Review: Radio Silence's Horror Sequel 'Scream VI' is Satisfying Enough
by Manuel São Bento
March 12, 2023
We live in the Franchise Era, and I doubt that anyone would attempt to claim the opposite. Nowadays, if an original film without any intentions of creating a new saga of sequels, prequels, and spin-offs, ends up with the slightest commercial and financial success, it's only a matter of time before rumors of follow-up movies become a reality. The horror franchise Scream rising from the ashes is hardly a surprise, but its return last year (with the entry titled Scream from directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett) was so well received that many – myself included – consider it the best sequel in the franchise. One year later, does Scream VI live up to expectations or does it fail to capitalize on the wave of enthusiasm that its predecessor created?
Obviously, I can't speak for all fans of the saga, but I believe that one of the most appealing features of these films is the meta commentary on cinema itself, especially the horror genre. From the countless formulas used by Hollywood to the impact of social media on viewers' expectations, Scream stands out for its often thought-provoking ideas. For me personally, the best installments of the saga manage to efficiently mix said meta commentary with a slasher narrative, which the original flick and Scream (2022) perform exemplarily.
Scream VI ultimately fails in this aspect, but I'd rather start with what directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett (also known as the director duo team "Radio Silence") and screenwriters James Vanderbilt & Guy Busick actually manage to get right. New York City being the main location of this sequel's story is not only incredibly refreshing, but it also offers many opportunities for the new Ghostface(s) to torment their victims. The subway, shops, an abandoned theater, the city's streets and alleys, big and small apartments… the new sets contain several references to all previous movies, helping expand the scale of the current one.
In fact, everything is "more" or "bigger" in Scream VI. The budget went up by $10M, the cast is larger, the chase sequences are even longer, the kills are much more violent, and the levels of gore have never been this brutal. All with the aim of giving regular viewers reasons to keep coming back while also hopefully winning over new fans. Even composers Brian Tyler & Sven Falcouner's score feels more complex as it incorporates classic tracks with new music. There are a few moments to stop and breathe, making the two hours or so pass by relatively quickly due to non-stop entertainment.
Still, it's the main performances that really elevate Scream VI. For those who might've doubted Melissa Barrera, the actress demonstrates all her talent by leading this sixth film superbly, taking advantage of the mental instability of her character, Sam Carpenter, to show two versions of herself. Jasmin Savoy-Brown (as Mindy) and Mason Gooding (as Chad) contribute with their tremendous charisma and irony, with Dermot Mulroney (as Detective Wayne) being the highlight when it comes to new characters. It's a pity that Samara Weaving and Tony Revolori have so little screentime.
Nevertheless, Jenna Ortega is playing in another league. Along with the exceptional Mia Goth, the young actress is the sensation of the moment and shows why in Scream VI. From her intense expressiveness to huge emotional range, Ortega quickly became one of those names whose mere presence alone is enough to convince me to see a movie. Her chemistry with Barrera couldn't be better, both helping each other to make the story as captivating as possible. The first two acts have everything I wanted as a fan of these films…
Unfortunately, the third act is one of the most disappointing of the entire Scream saga so far. Franchises and the subversion of expectations are precisely the main themes addressed within the satirical dialogue between many of the characters, but Scream VI lacks assertiveness in these conversations. In addition to the fact that many opinions are repeated from previous movies, the impact isn't the same. This is due, in part, to the fact that they have a much lesser connection to the development of the narrative, especially the ending that involves the revelation of Ghostface(s).
Scream VI had a lot of ground to cover, but it only tries to explore its topics in two scenes, focusing more on the basic slasher elements than on creating a thematically rich story that elevates those same moments of suspense and horror. Even looking at those two scenes, the dialogue is pretty much just comparing originals with their respective sequels & remakes, generating a superficial discussion of taste instead of analyzing how the industry and the online community deal with the incessant attempts to create new franchises.
The final reveal is quite predictable, and the sequence leading up to it feels extremely forced. The saga is known for not taking itself seriously, so narrative and logical inconsistencies are to be expected, but it also has never been the type of franchise that requires viewers to turn off their brains completely. Personally, "movie logic" issues are some of the most irrelevant details in film criticism, but Scream VI pushed me to the limit with decisions far from being "reasonable." A couple of fake deaths are particularly frustrating, mainly due to the way they were shot. Worst of all is a lack of courage to move forward with bold decisions.
Scream VI is satisfying enough as another sequel. The new location and sets bring much-needed freshness to the franchise. The killings have never been this visually violent & gory, pushing the entertainment levels of a pretty fast-paced story. Melissa Barrera proves that she's capable of leading a film of this scale, but Jenna Ortega plays in a league of her own. Unfortunately, the third act is everything that it shouldn't be: predictable, forced, underwhelming, and incapable of bringing together all its meta commentary – lacking development, or a plot. One too many inconsistencies, even for a saga known for not taking itself seriously.
Manuel's Rating: B-
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