Scream 6 Is Bigger and Bloodier — But Does That Make It Better?
Ghostface takes Manhattan in a scary, fun, and messy new sequel.
There probably never should have been a Scream sequel. (How do you top the smartest horror movie ever made? Spoiler alert: You can’t.) But as its title makes clear, that’s not Scream 6’s fault.
A franchise was inevitable, and in the latest entry from returning directors Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Scream grapples directly with what it means to be a franchise anyway. The answer isn’t quite as clever as the movie wants us to think it is, but it also thankfully doesn’t get in the way of delivering a top-tier slasher movie that will keep you guessing all the way until its baffling final twist.
Scream 6 is a movie deeply obsessed with the history of Ghostface, but that obsession can’t make up for the movie’s failure to produce an intriguing new addition to horror-villain canon. Despite its lackluster villain, Scream 6 manages to tell an entertaining and genuinely scary story that Scream fans will be re-watching for years to come.
Scream 6 picks up soon after the events of 2022’s Scream “requel” (which we can all now admit was always really just Scream 5). The “core four” survivors (Jenna Ortega as Tara Carpenter, Melissa Barrera as Sam Carpenter, Jasmin Savoy Brown as Mindy Meeks-Martin, and Mason Gooding as Chad Meeks-Martin) have relocated to New York. Most of them are attending a made-up college and going to frat parties, while Melissa tries to process the trauma of killing her serial-killer boyfriend Richie while also acting as an over-protective parental figure to her half-sister.
Things seem to be going mostly OK — until Ghostface returns. In a clever twist, Scream 6 opens with a classic blond female victim getting sliced up (Samara Wiley as a horror movie professor who fails to follow her own lesson plan and walks into a dark alley alone) only to immediately have her killer remove his own mask. Turns out there’s an entire Ghostface cult (complete with a shrine full of artifacts, including every Ghostface mask), but its leader quickly cuts down these impostors and sets out on a bloody murder spree with his sights set on the Carpenter half-sisters.
The resulting 122 minutes are classic slasher fun. There’s no shortage of stabbing, gore, guts, and jump scares as Ghostface stalks the “core four” while they attempt to stalk him back. Unfortunately, while this iteration of Ghostface will keep you guessing until the very end, the movie’s big Scooby-Doo reveal (who’s behind the mask this time?) feels half-baked and rushed.
As a movie, Scream 6 ranks near the top of the franchise. It delivers the thrill, violence, and whodunnit mystery the franchise was built on, all cranked up to 11. But the meta-commentary here is basic at best, and its Ghostface is one of the worst. (Weird for a movie practically obsessed with exploring the various killers who’ve worn that mask.)
The decision to set Scream 6 in NY is an interesting one (and a nod to Scream 2 moving the action from Woodsboro to a college campus), but it doesn’t add much to the experience. A creepy subway scene marketed heavily in the trailers is blood-curdling fun, and the controversial bodega-shotgun sequence is better than you’d expect. Aside from that, however, most of the movie takes place on generic interior sets and a made-up college campus that might as well be located in middle-of-nowhere New England.
Of course, the most important hallmark of any Scream movie is its meta-commentary. Wes Craven practically invented the concept with his quasi-self-parody New Nightmare and then perfected it in 1996 with Scream, in which horror-addicted teens discussed the rules of surviving a scary movie, proceeded to break those rules, and swiftly died. Since then, each film has riffed on the genre in its own way, with mixed results. Scream 5 introduced the term “requel” to cleverly define the current horror landscape, but Scream 6 is slightly less ambitious in its concept. As Mindy (still holding her own as an excellent Randy stand-in) explains, this is a franchise now, which means the violence is bigger and anyone can die in the service of IP — even legacy characters, gasp!
What this ultimately boils down to is a half-hearted horror spin on Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. Scream 6 brings back both franchise standby Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) from the generally forgotten Scream 4. The movie wants you to be excited when these characters interact, but watching Mindy and Kirby talking about their favorite horror movies doesn’t work anywhere near as well as Captain America and Spider-Man trading quips in the MCU. After all, at the end of the day, we’re here for Ghostface. (If Scream 6 should be compared to any franchise, it’s probably Fast and Furious due to the constantly repeated point that everyone who’s survived a Scream movie is one big family. Vin Diesel would be proud.)
That’s not to say the cast doesn’t do their best. Jenna Ortega continues to be the one true scream queen of the moment, Jasmin Savoy Brown will remind you why you’re so excited for Yellowjackets Season 2, and Courteney Cox has never been more badass.
But at the end of the day, the star of Scream 6 is the franchise itself. After all, no one is buying Gale Weathers action figures, but Ghostface masks keep flying off the shelves. And in a story where anyone can die at any time (and often do), maybe that’s a good thing.