‘Scream VI’ review: Slasher horror has fallen victim to lazy fan service

At what point can we continue to call these movies Scream?

With Scream VI, Sidney Prescott left us in her mirror. Dewey is gone. We have left Woodsboro. The strongest link to the horror hit that started it all is Ghostface. However, they’ve gone and messed with the mask, giving it the gritty patina they grabbed David Gordon Green’s grimy but crushing Halloween resurrection.

Sure, this franchise still features movie nerds who eagerly argue over the finer points of the genre. But having assumed a number of rabid fans as killers Screams 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, there is some new ground to tread. However, we fans demand it, right? So lip service is paid to a confused cold open and the necessary Randy(Opens in a new tab) roundup(Opens in a new tab) of the rules, inherited by his niece, Scream V Fan favorite Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown);

But behind the iconic mask and smug parody, this franchise has lost its spirit. And what’s left behind are gruesome murders without the frenzied fun.

What is Scream VI about?

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Received one year later Scream (2022), this sixth episode finds survivors Sam (Melissa Barrera), Tara (Jenna Ortega), Mindy (Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding) — the self-proclaimed “core four” — all in New York. While the final three are in college, jumping from parties to bad decisions (going to class is also Scream 2maybe), Sam… is also there.

Through gritted teeth, she expresses her determination to protect her little sister from any future shenanigans. But Sam’s life in New York is of no interest to screenwriters James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick. She goes to therapy, has a sneaky connection (She-Hulk‘small Josh Segara), and possibly a job — but no apparent friends or hobbies outside of her sister’s social circle… and her menacing ghost dad (Skeet Ulrich).


“Scream” can’t live up to “Scream”

So when Ghostface returns to wreak new havoc on the Carpenter sisters, there’s no sense of how their lives have been disrupted. Visual storytelling has been forgotten in favor of a series of trashy exposition, all too often between cops in boring office settings. But there is one place where directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett deliver visually, and it’s all in the carnage sequences.

Scream VI it’s brutal.

Flags with the image of Ghostface.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

There is an unrepentant malice in these murder scenes. It is not enough to have blood and stabbings in the opening. The body count is higher and the close-ups of mutilated corpses are gruesome. But few of them are fun. Partly because the bad guys die from the garage door(Opens in a new tab) is long behind us (RIP, Tatum), but more importantly, because of the expectations required of a slasher franchise this long. The goal is to shock first and foremost. In this pursuit, the filmmakers lose the sense of making this thriller shocking.

The big problem is that there are very few characters to look at.

Scream VI it is filled with characters, heritage and news. And everything is fair game to be the killer or be killed. But so little effort is put into developing them that it’s virtually impossible to feel excerpts when they’re, well, gutted. The new batch of friends are so thin that they are adequately described as roommates and love interests, without much of an interest whatsoever. That means their deaths feel like little more than a pit stop to the inevitable destination: a showdown between Sam Carpenter and Ghostface 6.0. But as he’s a mere shadow of Sidney Prescott, it’s hard to feel all that invested.

Sam Carpenter is an inferior horror heroine.

Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega enter

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Where Sidney started out as a familiar slasher archetype—the sweet babysitter who becomes a resilient, if traumatized, Final Girl—Sam entered the franchise with a chip on her shoulder and the worst backstory since Roman was rightfully ignored. (I remember Scream 3has the retcon been forgotten?)

In her second adventure, Sam remains little more than a superficial Sidney stand-in with a wet look and long dark hair. But the public’s loyalty does not carry over, nor does Melissa Barrera’s screen presence compare to Neve Campbell’s. No matter how tearfully Sam may cry about fate and family, a dynasty was built on Sidney’s tears of rage.

Between nostalgia and star power, it may have been impossible—or at least ill-conceived—to continue the Scream franchise without Campbell. And even more! The filmmakers stumbled upon landing Jenna Ortega at the beginning of her incredible rise in 2022, where she gained increasing recognition for her roles in Scream V, Fallout, X, and finally for the captivating protagonist of Gyrna Wednesday. And yet this sequel continues to treat Tara like a sidekick when she could to be his heart and soul.

Courteney Cox and Hayden Panettiere return to Scream.

Hayden Panettiere is back

Credit: Paramount Pictures

No matter how many dazzling new stars this franchise puts through its paces, the return of Gale and his dubious resurrection Scream 4 The venerable Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) advises filmmakers not to believe their audience is properly invested in the new crop of heroes. Maybe that’s why the twins are stuck in the sketch: Chad in bending and Mindy in spinning fan theories.

The character that Scream fans are most attached to at this point is Gale Weathers. Fortunately, his respectable, emotionally mature Gale Scream 5 it is forgotten. Once again, the fearless and cocky reporter steps into the fray to rouse the Final Girls, try to save the day, and maybe land another book deal. Be thankful that her blind ambition is back, because it’s that trait that made her fantastically flawed, but a ferocious opponent for heroes and villains alike. Also returning is Gale’s strong fashion (though sadly not her painfully modern haircuts), welcoming audiences back into the arms of badass horror, which we love for being just as messed up as it is.

If only Kirby’s return had such care. While Panettiere brings a charm to her tough survivor, the franchise doesn’t quite know what to do with her now. Will it be Gale? Dewey? Randy? Her story leads her to audition for every position at the Scream shrine before she is seen shrugging her shoulders in resignation. We got her back, the film seems to be climbing — what else are we waiting for?

The New York setting is also careless. Perhaps because most of these characters are recent transplants, the geography of the city is irrelevant and its appearance is as authentic as a Times Square Iron Man. The manners of bodegas and subways are completely ignored in sequences that go on too long to maintain their suspense. Even New York doesn’t feel like itself, cynically painted as a place where incredible violence can happen without anyone raising an eyebrow. Sure, that would be scary. But in a world where everyone has a cell phone and security cameras are everywhere — something the movie points out — it’s insanely practical to think that Ghostface could disappear in the blink of an eye, as he could in Woodsboro.

In the end, Wes Craven’s first film feels woefully off the mark Scream VI followers of the earth. Character has been sacrificed in favor of frantic pacing, which kills the fun this franchise has long promised. Crudely constructed, it’s not just that the murder mystery is less incredible. It’s that the grim spectacle of watching a new crop of teenagers die has lost its novelty in the face of relentless sequels. The focus has become audacity and what has died is the heart that makes terror stab you in the chest.

Scream VI opens March 10 in theaters.

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