March 8, 2023
by Carla Hay
Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Culture Representation: Taking place in New York City, the horror film “Scream VI” features a racially diverse cast of characters (Latin, white African-American) representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: The four main survivors of the serial killings in the 2022 movie “Scream” have relocated from the fictional Woodsboro, California, to New York City, where they are plagued by a new set of Ghostface Killer murders.
Culture Audience: “Scream VI” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the “Scream” franchise and horror movie sequels that make several references to its preceding movies.
“Scream VI” has further cemented the “Scream” franchise as an intentionally comedic self-parody, but this entertaining movie doesn’t skimp on the horror thrills. The movie’s best scenes make up for the far-fetched revelations in the last 15 minutes. As the sixth movie in the “Scream” series, “Scream VI” is best appreciated by people who’ve seen all the previous “Scream ” movies, because there are many jokes and references to this predecessor films. However, if it’s not possible for someone to see all the previous “Scream” movies, then the 1996 “Scream” film (the one that started the series) and the 2022 “Scream” film are the two most essential moves to watch before seeing “Scream VI.”
The 2000 movie “Scream 3” added a movie-within-a-movie storyline, by creating a fictional horror movie series called “Stab,” which was inspired by what happened in the first “Scream” movie. It’s helpful, but not essential, to watch “Scream 3” before seeing “Scream VI.” What’s most important for viewers of “Scream VI” to know is that “Scream VI” gives a summary of all the revealed identities of the Ghostface Killer (who wears a creepy ghostface mask and a black hooded robe), who is a different person or people in each “Scream” movie. If you didn’t know their identities before seeing “Scream VI,” then the movie spoils all that information.
“Scream VI” reunites directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett with screenwriters James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, who had the same roles for the 2022 “Scream” movie. Most of the same producers from 2022’s “Scream” are also part of the “Scream VI” team. “Scream VI” picks up one year after the events of the 2022 “Scream” movie, which took place mainly in the fictional Woodsboro, California. Four of the survivors of the Ghostface Killer murders and mayhem that happened in 2022’s “Scream” are trying to put this trauma behind them, and have relocated to New York City. (“Scream VI” was actually filmed in Montreal.)
Samantha “Sam” Carpenter (played by Melissa Barrera), who is 25 or 26, is in therapy but finds it difficult to open up to her therapist Dr. Christopher Stone (played by Henry Czerny) until a pivotal scene that’s a helpful summary for anyone who didn’t see 2022’s “Scream.” When Sam isn’t busy with her two jobs, she’s being overprotective of her younger half-sister Tara Carpenter (played by Jenna Ortega), who 18 years old and a first-year student at the fictional Blackmore University. Tara and Sam live in the same apartment building.
The other two people in this tight-knit foursome are twins Mindy Meeks-Martin (played by Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad Meeks-Martin (played by Mason Gooding), who are also first-year students at Blackmore University. The uncle of Mindy and Chad was Randy Meeks (played by Jamie Kennedy), whose fate is shown in 1997’s “Scream 2.” Mindy is a “Stab” trivia fanatic, while Chad (who was a popular athlete in high school) has a not-so-secret crush on Tara. Chad has come up with a nickname for this quartet of survivors: The Core Four. It’s a name that the other three think is corny, and the movie shows whether or not they go along with Chad’s enthusiasm to give themselves this nickname.
Three of the new characters that are introduced in “Scream VI” have gotten close to the Core Four. Tara’s free-spirited roommate Quinn Bailey (played by Liana Liberato) is having fun dating various men, but her sex life sometimes gets in the way of Tara wanting some peace and quiet. Chad’s roommate is Ethan Landry (played by Jack Champion), a socially awkward misfit who wants to be accepted by Chad and his friends. Anika Kayoko (played by Devyn Nekoda) is dating openly queer Mindy, in a fairly new romance.
As several scenes in the movie show, Tara is resentful of Sam’s hovering presence, because Tara wants to be treated like an independent adult, not a helpless child. Tara and Sam also disagree about how to cope with what happened to them in Woodsboro. Tara refuses to go to therapy, she doesn’t like to talk about what happened in Woodsboro, and she thinks Sam is living too much in the past. Sam thinks it’s detrimental for Tara to avoid getting therapy. Meanwhile, Sam becomes the subject of untrue gossip spread on the Internet that she was really the Ghostface Killer in Woodsboro.
To its credit, “Scream VI” is less cluttered with characters than 2022’s “Scream.” The movie’s opening scene continues the “Scream” tradition of someone being murdered by the Ghostface Killer, who has called that victim on the phone. The person who gets slaughtered in the opening scene is Laura Crane (played by Samara Weaving), an associate professor of film studies at Blackmore University. She teaches horror movies as part of her curriculum.
On the night that Laura is murdered, it’s close to Halloween, and many people are dressed up in Halloween costumes for parties and other Halloween festivities. Laura is not in a Halloween costume when she is seen at a bar, talking on the phone with what she thinks is her blind date for the night. The date is really a Ghostface Killer.
The “date” pretends to be lost and asks Laura to step outside the bar into an alley where he says he is. While she’s on the phone, the caller’s tone turns menacing as he snarls, “You teach a class about slashers, and you still walk into a dark alley alone.” Needless to say, Laura doesn’t last long in this movie.
Without giving away too much information, it’s enough to say that it’s revealed early on in the movie that Sam and Tara are the main targets for the Ghostface Killers. It’s also revealed that whoever is behind the murders that happen also wants to finish the “Stab” tribute movie that was started by Richie Kirsch (played by Jack Quaid), who was Sam’s boyfriend in 2022’s “Scream,” but (spoiler alert for people who haven’t seen 2022’s “Scream”), Richie turned out to be the Ghostface Killer, and Sam killed him in self-defense.
Some other characters who are part of the “Scream VI” are Blackmore University student Jason Carvey (played by Tony Revolori); Quinn’s father Detective Bailey (played by Dermot Mulroney), who is a police officer who investigates homicides; and David Brackett (played by Josh Segarra), an attractive neighbor who lives in the apartment building directly across from the apartment building where Sam, Tara and Quinn live. Sam and Tara (who has given David the nickname Hot Boy) can see directly into David’s apartment and vice versa.
“Scream VI” also has the return of ambitious and arrogant TV news journalist Gale Weathers (played by Courteney Cox), who has written a book about the events that happened in 2022’s “Scream.” Tara and Sam are furious about this book not only because Gale had broken her promise not to write a book about what happened but also because the book at unflattering descriptions of Tara and Sam.
Also making her return to “Scream VI” is Kirby Reed (played by Hayden Panettiere), who was the “final girl” in 2011’s “Scream 4.” Kirby, who is now 30 years old and an agent for the FBI, arrives in New York City to investigate this new set of Ghostface Killer murders. Kirby was a senior at Woodsboro High School when Sam was a freshman at the school. As for other familiar characters from the “Scream” franchise, Sidney Prescott (played by Neve Campbell), the original target of the Ghostface Killer, is not in “Scream VI” but is briefly mentioned as being in hiding in a safe place. Campbell went public about declining an offer to be in “Scream VI” because she felt that the offered salary was too low for her.
“Scream VI” delves more than 2022’s “Scream” did into the psychological fallout of all of these killings. “Scream VI” does a fairly good job at contrasting the ways that Sam and Tara feel about therapy, without passing judgment on either character. As already revealed in 2022’s “Scream,” Sam and Tara are the children of the late Billy Loomis (played by Skeet Ulrich), who was one of killers in the first “Scream” movie. As shown in 2022’s “Scream” and “Scream VI,” there are big indications that Sam is worried that she could have inherited a desire to become a murderer. “Scream VI” has more exploration of how Sam’s suspected “dark side” is affecting her.
The movie’s scenes with Ghostface Killer on a rampage are among the best of the “Scream” franchise. A standout scene is one that involves a ladder between buildings. Another scene that’s suspenseful is when Ghostface Killer goes after Tara and Sam in a convenience store. Meanwhile, there is plenty of sarcastic wisecracking (especially from Libby) about horror movie clichés, who the likely suspects are, and who’s most likely to be killed next. All of these self-referential jokes in “Scream VI” are sometimes to the detriment of the story. The movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it expects viewers to know a lot about the “Scream” movies, in order to get most of the jokes.
Barrera and Ortega, who are very believable as sisters with a love/hate relationship, are excellent additions to the “Scream” franchise. Mulroney really hams it up and delivers some of his lines in ways that are pure camp. Panettiere also gives a good performance as “all grown up now” Kirby. Cox doesn’t really do anything new with the Gale character, but she performs well in her action scenes. Savoy Brown is a sassy scene stealer with the Libby character, who has much better character development and funnier lines of dialogue than in 2022’s “Scream.”
There’s no doubt that “Scream VI” is an unapolgetic “fan service” movie that isn’t particularly accommodating to newcomers to the “Scream” movie franchise. And there isn’t anything innovative about the plot reveals, which might remind “Scream” fans of a certain previous “Scream” movie. “Scream VI” is not the best movie in the “Scream” franchise, but “Scream VI” delivers exactly what it intends: horror entertainment that serves up plenty of gore with self-deprecating laughs.
Paramount Pictures will release “Scream VI” in U.S. cinemas on March 10, 2023.