Normally by the time a horror franchise reaches its sixth installment, it’s time to call it quits. Films like SAW, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, and especially HALLOWEEN all have famously bad part sixes. (Somehow, FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES is one of the best in that particular series, being a notable exception.) Amazingly, twenty-seven years after the release of the original SCREAM, the sequels continue to impress with relevant themes, whip-smart horror movie references, and exceptional performances. Not every SCREAM movie is perfect, but I wouldn’t call any of them bad. SCREAM VI leans pretty far toward the “perfect” side of the scale.
Set one year after the events of SCREAM (2022…AKA 5CREAM), we find our new heroes, torch freshly passed from the franchise’s iconic legacy characters, residing in the city that never sleeps…or perhaps the city that sleeps with one eye open. Each of our surviving characters is processing (or not processing) what they’ve been through differently, and when yet another Ghostface makes himself known, they’ll have to band together to survive. For a film set in NYC but filmed in Canada, I must admit, it has a distinctly “New York” feel to it. From tiny apartments to the horrors of public transit, the danger factor is only amplified by the hustle and bustle of city life.
The movie is scary. Edge-of-your-seat scary. The common complaint of the last film’s lack of a chase sequence is more than made up for, utilizing New York as a dangerous playground for any maniac wielding a hunting knife. Blood and gore run aplenty in perhaps the most gruesome SCREAM yet. When we’re not recoiling in fear and disgust, we’re treated to excellent, heartfelt scenes with some very good character-building. Radio Silence founders/directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (READY OR NOT) and writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick were the perfect team to update and recalibrate these films, and their love of the property shows throughout.
Our young cast is more than wonderful to watch. Returning as Sam Carpenter, Melissa Barrera is engaging and impossible to avoid. While her performance in last year’s SCREAM received mixed reviews (mostly due to her character’s burden of clunky, expository dialogue), she is terrific here, balancing grief, guilt, and darkness quite well. As her sister Tara, newly crowned Scream Queen Jenna Ortega is just as captivating as ever. She and Barrera play very convincing sisters with a complex and extremely well-written relationship. Rounding things out are Mason Gooding and Jasmin Savoy Brown as twins Mindy and Chad Meeks-Martin. They’re lovable, charismatic, clever, and very easy to root for. That’s one of the strengths of the SCREAM series: rather than unlikable or disposable young people, we truly invest in these characters, making the stakes for their safety all the higher. It should not go unmentioned that the four leads of the most successful horror franchise today are all people of color. Also worth mentioning is the return of fan-favorite survivor Kirby Reed, played by Hayden Panettiere. Her presence binds the new films to the first four from Wes Craven. Between her and Courtney Cox’s (very well-utilized) Gale Weathers, somehow, it’s comforting.
Horror fans: See this movie ASAP. Members of the SCREAM fandom are notoriously lousy with spoilers, and this is one you won’t want ruined by Twitter trolls. There are worthwhile horror references, Easter eggs, and hints at possible future storylines. This sixth installment is sure to spawn a seventh, and while I have faith in the filmmakers, I worry how many times they’ll be able to pull this off. Regardless, I can’t wait to SCREAM again.
SCREAM VI is opening in theaters March 10th.