Any fan of the Scream franchise can tell you that the opening sequence is vital to each installment — a proven formula for the scene running since 1996’s Scream up to now. The opening sequence sets the tone for the entire film, and the newest installment, Scream VI, is no exception — from the opening moments the film promises to be clever, brutal, and something new while honoring the past.
The directors, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, and screenwriters, James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick all return from Scream (2022). The result is a finished product that will both excite viewers as to what the future holds for this franchise and content with the familiar feelings this installment invokes as it remembers at its very heart where it came from. As someone who did enjoy the fifth installment and felt it was a great rebirth to Scream, it is impossible to ignore that this newest version of Ghostface killings is elevated.
In horror, it’s generally a terrifying decision when a franchise decides to move the story to New York City, with titles like Friday the 13th VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan serving as a looming warning: moving to the Big Apple is where horror franchises go to die. Thankfully, Scream VI broke this mold and managed to take the New York City locale and utilize it in ways that make this entry one of the most brutal and entertaining installments yet.
The freshly self-titled “Core Four” return for the film from last year’s installment — Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera), the biological daughter of Billy Loomis and the center of this story; Sam’s half-sister, Tara (Jenna Ortega), attending the fictional Blackmore College in New York and under the constant supervision of her sister; and Tara’s fellow students and friends from childhood — the reincarnation of her uncle Randy from the first and second installments, Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown) the genre geek, and her twin brother Chad (Mason Gooding). This group continues to feel authentic and believable.
Once again, Mindy is the first to realize the situation the group finds themselves in when the newest Ghostface killings start up — not only a re-quel sequel (say that five times fast), but part of a fully-fledged franchise. As such there are rules — of course there are rules — and it’s pleasant to watch her lay them out … and for the entire group to still fall victim to these rules in the same satisfying and meta way Scream has always been known to do.
While the returning cast from the last film continue to be a perfect group to follow in this new stretch of movies, the now longest-running actress for the franchise, Courteney Cox, ensures that Gale Weathers is not just here as a legacy throw-away gesture. We knew from the trailer that Gale had an epic chase sequence and her first Ghostface call in six films, but the build to this scene had my heart racing even more than her sequence in Scream 2. Another legacy return is Hayden Panettiere, reprising Kirby Reed from Scream 4, who also isn’t there as a mere gesture.
The official trailer for the film promised a Ghostface unlike any we’ve seen in the past, and the movie delivered tenfold. The person behind the mask wastes no time going to play in this new, much larger setting than before, quickly proving that the protagonists in the film aren’t safe no matter where they are … or where they hide. The newest killer consistently takes advantage of the variety New York City has to offer — from dark alleys to bodegas to the subway. What really set this installment apart for me was the fact that these characters are being put through far more than any of the original victims were, with this installment featuring the most gruesome killings thus far, the ruthlessness of this Ghostface providing plenty of punctures.
The elephant in the room is, of course, the notable absence of Sidney Prescott. While it certainly does not ruin the movie, there are several scenes where it is clear they could have benefitted from the original final girl portrayed by Neve Campbell.
This installment continues the legacy of being self-conscious and witty, while still showcasing immense brutality and entertaining turns at every corner. Scream VI doesn’t take itself as seriously as it’s predecessor and will hold your attention for the entirety of the film, bringing you to the edge of your seat with gripping chase sequences and anxious for what horrors will be next.
Scream VI is playing in theaters now.