company and share their burden. With the group’s social circle broadening to include Mindy’s girlfriend, Anika (Devyn Nekoda), Sam and Tara’s roommate, Quinn (Liana Liberato), and Chad’s roommate, Ethan (Jack Champion).
However, when a new series of murders start taking place, they all band together once again to unmask the new Ghostface, whose aggression seems way more dialed up, almost feeling personal at times.
After a genuinely surprising and horribly effective cold open, something every Scream is judged by, directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett find their groove instantly, freed from the shackles of both the scene-setting of the last film and a need to be as tiresomely meta.
The opening murder is not only just shocking in its execution, but toys brilliantly with relatable societal and cultural touchstones in a freshly terrifying way. That take on the trademark prologue bleeds into the main body of the film with breathtaking effectiveness. The rest of the structure doesn’t deviate from the formula, but this is no bad thing. It is paced well and keeps you entertained.
As per the formula, the film gives us plenty of reason to suspect all of these characters, especially Sam, who continues to see visions of her dad Billy (Skeet Ulrich). Yet it’s a formula that largely still works, as directors Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett forgo mystery for full-on paranoia.
There are no good clues to follow leading up to the killer’s reveal, no way to identify the person behind the Ghostface mask other than guessing. Instead the directors let the audience sit in our unknowing, aware only that Ghostface will strike at any moment, in any place.
The best scene being where the Fearsome Foursome and some of their new friends sit around and discuss the rules of the sixth entry in what is now termed a horror film franchise. This effective scene is edited and shot to emulate a similar sequence in both the original Scream and its follow-ups, where the cast sit around discussing which of them may die and at whose hands.
The scene is a cornerstone of the silly, superficial, and dark humor that characterizes the Scream films, and it is beautifully executed this time around to great comedic success. To wit, the rules revolve around the notion that “everyone is a suspect…” and expendable, as Mindy and Chad’s late uncle Randy (Jamie Kennedy) explained in the first two films. To hear his niece repeat those lines with aplomb and the eye-winking excitement with which Savoy Brown performs this monologue is deliciously entertaining.
There are also fewer legacy characters than last time as Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) is the only returning original cast member from the three films and also brings back Scream 4 (2011) fan-favorite Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere), yet the heart and soul of the film stays with the new cast.
This entry also very intentionally ditches the standard rope of splitting up its protagonists between films to have them come together at the end of the first act and instead focuses on a story that keeps the survivors connected the whole time. This doesn’t just lead to you caring more about the main characters, but the people they love as well.
This one is also the goriest film of the series so far but without veering into grimness, with some of the best set pieces. Whether it’s the immaculate representation of an unbearably claustrophobic subway car or the jarring illustration of a person’s obsession in the Stab trophy room, they act as a reminder that Radio Silence are among the best pure filmmakers in horror today.
Performance wise, Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega once again deliver a convincing and engaging sibling pairing and are given more room to flesh out and embellish their characters. Both Mason Gooding and Jasmin Savoy Brown are given their moments to shine. Legacy characters Courteney Cox and Hayden Panettiere continue to be convincing and compelling, while newcomer Dermot Mulroney effortlessly slips into his role.
In supporting turns, Josh Segarra, Jack Champion, Devyn Nekoda, and Liana Liberato make for great additions. In smaller roles, Henry Czerny, Tony Revolori and Samara Weaving leave a lasting impact. On the whole, ‘Scream VI’ is yet another fun slasher sequel that continues the franchise’s utterly electrifying success.
Directed – Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Starring – Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Courteney Cox
Rated – R
Run Time – 122 minutes