‘Scream VI’ Review: Ghostface Slices Through NYC in This Nostalgia-Filled Blast
The Scream movies have always been about looking at the past and utilizing our shared knowledge of horror films to create new nightmares out of that awareness. In Scream, the girl in distress doesn’t just run away from the killer by going upstairs instead of running outside. After all, she’s seen countless movies that tell her this is a terrible idea, yet she continues to still make the poor decision. This self-awareness has made Scream one of the most fun slasher series, as each additional entry can use new trends in horror and films in general to examine the culture of the time. But with the first Scream coming out almost thirty years ago, this series has also become a part of this culture as well, with now six films, a TV show, an entire parody franchise with the Scary Movie series, and Ghostface has even appeared in Call of Duty. Hell, these stories are even iconic within the Scream movies, as the fictional Stab franchise retells the events of previous films. Basically, if someone made a reference-heavy horror film in 2023, it would be hard to not include Scream as part of that.
Much in the way that the first Scream made A Nightmare on Elm Street or Halloween part of its influence, Scream VI similarly uses its own history as part of Ghostface’s games. Scream—especially in the more recent installments—has always referenced itself, characters of the past, and the way previous Ghostfaces have attacked, but with this latest film, it feels more ingrained, more integral to the story at hand. Thanks to Randy (Jamie Kennedy) and several other slasher experts throughout this franchise, we know the rules, and Scream VI knows we know the rules, so this newest film can have fun breaking down this series, reconfiguring our expectations, playing with the rules they’ve set up, and attempting to subvert our expectations. The result is maybe the best Scream film since Scream 2—which is fitting, considering this is, by and large, a “requel” of that first sequel.
Much like Scream 2, Scream VI takes this series away from Woodsboro and to college, as the “Core Four” that survived the events of 2022’s Scream have moved to New York City. Sam (Melissa Barrera) is overprotective over her half-sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) after the end of the previous film left them the survivors of the murders of obsessive Stab fans Richie (Jack Quaid) and Amber (Mikey Madison). However, the internet has run rampant with rumors that Sam might’ve actually been the killer, setting up this pair to get away with her murders, and with her still feeling the influence of her father, Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), she worries that murder might be in her family’s blood.
It turns out Sam had good reason to protect her sister as a new string of killings in New York City from a new Ghostface puts the Core Four (which also includes siblings Mindy and Chad, played by Jasmin Savoy Brown and Mason Gooding), and a cast of new friends that includes Liana Liberato, Jack Champion, and Sam’s new love interest Danny (John Segarra) in danger as potential victims. But, as Mindy points out, the second killer went after Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell, absent for the first time in this franchise) at college as well, making this a requel of those events. And as the recent Star Wars trilogy showed us, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker can die in a requel, so all bets are off on who can be killed, and more importantly, who could be the killer. Further, with this new Ghostface leaving masks from previous killers at the scenes of his attacks, the answer to the new killer might be in the past.
In addition to our main cast, Scream VI also brings back some old favorites. Courteney Cox’s Gale Weathers now becomes the only character to appear in all six films, and with Dewey (David Arquette) dying in the last film, it’s entirely possible this could be the final chapter for Gale. Scream VI also sees the return of Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere), who survived the events of Scream 4, and is now an FBI agent aiding in the search for this new Ghostface alongside Detective Bailey (Dermot Mulroney).
Also returning are directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett as well as writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, who joined this series with 2022’s Scream. While the last Scream almost felt too beholden to the original film, with villains whose only real motivation was a love for the Stab films, Scream VI both acknowledges and celebrates its past, while feeling distinctly of its own piece. With all the setup of the characters done back in the last Scream, this sixth installment can directly dive into the more fun aspects of this franchise, like the whodunit nature, and the wild kills.
Vanderbilt and Busick set up the idea that Scream VI is a “requel,” before then embracing this title by making this film an extremely fun take on Scream 2. In one sequence where the characters attempt to trace Ghostface’s call, it is quickly mentioned that this is exactly how Randy died back during the events of Scream 2. We, of course, get a brief mention of film studies, and in particular, how slasher films evolve over the years, and even the Omega Kappa Beta fraternity that Derek (Jerry O’Connell) was a part of is mentioned in passing. But Vanderbilt and Busick go even further than Scream 2, as we learn that the killer has a “shrine” of sorts dedicated to the history of the killers. For fans of this series, this location is packed with Easter eggs that viewers will want to pour over.
As Mindy breaks down the rules of this film—as this series always does—she mentions that franchises only exist to subvert expectations. Main characters don’t matter anymore, anyone and everyone can be killed or be a suspect. And while Scream VI doesn’t break from its usual mold entirely (there are far more allusions to Scream 2 that can’t be mentioned here), there are plenty of extremely fun deviations on what we come to expect from this franchise. The Scream films have often tried new things out with their cold opens, but Scream VI’s opening is a brilliant way to shake up what we think we’re going to see. While some rules are clearly broken, it’s still a joy to see how some Scream traditions will always stay the same.
Though the Scream brand has always been about the main team of Sidney, Gale, and Dewey, Scream VI is really the first time where it feels okay that this series is starting to move away from its franchise mainstays. With Dewey now dead, and Sidney not appearing in this film, Gale—as well as Kirby—still play second-fiddle to the new cast. In 2022’s Scream, putting this new cast upfront made it feel like just waiting for the old favorites to come back, but with Scream VI, the new blood starts to seem like a good direction to head in. Still, Gale and Kirby get their moments in the spotlight, but this never feels like it’s wasting time until familiar faces are on the screen.
Much like the recent Creed III, Scream VI finds a way to both honor and revel in the past, while creating a path forward for a new generation. It finds just the right combination of nostalgia and fresh blood, telling a story that manages to feel familiar in its winks at the past, but breaking with tradition in ways that are exciting and new for this series. Scream VI might be a sequel to a requel, but this franchise still finds new ways to feel original in its approach to this world.
Scream VI comes to theaters on March 10