We are going to tread carefully on this deep-dive Scream VI review slash breakdown slash whatever you want to label it as. To quote Ghostface from last year's requel in expressing my sentiments about getting to write this: "It's an honor." This thing is a beast so buckle up if ye dare. TLDR: Scream VI kicks ass. OK cool. LFG.
I'm going to link you to my previous coverage to create a bigger buffer for when I start discussing spoilers. Because let's face it, a blog about a Scream movie won't be terribly interesting unless we get into the actual details of the plot. Typing in riddles and shrouding key story beats in mystery is a tiresome exercise in this particular genre mashup of whodunnit, slasher flick and more.
To even do you uninitiated readers an even bigger solid in case you're new to the franchise, I'll only hyperlink to the trailer write-up I did, and paste the mere teaser breakdown blog link below:
Aaaaand if you want my decidedly non-spoiler thoughts on Scream VI, they're contained almost in full in this here TikTok. Shot this thing at approximately 2 a.m. so forgive any lapses in touching on certain things. My only gripe with it is not giving a shoutout to Wes Craven. So thank you again, Wes Craven, for revolutionizing the horror genre and helming four Scream movies.
OK before we get into spoiler territory, I'll give you my updated rankings of all Scream movies. Ready?
- Scream (1996)
- Scream VI
- Scream 4
- Scream (2022)
- Scream 2
- Scream 3
Looking back on that teaser blog from December after drawing up this list, I'm surprised at the discrepancies. Scream 4 seems to be the most rewatchable for whatever reason. Well, there are multiple reasons that I won't get into. Again, we're in non-spoiler territory still. Suffice it to say OG screenwriter Kevin Williamson clearly had a ball throwing the audience for a loop in his return.
All this padding made me think of this hilarious story told by comedian Lee Mack on The Graham Norton Show several years back.
How are we doing? In the clear enough yet? Was that enough of a disorienting misdirect?
Can you feel the suspense?
Apropos for Scream VI, I shall begin a countdown…
One disclaimer: Apologies if these lines I quote from the movie aren't word-perfect. Difficult without instant playback at the ole fingertips.
SPOILERS FOR SCREAM VI FROM HERE ON OUT
We're going to break this down section-style based on either common tropes/sequences seen across the Scream franchise. Hope you have a killer time reading.
A new opening kill spin kicks off a series of excellent set pieces
HOLY SHIT. This was incredible! I thought one of Samara Weaving or Tony Revolori would be revealed as a surprise Ghostface killer. Right from the jump, you can tell it's his voice on the other end. He's meeting his film studies professor out for a drink. Or so she thinks. First of all, he's catfishing her. Secondly, he pretends he's lost. That leads to an encounter in the alley where Weaving's Laura Crane meets her demise at the hands of Stab movie and Ghostface superfan Jason Carvey.
Haha. Get it? CARVE-Y?
Jason's thrill off the kill is short-lived, though. His roommate Greg is dismembered/beheaded in the refrigerator after the actual Ghostface engages him in a game of hot-and-cold. Not long after this stunning surprise, Ghostface proceeds to gut Jason like a fish.
Funny how one of the most notorious, New York City-set horror films is Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan…
…and Scream VI kills off a killer named Jason for the proper opening kill with a twist. Hell, even "Carvey" and Jason's surname "Vorhees" is a slant rhyme.
This whole intro sets the tone for several more thrilling, suspenseful Ghostface killing sequences, including a convenience store involving a shotgun and the subway ride that's shown in the teaser. The kills are at an all-time high in terms of brutality, and sheer number of literal stabs. Never has Ghostface moved so athletically before, either. You still have trademark stumbling around and getting drilled by inanimate objects during chase scenes. Overall, though, more coordinated and menacing than usual.
The Core Four, indeed
Tell you what, Mason Gooding might be the most naturally charismatic young actor to burst onto the scene in quite some time. A superhero role is in his future if he wants it. Sky's the limit. Cry nepotism all you want since he's Cuba Gooding Jr.'s son. Dude still needs to train up and deliver the goods. The good[ing]s? Nah, doesn't really work. Whatever. Mason Gooding delivers the goods.
In fact, it's Gooding's character Chad who coins the nickname "The Core Four", aka the group that consists of his twin Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) of course, and the Carpenter sisters Samantha (played by Melissa Barrera, referred to as Sam from here on out) and Tara (Jenna Ortega). Their dynamic is so much fun and honestly superior to what was built in the initial Scream trilogy.
Everyone is reticent to catch on to that "Core Four" moniker at first. By the end, they're all embracing it. There's a romantic subplot between Chad and Tara that raises the stakes at the end when Chad is seemingly stabbed to death by two Ghostfaces — only to miraculously survive!
I would've been heartbroken if they killed my guy Chad off. He has this mix of brawn, charm and sort of innate vulnerability. Thought for sure he was a goner. BUT NOT SO FAST. We're good. We're safe. For now.
An excellent exploration of legacy
Toward the end of the film, Kirby Reed — SHE'S BACK! Hayden Panettiere is back! — says to Sam, "Legacy doesn't have to be a bad thing." To me, that almost spells out the theme of the entire story.
Sam is grappling with the darkness inside of her that she believes she's inherited from her father, Billy Loomis. It was a genius device for Sam to be talking to the ghost of her father in quiet, self-reflective moments, when she's unsure what to do. Billy is always imploring her to slice and dice. Thankfully, she takes a more measured approach…but her walks on the wild side aren't telegraphed. You really get the sense that Sam does enjoy killing when it's justified.
Not long before Sam and her sister walk away from the latest crime scene in the final shot, she's seemingly hypnotized by Billy's Ghostface mask. As if it's calling to her. Oh hey, here 'tis in GIF form:
Not dissimilar to how Luke Skywalker's lightsaber attracts Rey like a tractor beam in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Hey, speaking of franchise requels! How about that?
While I don't think Scream is setting Sam up to break bad, you always kind of wonder if it's on the table. I mean come on, look no further than the last pic!
Courteney Cox's ever-iconic Gale Weathers personifies the exploration of legacy in Scream VI in a significant way, too. Tara burns the shit out of her at one point, basically saying Gale fears she'll be irrelevant if there isn't another Ghostface to report on or write a book about. One of the killers who pays Gale a visit later on even suggests to her, "Maybe it's time someone made a buck reporting on your death."
Since she barely survived the events of this movie, it's feasible that Gale could either ride off into the sunset, or have a juicy character arc that, perhaps, culminates in her sacrifice on behalf of one of the Core Four.
Aaaand ooooh, the flip side, ugly underbelly and toxicity of legacy is definitely explored. We see from the killer POV (intentionally vague about Ghostface identities for now, I'm building something here!) how twisted and fucked up legacy can make you. Some folks let that darkness consume them and act out in negative ways. They become consumed by it and it defines their entire identity instead of forging a better, healthier path for themselves. Others persevere and rise above their troubled roots.
You know, the classic nature vs. nurture concept. Except plenty of gray area in between those polar opposites is explored, specifically by Sam. She's walking a razor-thin line, and it makes her such a compelling central character. Even her therapist wants nothing to do with her! Sad news for him: He meets an untimely demise after one of the cooler shots in all of Scream lore:
Commentary aimed at cancel culture, conspiracy theories, toxic fandom and the court of public opinion is effective as far as underscoring how Billy Loomis' legacy casts a long, dark shadow over his daughter. Theories online speculate that she actually masterminded the latest Woodsboro killings and framed Richie. Her fight to rise above that noise is one you're not sure if she'll win. So far, she's succeeded in reining in her, ahem, killer instincts.
The more she crosses that line, the more we get into Batman territory. Follow me for a second. Batman doesn't kill because he's afraid that if he crosses that line, he'll stoop to the level of evil he's attempting to fight off. Remember that line from The Dark Knight?
Look what happened to Gotham City's white knight Harvey Dent. YIKES. OK I could probably go on about other iterations of Batman but let me stop before we get off-topic. SCREAM VI. Let's keep this slay ride going.
The new cast simply doesn't miss
My top standout among a stellar core of newcomers is Sam's neighbor/low-key loverboy Danny, played by Josh Segarra. This guy has sort of a mumblecore flavor to his line delivery that works so well. He'll be stumbling over words but then somehow pull off all these super-articulate lines and you're like, wait a second, what? Is he playing dumb? Is he yet another love interest who'll betray Sam's trust!? NOOOOOOO.
They do lean into Danny being a red herring since, as Sam says, he's "not Woodsboro". And I'm sure he's grateful for that.
Beyond Danny, we have the Core Four's friends Ethan Landry (Jack Champion) and Quinn Bailey (Liana Liberato). We know from the start that Quinn is the daughter of NYPD detective Wayne Bailey (Dermot Mulroney). Both Quinn and Ethan are fellow students at Blackmore College, as is Mindy's love interest Anika (Devyn Nekoda).
You won't find a weak link among these peoples. I remember Liana Liberato from a movie called Stuck In Love a while ago, hadn't seen her much since. Cool to see her shine here. And DAMN, Jack Champion! Going from the Avatar sequel right into the Scream requel sequel. Well done, sir.
If you love meta, you'll love this
At the very end of the actual first kill, Ghostface exclaims: "Nobody gives a fuck about the movies!!" In retrospect, that gives us an obvious clue as to who did the wetwork on that one.
Mindy is back to drop some movie-rule monologue bombs on us just like in the last Scream and even has some quippy one-liners that drew several of the biggest laughs at each showing I attended. At no point did the meta humor take me out of it, but like I said, I'm a sucker for how audaciously meta The Matrix Resurrections was.
Scream VI isn't quite in that realm of self-awareness at any point, in case that ain't your cup of tea.
The "hidden in plain sight" trope is exploited here so nicely. You're not gonna believe this, but Mindy identifies two killers in her first two guesses. She wanted to redeem herself for guessing wrong last time around. Pretty good!
My favorite meta moment might've been the very first minute, when that dreaded ringing of the phone commences. You fully expect the chilling voice of Roger L. Jackson on the other line. Instead, a hostess at a bar/restaurant answers and you don't hear who's on the other end. Has zero to do with what transpires from there. It's a great wink at diehard fans to let you know they're still gonna fuck with your expectations. It got me in the Scream mood straight away.
Those are merely the highlights I can think of off the top of my head. There are more. I'll leave something for you spoiler seekers to comment about.
A shocking red herring
Danny is teased a bit like I said. I'll talk a little more about one other suspect who was hinted at later on, but right before the big final twist, the actual killers try to pin everything on Kirby! Crazy thing is, you fully buy into it for a second.
Detective Bailey seems dubious of Kirby when she strolls in from the FBI in Atlanta to investigate the newest Ghostface homicides in New York City. He asks someone in his office to dig up anything he can on her. Seems like a mundane, perfunctory background check pretty early on. Then, it pays off as a sensational misdirect when Bailey reveals Kirby no longer works for the FBI and was fired two months ago. She'd gone on a downward spiral since the previous year's killings.
Can't imagine why.
Having seen Scream VI twice, you'd think I'd know whether or not Kirby's FBI firing was a lie. I really couldn't tell you. Doesn't matter much anyway, because mere moments later, Bailey pulls up to the theatre to rescue everyone from the two established Ghostfaces ONLY TO SHOOT KIRBY DOWN.
Thank goodness, Kirby has multiple hero moments, including the final Ghostface kill when she smashes the famous Stu Macher TV on poor lad's head. Which brings us to the grand finale…
THE KILLER REVEAL: Not one. Not two! But…
Three killers! THREE. It's never been done before! WTF!? So many questions! Hats off to Dermot Mulroney for his unhinged explanatory spiel about how he executed his master plan. Being the inside man of the whole Ghostface operation within law enforcement was a pretty wicked reversal.
But oh! It gets better! First to unmask himself is Ethan…who's not actually Ethan. He's using an alias and is Detective Bailey's son! And oh yeah, that means he's Quinn's sister. When Ghostface raids the Core Four's apartment earlier in the movie, it seems as if Quinn is dead. She is decidedly not dead. Her father swapped out her body for a fresh one at the "crime scene".
Detective Bailey rigged this whole thing. And why? What was his motivation? Another huge reveal: They are all Richie Kirsch's family, one of the Ghostface killers from Scream (2022). Sam's ex-boyfriend. They've been gathering Ghostface memorabilia thanks to the detective's access to police evidence and probably payoffs, etc.
Richie was an aspiring filmmaker, a Stab fanatic and his father clearly went off the deep end once he was killed. The children followed suit. A warped legacy to say the least.
Maybe I can suspend my disbelief better than others. Upon second viewing, the killer reveal seemed more obvious up until, you know, Quinn appears to be dead and Ethan is on the train with Mindy when she gets knifed! Like I said in the non-spoiler TikTok, argue with a wall if you didn't like the killers unmasking and why they did what they did.
One lingering fan theory that refuses to die — and what might
YOUR INSIDES a sequel look like?
Three words. The second of two original halves. One name. Another countdown there, you like that?
Fan theory: "STU MACHER LIVES."
They totally got me with this shit. I was hook, line and sinker on Stu's return that it totally blinded me from everything else. When Sam was visiting the shrine and addressing her father through the glass, I was convinced they'd use that to distort her reality, and that Stu would actually be collecting all these Ghostface artifacts and put himself front and center. I noticed in the wide shot following the first encounter between Sam and Billy that Sam's leg covered the nameplate where it'd say either "Billy" or "Stu". I think she might've seen "Billy" — but only when she was talking to her father's apparition.
Stu is name checked multiple times, too. Mindy tells Kirby she's not convinced Stu actually died. When the countdown was building toward something and the masks were being left at crime scenes in reverse chronological order, I thought for sure Stu would pop up, try to befriend Sam as some sort of long-lost stepdaughter and try to recruit her to take up the Ghostface mantle alongside him.
Shit. Wasn't to be this time around. MAYBE, however, something like that will happen in Scream VII. Last year's climax and killer reveal took place inside Stu's actual house from the 1996 Scream. I know there's more significance to that house and the requel's narrative than just Stu, but come on. He actually lived there. Then you get all these misleading breadcrumbs about Stu in the newest installment.
I'm telling you. That TV may have killed Ethan but I'm not 100% certain it killed Stu Macher. With all the stab wounds Chad survived in Scream VI, how ridiculous is it really to bring Stu back? Not very, in my humble opinion. It'd also be an organic way to bring back Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott. She deserves a proper on-camera sendoff.
So wow. I think that'll do it. Figured I'd go all-out for this one. I love the Scream franchise. It's in very capable hands from the cast to the crew to the super capable storytelling forces captaining the ship. Green light this next sequel, fast-track that production and give us a threequel in 2024, please.