Scream VI (2023) Review

Quick synopsis: People from Woodsboro get stabbed, this time in New York

I am a massive fan of the Scream franchise (despite only managing to catch one of them at the cinema), so a new one is always welcome. They don’t just work as slasher horrors, but also as murder mysteries, you watch them and look for clues to work out who the killers is, and why. The duel genre nature of the franchise is one I’ve always been a fan of, so I was looking forward to this. Scream movies have always started well, and have always been unexpected. The first one killed off Drew Barrymore, the third one killed off returning character Cotton Weary, the fourth was….well it was very weird, the fifth one started with the person who was attacked surviving, and this? This started with someone being brutally murdered, and the killer unmasking himself. It’s a shockingly different way to start the film off, and I love it. I’ll say this now, it’s genius. It subverts expectations twice, and both times it blew my mind and got me very excited.

The ending? Not so much. Scream 3 gets a lot of shit for the killer reveal, but it was still a lot better than this. In the third one, there was still some ambiguity about who the killer could be and what their motives were, we were presented with numerous possibilities, but enough clues so that we could possibly figure it out (but maybe not the “why”). Scream VI does the opposite, it’s blindingly obvious who the killers are. When you have a character say they “had” a son, and also have them talk about swearing revenge on those who hurt his family, it’s not difficult to figure out that they’re the killer, and the motive. Related to this, if a character in a slasher movie dies off-screen and you don’t see the body properly, they didn’t die. This is incredibly obvious to everybody who has seen a movie before. It’s an incredibly disappointing reveal, even more so because it starts wonderfully.

The rest of Scream VI is fun to watch, well, as fun as watching people get brutally murdered can be. The kills are disgustingly brutal, it gets really specific with where the knife goes. Someone being stabbed directly in the throat will always be a manner of murder that stands out more than just stabs in the back or chest. That being said, there is a scene where someone gets stabbed in the chest repeatedly and the sheer violence of it is shocking, so there is a way to do something as simple as that in a way that makes it stand out.

Usually, “[killer name] in Big City” is a sign a horror franchise has gone off the rails, second only to “in space” as a sign that the movie is going to be shit. I actually like the way they use the location here. New York is loud, so it is conceivable that somebody can be stabbed in an alleyway and nobody will notice. I will respect this for not doing the obvious scenes in Times Square etc. It is in New York, but it’s not a tour of the landmarks. Instead, it is a way to introduce different horror set pieces, the scene on the subway system is incredible, although it was ruined in the previews (as was the scene in the bodega). There are moments where it does get a bit too “You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us!” Spider-Man-like.

The big story leading up to the release was the absence of Neve Campbell, who refused to make an appearance due to Paramount deciding not to pay her enough because they’re bastards. I have to be honest though, I’m not sure what she would have done in this. There’s not really a Sidney Prescott-shaped hole in this story. If there’s a sequel then there will have to be a discussion about bringing her back, but the story they’re telling here? She would have seemed superfluous. They do explain her absence, and it’s a way that makes sense. Without Neve, Scream VI focuses more on the characters introduced in last year’s Scream. The only legacy character to return is Gale Weathers, but Courtney Cox only appears in roughly 4 scenes. Her character seems to have reverted to her Scream 1 persona, in a character development that doesn’t make much sense. Her scenes do feature a nice reference to how she and Ghostface have never really spoken much, but aside from that, Gale’s scenes seem a bit superfluous.

Not quite established enough to be a legacy character, but also returning from this is Hayden Panettiere’s Kirby Reed, who was last seen (and introduced) in Scream 4,or to give it proper (a.k.a, stupid) title: Scre4m (pronounced Screfourm, obviously). It is nice to see her back, not just in this franchise, but in Hollywood in general, with this being Hayden’s first film appearance since Custody in 2016. Kirby’s character arc is a great examination of how characters react to events like this, although I would like to see her explored more in the future.

The rest of the cast is great too, Melissa Barrera keeps her upward trajectory, but I feel this does slightly stall the momentum Jenna Ortega is on from Wednesday. Not due to the quality of the script, but there are moments near the start where her performance seems a little bit weak. Not “OMG this is terrible” level, but it feels like she’s operating at a slightly lower level than everybody else. In a film full of Lennon and McCartney, she’s a George Harrison; still very good, but overshadowed.

So in summary; go see this. It’s very good, although you may get a headache from how many times the “How did they survive that?” alarm in your head goes off.

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