“Scream VI” slashes through the Big Apple

Watch out for Ghostface: In the concrete jungle, nobody can hear you “Scream”

“Scream VI” is the sixth entry in the iconic slasher series, and, like the last entry, is directed by “Ready or Not” filmmakers Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. This film follows the survivors of 2022’s “Scream” — played by Melissa Barrera (“In the Heights”), Jasmin Savoy Brown (“Yellowjackets”), Jenna Ortega (“Wednesday”) and Mason Gooding (“Booksmart”) — as they are stalked by another Ghostface killer in New York City. The cast also includes Hayden Panettiere, Courteney Cox and Dermot Mulroney.

Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett did a great job with the fifth film, so I was curious to see what they would do with “VI.” Unfortunately, this movie is extremely hit-or-miss; the directing, gore and performances are all solid, but the writing is lacking in numerous areas.

One of my favorite elements of “Scream VI” is its likable characters, most of whom return from the previous entry. Twins Chad and Mindy are still as well-written as they were in the fifth movie, and actors Gooding and Brown deliver charismatic performances in their respective roles. Some of the new characters were also entertaining to watch, and I did worry about whether or not they would die by the end.

“Scream VI,” though, is also very intense and violent. Watching Ghostface gun down a bodega owner in a public setting filled me with so much dread, and it made me genuinely fear which character would be killed off next.

One of the best parts of this film is the opening scene. Every “Scream” movie starts with a Ghostface attack, and this film is no different. However, this film takes that trope and mutates it into something unique. I’ll talk more about it in the spoiler section, but it should be noted that this is my favorite opener since the original’s Drew Barrymore scene.

Unfortunately, “Scream VI” has a middling screenplay … and there’s a lot to unpack there. One issue with the script is the large number of characters, which ultimately pushes others to the sidelines. Fan-favorite character Kirby Reed (from “Scream 4”) and classic survivor Gale Weathers (every “Scream” film to date) are unfortunately sidelined to the point where they might as well have just been written out of the movie entirely. Oh, and there’s a boyfriend guy in the movie — I know this point is tacked on, but in my defense, so was he.

As many fans know, Neve Campbell (who played series mainstay Sidney Prescott) refused to return to the franchise due to a salary dispute; while this may not be a problem with the film itself, the writers made a lazy excuse to explain her absence after being part of the franchise for almost 30 years. Thankfully, they don’t kill the character offscreen, but the excuse they used feels like blatant character assassination, and it made me feel like they just forgot how they wrote the character previously.

SPOILERS for “Scream VI” (and some for the rest of the series)

Another problem with this film is its overall lack of stakes. This is the third “Scream” sequel that doesn’t kill off one of its main characters. While that isn’t a problem on its own, it’s annoying here because of the number of fake-outs. There are two characters who get stabbed multiple times in vital areas but they both manage to make it out alive somehow. It’s kind of frustrating when the movie has a genuinely terrifying antagonist that doesn’t really kill any of the most likable characters.

Earlier, I strongly praised the film’s opening, but the problem is that it teases a more intriguing film than what we got. Every “Scream” movie starts with someone being attacked by Ghostface, and this one is no different. But, we immediately get to see the killer’s face, and the next five minutes follow him before he gets killed by the real Ghostface of the film. These movies adhere to a very simple formula, but this entry could have been more interesting if it removed the whodunit angle entirely and turned into a character study of sorts.

Unfortunately, the film squanders this opening and goes back to being a conventional slasher.
Finally, the biggest problem I have with this film is the Ghostface reveal. I won’t spoil who is under the mask, but I can almost guarantee that the audience will predict their identity. Not only that, but the motivations of the killer feel almost like a retread of “Scream 2,” which also had a lackluster Ghostface reveal. These movies are supposed to lead up to shocking reveals, and this film failed to do so in a satisfying way.

All in all, “Scream VI” was a pretty mixed bag for me. I really enjoyed the film when I was watching it, but it has gotten worse in my mind as time passed. This movie has some solid performances and gore, but the screenplay felt like it needed more time in the oven. Here’s hoping that the inevitable seventh film will be better, or set in space — I’ll be happy either way.

RATING: 5/10