The original Scream is not only one of the most seminal horror movies ever made, it also managed to do something few horror films have done period; it spawned a franchise where every entry stays true to the heart of the original. And better yet? Even the arguably bad ones are still extremely watchable.
Say what you want about Scream 3, even hardcore fans should be able to admit that it’s incredibly dumb. But I’d watch that before I sat through Halloween 5 or Friday the 13th Part VIII in a heartbeat. If nothing else, this franchise is pretty even, and I think that goes extremely underappreciated in a genre where sequels consistently fly off the rails and into outer space, oftentimes literally.
The newest entry, Scream 6, is absolutely worthy of the pedigree its predecessors have garnered, and I’d argue is even better than last year’s requel, Scream (2022). Set years after the events of the previous film, it follows the self-proclaimed “core four”, and their attempt to leave behind their pasts and live new lives in the big city. This already is a welcome change of pace, especially for a franchise that hinges on reexamining itself movie to movie.
Woodsborough feels like home, but in a Scream movie, home is the least safe place to be. NYC feels foreign, but also like it might be where these characters can finally find a semblance of normalcy. Instead of the new-age Laurie Strode method of isolation and hardened detachment, these characters aim to make themselves just a few more fish in the ocean. It’s an interesting way for them to navigate their trauma.
Adding to this unfamiliarity, Scream 6 firmly cements the passing of the torch that the previous film engaged with but didn’t fully commit to. We’re truly entering a renewed franchise with a new cast of characters for us to shift our focus to. This is the first Scream film without the fan-favorite character, Dewey. Gale Weathers’ role is secondary to put it lightly, and there’s a total absence of Sidney Prescott, aside from a passing line where she’s briefly mentioned. While the real-life circumstances surrounding her absence make me sad, Scream 6 juggles the new characters and their personal conflicts well and with sincerity. If nothing else, it’s certainly an admirable risk for a franchise like Scream to take, and if executed poorly, could easily lead to the first truly bad entry in the series.
Of course, every Scream film comments on the horror genre at the time. They’re inherently meta. In this incarnation, we’re told to expect the unexpected. That all characters, legacy or not, are expendable. It tries to get into the potential pitfalls of jump-starting an old franchise. It firmly understands how revered the original film is, and it’s constantly paralleling itself with or calling back to it in clever ways.
While generally, this series handles the meta aspects well, there are a couple of points in each one where they don’t quite stick the landing, and Scream 6 is no different. But really, it’s hard to be too mad at. The original sets the bar so stupidly high that I certainly wouldn’t want to be one of the writers trying to take a stab at hemming a new one myself, no pun intended.
It’s genuinely hard to talk about this movie as a singular piece of art. I’m trying my best to avoid spoilers because the “whodunit” aspect of these movies is half the fun right? Certainly, it’s a great watch, the character stuff mostly works, and there are more than a few excellent sequences of suspense. And of course, the funniest parts are top-notch as far as horror movie comedy is concerned.
But at the same time, all the deeper thoughts I have about Scream 6 are about how it relates to the series as a whole, especially the original. It directly spells out for us how beloved the first Scream is, and that it’s inevitably going to tie back to it. This puts this newest effort in a weird limbo where it can’t necessarily stand on its own merits, even though its two-hour runtime is anything but a slog to sit through.
If nothing else, it’s clear the people who made this movie care and care a lot. They knew they couldn’t screw this one up. The Radio Silence crew assembled an excellent cast of actors and writers to make this movie shine as much as possible, and that attention bleeds from every pore.
The intro sequence is fantastic, it’s an awesome subversion of expectations and something completely new for the series. Lead sisters Sam and Tara Carpenter (Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega) have a conflict that’s believable and nuanced, and even when the dialogue is a tad on the nose, their acting is more than enough to sell it. The final reveal is another great first for the series, and the build-up to that point is fantastic.
The way the story unravels in this one feels especially well-done and suspenseful. Every character does their job and gets at least a moment or two to shine, but in particular, I appreciated Cute Guy from the opposite apartment, Danny Brackett (Josh Segarra). He’s an understated, but fun new addition to the series, even if he’s somewhat sidestepped in this entry.
That said, there are at least two characters that should probably be dead. One character’s non-death, in particular, is glaring. Certain bursts of crucial dialogue could’ve used a once-over for subtlety, but in fairness, subtlety has never been the motto for this series. The scenes where it gets meta to explain the film’s thesis overstay their welcome at times, but it must be extremely hard to find that perfect balance where the audience knows everything you want them to, but you’re not beating them over the head with it. Still, just a little more care in the writing and pacing of those scenes could go a long way.
But honestly? When the credits roll, it’s hard to care too much about any of that, because you know you just sat through a hell of a movie, and hopefully you had a good time. As I said before, this movie wasn’t scared to try new things. It swings for the fences, and I’d rather that than a film that goes up to hit with the bat on its shoulder trying to draw an easy walk.
My only question is, where do we go from here, if anywhere? I know another great Scream can be made, but I also ask myself if we really need another. Then again, did we need Scream 2-5? Perhaps not, but these movies seem to be doing well, and as we know, money motivates every decision a studio makes in the film industry. Certainly, I’d rather a franchise as important as this be handled by people who care, people who can keep making quality films.
No matter my trepidations, you can bet my butt will be in a theater seat when the next one does inevitably release. These movies are so fun, engaging, but also easy to watch. They’re cozy. For many, this series is like a baby blanket that’s grown and evolved with them over time. It still manages to keep us warm and feeling good. We can only hope that the next entry will do the same, and doesn’t get slashed to bits in the pursuit of campy, bloody greatness. Then again, maybe Wes Craven wouldn’t have had it any other way. If that’s so, I just hope it’s at least a spectacle.
Written by Dana M