The Plot: A year after the traumatic events in Woodsboro, sisters Sam (Melissa Barrera) and Tara (Jenna Ortega) have fled to the bright lights and big city of New York. Not too many knife-happy psychos there, right? After some film students are knifed up by a new Ghostface, the duo go to ground with their friends Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown). The new killer(s) has/have something else in mind, drawing together the legacy of all the previous Ghostfaces and knitting them into one bloody saga with Sam’s violent tendencies as the epicentre…
The Verdict: The Scream franchise. You know where you stand with it, being slyly referential about the tropes of the horror genre and the conventions of sequels. It was startlingly fresh in the mid-1990s when the late Wes Craven took the horror genre, then in danger of becoming derelict, and gave it the Re-Animator effect. Horror has been in rude health since and tends to be a safe bet for filmmakers and audiences. The 1996 Scream has yet to be bettered, even among its subsequent imitators like Urban Legend and I Know What You Did Last Summer. Ghostface wouldn’t lie in his/her/their grave though. After the trilogy came an OK fourth film in 2011 and last year the confusingly-titled Scream, with its so-called re-quel approach. The confusion over the titles continues with the latest entry Scream VI which has now adopted Roman numerals in an apparent attempt to threaten endless sequels, Friday The 13th-style. Is it any good though? Yes and no.
Scream VI moves forward without Neve Campbell for the first time, following a pay dispute which sounds reasonable from Campbell’s perspective. Final girl Sidney was the anchor of the franchise and without her, that sense of legacy is pushed further into the background. Instead, Gale (Courteney Cox) is still hanging in there along with the welcome return of Scream 4’s Kirby (Hayden Panettiere), as she matches film buff skills with Mindy. They still feel like token substitutions though. Instead, returning directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett continue to push forward with the story of sisters Sam and Tara, along with a mini Ready Or Not cast reunion for the observant. Melissa Barrera is a strong presence throughout and is easily the best thing about the film, with the co-directors playing around with the potential for Sam to give into her dark side. Sadly, Jenna Ortega is given less to do as Tara this time as too many supporting characters enter the fray, raise the number of suspects and thereby dilute the narrative.
Effectively, Scream VI is a re-jigged remake of Scream 2 in the same way that Star Trek: Into Darkness was a remake of Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan. For a franchise that prides itself on being original, that familiarity is all too obvious when the big reveal comes. The Scream films are modern whodunits with a slasher angle, something which Agatha Christie tried with her ingenious And Then There Were None. If only Scream VI had half of the sophisticated ambition of Christie then it would be a better film. Yes, there are some gruesomely entertaining kills and a thrilling subway sequence which locks the characters in the closet with the monster(s). There’s also a good line in humour courtesy of Panettiere and a concerted attempt to draw the whole franchise together – legacy and next generation – as one bloody, unhappy family.
However, it’s also hard to shake off the impression that the franchise is running out of knives and the ones that are left are blunt weapons. It’s as if Scream VI is frantically trying to outdo its predecessors – more aggressive, more gory, more theatrical – in order to justify its existence and keep the franchise going for one more film. It may just be a victim of the franchise’s success as it rehashes tired old gags (the supposedly dead killer who comes back to life is dutifully trotted out). Then again it’s clear that it should have ended three films ago with Sidney not worrying about who might come through an open door. Scream VI does moderately entertain and will do probably do killer box office, but the thought of VII, VIII, IX and more coming down the line would push it into the kind of territory that film-within-a-film Stab would be proud of. Time to lay Ghostface to rest once and for all, right here and right now.
Rating: 2.5 / 5
Review by Gareth O’Connor