What started more than two decades ago as a completely unexpected shot in the arm for a mostly dead subgenre has steadily declined into being exactly the thing that its initial mission statement railed against. Scream VI, the latest in what’s becoming horror’s most insufferable series, is almost catastrophically tired, offering not a single novel or surprising moment. Instead, it dives deeper into boring self-mythologizing, ludicrous sub-TV procedural plotting, and a fully irritating continued insistence that this has anything to do with movies or meta text, all of it served up by characters nobody could possibly be bothered to care about. Without a doubt, it’s the laziest entry yet.
Shifting locations at last from Woodsboro, California — we’re now in Manhattan — Scream VI rejoins the last film’s survivors: Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and her brother Chad (Mason Gooding) — both, annoyingly, related to Jamie Kennedy’s “legacy” character, more on that crap later — and heroines Sam and Tara Carpenter (Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega, respectively), all of whom have left their murder-besieged hometown for New York City to attend college together. All seem mostly OK except for Sam, who harbors a nasty case of PTSD due to both the events of Scream (2022) and the knowledge that she’s the daughter of Scream (1996) killer Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich, once again returning for a CGI-de-aged cameo). Welp, too bad, because Ghostface has popped up yet again, claiming that he’s going to punish Sam and Tara for… apparently not getting killed last time. How dare they?
This time the prospective killer or killers are obsessed with past Ghostfaces, even going so far as building a massive shrine to the previous crimes in an abandoned movie theater, a cute idea that falls apart under the slightest scrutiny, which wouldn’t be a problem except that the film is so boring you’ve got nothing else to think about except the stuff that doesn’t make sense (why do the authorities never once examine this place forensically and why do the characters have the keys to it?). Meanwhile, Scream 4’s Kirby (Hayden Panetierre) is also back as an FBI agent, and of course Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) needs a paycheck, too, prompting this movie’s movie geek character to embark on a truly embarrassing diatribe about the vulnerability of “legacy” characters. Why do the Scream movies always have to have their characters talk about movies like they’re in an 8th grade after-school film club?
Outside of some briefly effective bits that you could count on one hand, there’s nothing exciting about any of this. The Scream structure has become so ossified and the films’ direction so generic that the entire enterprise is fully diluted. All that’s left is for the audience to wait until the end when the villain’s or villains’ identity is revealed. This one isn’t quite as easy to call as the last one, but anybody paying the least bit of attention will probably still figure out most of it. Meanwhile, Wes Craven’s literate but prankster-ish personality is once again sorely missed; Scream 3 wasn’t a very good movie either, but there’s not a single idea in this movie as good as the scene in that one where heroine Sid is chased through a film set of the childhood home where she’d previously survived multiple murder attempts. As Mindy the movie geek says at one point here: “Fuck this franchise.”
Published as part of InRO Weekly — Volume 1, Issue 10.