When a series has truly shot the moon, wiped itself off with the tatters of good sense and embraced its profoundly unlikely ability to top its predecessor, there are only two places you can go: Space or Manhattan. Friday the 13th sent Jason to both with horrendous results, not the least because those locations somehow seemed secondary. With the marketing for Scream VI leaning heavily into the New-“I’m walkin’ here”-York of it all, and coming off of a relatively well-received legacyquel, there was reason to be optimistic.
Scream VI doesn’t disappoint, though it’s not exactly special. Thinking back to the first Scream, its inventiveness and genre redefinition, the kills still stick in the mind. The unattended popcorn engulfed in flames while a presumed star of the film is hung in her own backyard before the title has even dropped, the garage door squishing a character’s middle till it falters and sends sparks in either direction of their dangling limbs, the body sliding from atop a van onto the windshield obscuring the driver’s view, the TV meets head situation; good stuff! New York may be ever-present as a location-cum-death-trap in Scream VI (they’re in a bodega, I guess), and the scenes involving escaping a high-rise apartment and commuting via the subway are fun, but otherwise, if you’re dying in this movie, expect to be stabbed. Brutally at least.
The violence and gore are suitably messy in this instalment, more so than in Screams 2 through 5 (annoyingly also titled Scream), a quality which aids Ghostface in retaining some menace, helpful considering how hard it can be to take this series seriously (it may be impossible to care less about the personal lives of these characters, ditto for their amateur detective work). Lately the question with this series isn’t who will Ghostface mutilate next so much as it is, who among the mutilated will show up later on a gurney still kicking and ready for the next sequel. By this point, concluding the identities of the killer, the killed and the distinctions drawn between the two along the way seems a little arbitrary.
The creators know their material, and there are self-aware qualities to its treatment that help to keep viewers on the right side of the “They’re goofing off/up” line, and by serving a more streamlined (airing on scary) product, it’s likely we’re heading for the most successful entry in the history of the series. That’s good for Universal, who’ve at last firmly renewed Scream’s roster of perpetual slaughter fodder; many of the previous film’s newly introduced characters return and are clearly here to stay. That cast has a persuasive energy even as they’re made to recite quips that are the very embodiment of middle-aged Hollywood’s Gen Z lexicology.
Scream VI plays the franchise’s hits, and though it certainly won’t win you over if you’ve been weighed down by franchise fatigue, for consistent fans of the series this instalment will be all but top shelf, even if nothing has come close to matching the original. Wes Craven, we miss you.
Scream VI is a better put together bloodletter trendsetter than the featherweight second place sequels as of late, though whether this fair-weather open letter to the debtors at Universal who’ve turned purple from sequel dispersal is equal to its prequel; I deem the theme as far as I can gleam is that the mainstream can’t beat the supreme Scream. Wes Craven gone, but not forgotten.