The Scream franchise has come a long way from its meta-infused beginnings back in 1996 with Wes Craven’s genre-invigorating first outing. Now it’s almost 30 years after the original, and while the landscape of commercial and auteuristic horror films has changed, the Scream films have stayed mostly true to their roots, albeit adapting somewhat with the times. Which brings us up to the latest installment, Scream VI, directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, where we leave Woodsboro and follow our heroes into the Big Apple. Does this new location bring a fresh perspective into the aging franchise? It certainly helps, but its problems run a bit deeper.
Scream VI is a direct follow up to Scream (2022) where we follow sisters Samantha (Melissa Barrera) and Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega), as they leave Woodsboro behind and start a new chapter in New York City. Troubles brew when a new streak of murders starts again as they have to find out who the new Ghostface killer is.
This movie yet again features the famous cold open that all these Scream films feature, and it does not disappoint. It plays well with the audience’s expectations one has regarding these intros. Which is interesting since this idea carries over as the one of the main points the film wants to put out there, the concept of subverting expectations. Whereas Scream (2022) seemingly decided to embrace the classical and fun approach of the franchise’s early years, to the degree that it mocks audience remembers or fans who hate broad and subversive changes made to franchises, this new entry decidedly wants to somewhat embrace change, even if it’s at a snail’s pace. The killings are gorier than they’ve ever been and the most inventive I’ve ever seen in these movies. It doesn’t reach Halloween levels of gore, but they are more gruesome than before. It mostly lacks tension, but I’m certain most audience members and fans don’t really care much for the tension in these films, but instead they are more intrigued by the grizzly murders instead. In that regard, the fans will be pleasantly satisfied. I appreciate that the meta commentary is not as overbearing as it was in the fight installment, since I dislike how superficial the self-awareness is in these last few entries. It’s more interesting when the meta commentary is infused in the narrative and seen through the twists and turns in the plot, as opposed to a character ham-fistedly explaining the genre tropes and the rules, even though I understand that the monologue is a staple in the Scream franchise at this point.
The New York setting keeps it from being a completely generic experience, but I do believe the setting was severely underutilized. There’s two distinct scenes that implement the location expertly well and just makes me want more of that creativeness to flourish on screen. As for the rest of the film, they might as well have filmed it in Woodsboro, since they don’t add anything fresh in terms of location, space and imagination. Scream fans will enjoy the connective tissue and reverence this movie has for its previous entries. It sort of cleverly weaves together characters and references to the older movies and they have a justification for being there beyond just a shallow easter egg. That doesn’t mean it lacks Easter eggs, as it has a pretty great scene chock full of visual references all American horror fans will get a kick out of.
The Scream franchise in general needs to step up their game. In a world where we have The Conjuring, A Quiet Place, Smile, Barbarian and a plethora of A24 horror flicks, Scream is in desperate need of a fresh perspective or approach. It definitely has something going for it with the meta, self-awareness nature of the franchise itself, but in a world where a lot of properties are also self-aware themselves, the Scream films desperately need to find a new outlook. Perhaps Scream VI is en route to finding its new voice, perhaps these films are slowly trying to pave the way for these new non-legacy characters to shine and allow the filmmakers to play around with the genre and the story. Or perhaps Ghostface will go to space. Who knows?
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