Movie Review: Scream VI

This was exactly what I was worried about.

When I reviewed the last Scream film in 2022, I described the series as a chance for the horror community to come together to reflect on the state of the genre. It’s one of the things I love most about the Scream movies, actually – the release of a new one is basically a summit for my beloved horror community, a fun little meta-commentary on where we are compared to last time.

But, with a sequel coming out so soon after the requel, I was concerned – had the genre changed enough to give us the commentary that makes these movies so much fun? And the answer, to my mind, at least, is…no.

Scream VI is by far my least favourite of the Scream movies, and the reason for that, I think, is because it feels so…empty compared to the rest of the franchise. The truth is, the horror industry and genre just hasn’t changed enough to support a whole entry in this canon. It doesn’t feel like a fun, communal reflection on horror, it feels like characters pointing to a few random tropes with a Ghostface mask slapped on top to cover up the fact it doesn’t have a whole lot to say.

And without that meta-gimmick, we’re left instead with what amounts to a kind of bland slasher. Scream’s hook is the standard teen slasher flick elevated by genre literacy; without that, it’s just an average stalk-and-slash movie. I was really let-down by the character work in this movie, especially given this is the second time we’ve focused on these characters – I’m certain leads Jenna Ortega and Melissa Barrera could have given us more with the right script, but this limp gesture towards familial trauma and chosen family really isn’t enough, even edging up to downright cheesy at times. I wanted to see the film push further with Barrera’s internal struggle between the part of her that wants to kill and the part that doesn’t, as it’s one of the major conflicts in the movie, but never has the teeth or threat it needs, with Barrera only ever going after people who are plot-designated deserving of it anyway.

The other characters feel utterly staid in their development, and the new introductions just don’t get enough time to develop into anything interesting. Hayden Pattiniere, reprising her role from the fourth Scream movie, is pretty fun, even if her Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street opinions are dead wrong (best Friday the 13th is Jason X, best Nightmare is Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, for the record).

There are a few bright spots, for sure – the setpieces are some of the best in the whole series, and the opening kill is enormously well-constructed and entertaining (Samara Weaving as a film professor focused on slashers of the 20th century? Be still my beating heart). Courtney Cox, as ever, is a total delight as Gail Weathers, slippery and steely and utterly, indomitably ballsy. A fanboy’s lair filled with memorabilia might have been done already in Jigsaw, but it’s a nice bit of fanservice for people knee-deep in the lore.

But Scream VI lacks the spark of the previous entries, and I think that’s mainly down to the lack of solid genre-commentary basis they’ve got to work with. What more could they possibly have to say about horror just a year after they made the last movie? Evidently, the answer is not much, and it renders this entry into the Scream canon the first that feels completely inessential. Stripped of the substantive sly slasher meta-narrative, Scream IV is just another slasher movie – and not a very good one, at that.

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By Lou MacGregor

(header image via Den of Geek)

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