SCREAM VI REVIEW
“Very much more of the same, but not necessarily in a bad way”
Even though I’m probably older than most of the original Scream fans and way, WAY older than most of the younger and more recent fans from last year’s “requel,” I may not have been going into Scream VI with quite the enthusiasm as the diehards. Sure, it has been moved to my hometown of New York City, but maybe that’s part of what leads to any trepidation I might have. I mean, I love my city more than anything, but very few filmmakers really, REALLY know New York City to use it to its fullest without me seeing things that just don’t hold up.
That aside, a simple move of location sometimes works well and other times, I present Jason Takes Manhattan to the court, your honor. The thing is that while Scream VI does take place, it was only obvious it wasn’t shot there, because there are so many locations that could have easily been built on a soundstage, or dummied up in some other city.
It’s probably difficult to say too much about the plot, in fear of spoiling the twists and turns, of which there are many, but before get to the “Core Four” from the previous movie, we get the obligatory opening kill. Samara Weaving (from Scream and Scream VI filmmakers Radio Silence’s breakthrough movie, Ready or Not) is sitting at a bar waiting for her Tinder date when he calls and says he can’t find her, so she goes outside, walks into a dark alley – this is NYC after all – and (SPOILER!!!!) gets killed by Ghostface. (Shocking, huh?) What makes this different though is that he then removes his mask… literally in the first five or six minutes of the movie, which is never ever done! Anyway, that’s the first of the many twists that will keep piling up as things go on.
But this is about Sam and Tara Carpenter, the sisters played by Melissa Barbera and Jenna Ortega, who have come to the fictitious Blackmore University with their best friends, brother and sister Chad and Mindy Meeks-Martin (Mason Gooding and Jasmin Savoy Brown) aka “The Core Four.” They’ve all moved into an apartment building with new roommates Ethan (Jack Champion) and Quinn (Liana Liberato) and new love interests in Anika (Devyn Nekoda) and Danny (Josh Segarra). We already know that Ghostface is loose somewhere in New York CIty, and Quinn’s policeman father (Dermot Mulroney) is quickly pulled onto the case. (You may already know that Courtney Cox and Hayden Panettiere are also both back; you really don’t need to know much about the roles they play in advance.)
In fact, much of this movie is about the relationship between Tara and her overly protective sister, Sam, who hasn’t quite gotten over what happened in Woodsboro, not helped by the fact that still sees her dead father, Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), the original Ghostface, everywhere, urging her to continue his killings. There are other burgeoning relationships, but as Mindy reminds us in a similar analysis as in the previous movie, anything goes with a horror franchise. No one is safe and everyone is a suspect. Barbera and Ortega have gotten even better together, and Savoy Brown remains the movie’s necessary comic relief, to help lighten up a very dark and bloody “Scream” installment.
Listen, I very much loved and miss Wes Craven, and while he did somehow manage to turn the slasher genre he helped create on its very head, he wasn’t perfect and some of his “Scream” sequels weren’t that good or had major problems. Radio Silence, a filmmaking collective with Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett credited as directors, have more than done their homework, so they know what worked so well with the fans of the Craven movies, but also know how to avoid the hokieness of “Scream 3,” despite a similar change in location. The fact that Radio Silence knew enough about the 1 subway line to have it stop at all the right places — unlike Chad Stahelski in John Wick 2, something that killed that movie for me — is already part of maintaining the movie magic of this being shot elsewhere.
The problem is that knowing something works often means repeating those things, and there are aspects to Scream VI that do seem a little too on the nose in terms of replicating previous movies. (And it always bothers me that Ghostface always seems to move and run the exact same way, despite there being different people under the mask with each movie. Is that even remotely plausible?) Even so, Scream VI does keep you on your toes right until the last act, the big reveal, which some might appreciate more than others. Only you can know for sure, and it might depend on how you felt about the previous four Ghostface reveals.
Sure, you can say that Scream VI is very much more of the same, but not necessarily in a bad way, as Radio Silence gets what works and knows how to fuck things up, as far as the formula, and not make it nearly as predictable as it might seem.
Scream VI opens on Friday, March 10 with previews on Thursday night.