Horror movie franchises are no strangers to franchise fatigue, and the Scream franchise is no exception. Last year’s Scream “requel” attempted to breathe new life into the series, but without the guidance of original director Wes Craven, it fell short of the mark.
Lacking Craven’s Vision:
Wes Craven’s ability to balance serious scares, dark humor, and meta-commentary was once central to the appeal of the Scream franchise. Unfortunately, the newest installment lacked Craven’s ruthless audacity as a filmmaker, settling for soft-pedaling instead of carving up its targets with viciously self-reflexive glee.
A Convoluted Mess:
The Scream “requel” utilized few of the franchise’s characters fully and instead relied heavily on self-referential callbacks and tedious genre movie title drops. The result was a convoluted mess that needed genuine insights into the horror landscape it sought to comment on.
Nostalgia Without Justification:
Though franchise veterans Sidney Prescott, Gale Weathers, and Dewey Riley returned to Woodsboro alongside Gen-Z protagonists, the script expended too much time on those veterans, leaving little room for character development. The result was a peculiar and unimaginative film that relied too heavily on audience nostalgia without justifying its characters’ return to the fold.
More of the Same Wearying Snark:
Scream VI, the latest entry in the franchise, is a direct sequel to the previous film and fails to bring any fresh ideas to the table. Instead, though it shifts the setting from suburban Woodsboro to New York City, it serves up more of the same second-rate snark that has become the hallmark of the series.
Familiar Characters and Flimsy Narrative:
The film follows Sam, Tara, Mindy, and Chad as they navigate college in New York, carrying the weight of their family histories. Sam is the illegitimate daughter of the first film’s killer, while Mindy and Chad are the children of a fan-favorite film nerd. Unfortunately, however, the narrative could be more straightforward and further the story set in motion in the previous film.
Miscalculated Opening Sequence:
Scream VI miscalculates its opening sequence, wasting the talents of Samara Weaving, a timid cinema studies professor who died in an alleyway. Later scenes in a bodega and on a subway train better use the New York setting. Still, the film’s penchant for isolating characters and picking them off when they are alone feels formulaic, even with the sprawling inner-city canvas in play.
Same Old Ghostface:
Despite the new setting, the villain remains the same old Ghostface, and the film fails to exploit the potential of its five-boroughs setting cannily. In addition, the film was shot in Vancouver, which proved to be an unconvincing stand-in for the Big Apple, despite the yellow cabs called in for the production.
Campbell’s Absence and Cox’s Return:
Due to a salary dispute, Neve Campbell sat out this installment, which was a blessing in disguise. In contrast, Courteney Cox returned to reprise her role. The film addresses Sidney’s absence early on, but the line drew derisive reactions from viewers.
Hayden Panettiere also returns, reprising her role as Kirby Reed, despite her character’s apparent death in Scream 4. Here she is reintroduced as a hardened FBI agent investigating Ghostface attacks.
Least Dangerous Entry Yet:
Scream VI focuses on in-jokes and Easter eggs for franchise die-hards, but neither Campbell nor Panettiere feels essential to the story. Instead, the renewed focus on the “core four” makes this installment feel like the franchise’s least dangerous entry yet. Even though the film suggests that legacy characters could be on the chopping block, characters who suffer stab wounds seem to walk off the attacks as if they’re paper cuts.
More Focus on Relationships:
Scream VI invests more in the relationships between its new characters, creating intermittently compelling tension between Sam and Tara and a sweet spark of romance between Tara and Chad. But, again, Jenna Ortega’s natural charisma stands out, while Melissa Barrera’s character feels comparatively tedious.
Gooding and Savoy Brown also deserve better than the groan-inducing IMDb trivia that Vanderbilt and Busick supply them with, such as Mindy’s statement, “I hate franchises,” and her attempts to gauge other characters’ horror bona fides.
Scream VI feels more like an episodic continuation than an escalation of the previous film. The finale is inside an abandoned movie theater, tricked out with memorabilia from earlier films, serving as a museum-scaled Scream tribute. As the characters geek out over artifacts that played minor roles in slasher movies over 20 years ago, it’s hard not to feel defeated by Scream’s self-insistence.
Collapsing into Artificial Extension:
For a franchise that was once quick-witted and fast on its feet, Scream VI is glutted with its mythology and weighed down by witless dialogue. The result is an artificial extension that even Wes Craven might have slashed to ribbons.
Overall, Scream VI fails to recapture the freshness and danger of the original Scream. While the relationship focus is occasionally compelling, the groan-inducing dialogue and episodic continuation leave the film tired and cliche-riddled. In addition, the self-insistence of the franchise and the lack of Wes Craven’s guiding hand is palpable, resulting in a film that collapses into an artificial extension of the franchise.