Few horror franchises – or any franchise for that matter – can produce quality outings the further along they go. Both Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street were running on fumes past their fourth outings with the exception of the occasional course correction. When Wes Craven resurrected his Scream series with Scream IV, the results were mixed though that sequel has aged quite well. But last year Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (Ready or Not, V/H/S) blew away even the most optimistic of expectations with their belated re-quel, Scream. Not surprisingly, the success of that sequel saw a follow-up green-lit. And it looks like Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett have scored again with Scream VI.
One year has passed since the Woodsboro Legacy Murders. Sisters Sam and Tara Carpenter have re-located to New York City along with the twins, Mindy and Chad. While Tara loses herself in frat parties and college life, Sam struggles in therapy to come to terms with her connection to Billy Loomis. When a new series of Ghostface killings turn up in New York, the Woodsboro survivors must once again come together to fight to survive.
Scream VI May Not Be Leaner, But It’s More Brutal and Edge-Of-Your-Seat Than Past Sequels
As compared to most of the series, Scream VI feels more brutal – its Ghostface just comes across as exceptionally vicious this time around. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett up the gore factor just a bit from past sequels. But have no fear. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett craft several well-staged scenes that heighten the suspense to almost unbearable levels. Whether it’s the convenience store scene or a scene where the protagonists have to make their way across a ladder straddled between two buildings, Scream VI may be the most edge-of-your-seat entry in the franchise. Perhaps the sequel is a bit too long. Nevertheless, the subway scene and climax justify the longer runtime. Just in terms of pure suspense, this is one of the series’ best chapters.
Just in terms of pure suspense, this is one of the series’ best chapters.
Where Scream VI feels a bit stretched is its efforts to continue the same storytelling format. That is, Scream 3 also felt strained by its ‘rules of a trilogy’. Comparatively, Scream IV and last year’s Scream felt like there was a reason the franchise needed to return. However, screenwriters James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick struggle to make the series’ meta-narrative work this time around. When Mindy recites the rules of a ‘franchise’, it feels about as sketchy as what Scream 3 had to offer. In fact, Scream VI works at its best when it focuses on its characters and their journey and relationships as opposed to when its squeezing in its meta bits. In fact, one could argue that this sequel suggests that the series can live on without the need to cram in its legacy narrative.
Scream VI Has a ‘Core Four’ That Can Carry Future Sequels
Does Scream VI miss Neve Campbell? After being such an integral role to the franchise, it’s strange to only get a wasted namedrop in the sequel. And to be clear, Campbell deserved to get paid for returning. Yet there’s more than just an argument to be made here that the series is ready to move past its legacy characters. While it’s nice to see Courtney Cox return, her character has nothing to do but recycle her story from past sequels. To some extent, Scream VI shoehorns Cox into the movie for what feels like no other reason but franchise continuity. By the end of this sequel, there’s really no doubt that the current core cast is more than capable of carrying on future entries.
…Savoy Brown steals every scene she’s in.
Simply put, it’s hard not to love the ‘Core Four’ characters that the latest sequels have introduced. Melissa Barrera’s ‘Sam Carpenter’ brings a complexity that we haven’t seen in the series – or most horror franchises. Since Scream came out last year, Jenna Ortega (You, Wednesday) has completely blown up. Nevertheless, Scream VI still keeps its focus on Barrera’s ‘Sam’, while allowing for an organic relationship to develop between the characters. All of the relationships between the four main survivors lend the sequel some emotional heft. Both Mason Gooding and Jasmine Savoy Brown (Sound of Violence) are two of the best characters in the series. In particular, Savoy Brown steals every scene she’s in.
Scream VI Continues The Franchise With a Solid Entry That Promises a Bright Future
Somehow the Scream franchise continues to hum right along with no end in sight. Gillett and Bettinelli-Olpin haven’t just made a decent entry – Scream VI is a brutal, full-throttle slasher that’s as often as clever as it is suspenseful. Maybe this sequel was a bit too long. And the franchise rules felt like about as much of a stretch as the ‘rules of a trilogy’ in Scream III. At six movies into the series, the writers are stretching just to get these movies produced. But Scream VI is a case of the ends justifying the means. With a ‘Core Four’ with whom audiences can identify and root for and Gillett and Bettinelli-Olpin behind the camera, a Part VII feels pretty welcome for horror fans.