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‘Scream 6’ Is One of the Best in the Franchise, Even If It Bungles the Big Reveal

A big step up from the last ‘Scream’ and one hell of a fun, stab-happy ride.
Scream 6
By  · Published on March 10th, 2023

Wes Craven’s Scream (1996) remains an all-timer when it comes to horror/comedies as it delivers the slasher goods alongside plenty of fun beats. It’s equally deserving of credit, though, for being one hell of a whodunnit. That aspect carried on across Craven’s three subsequent sequels with scripts, casts, and direction all playing various degrees of trickery to keep viewers on their toes. 2022’s Scream requel — part remake, part sequel — fumbles that whodunnit angle in a big way between its casting and performances, and unfortunately, Scream 6 stumbles as a whodunnit for a completely different reason. Luckily for fans, though, the Radio Silence team delivers with nearly everything else ensuring that this latest entry still lands as arguably one of the franchise’s best with brutal kills, genuine surprises, and plenty of fun.

It’s been a year since the last slaughter in Woodsboro, and the survivors of that attack — self-coined as the Core Four — have all moved to New York City. Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega), Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown), and her brother Chad (Mason Gooding) are all drowning their past in alcohol, new relationships, and other joys of college, and Tara’s sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) has tagged along to keep an eye on them all. Unsurprisingly, their old pal Ghostface is also calling the Big Apple home these days, and soon the fresh killings leave the city’s streets red with blood.

Where Scream 5 was crafted as a melding of the old and the new, Scream 6 wisely puts the focus squarely on that core four. Of course, that’s not to say remnants of the past don’t rear their head. Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) is still a reporter with an insatiable nose for the Ghostface story, and Scream 4‘s Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) returns as an FBI agent (about time they showed an interest in this near three-decade long spate of serial killings!) hoping to catch the killer. The freshest faces and newest suspects belong to the group’s roommates, friends, and acquaintances played by Jack Champion, Liana Liberato, Dermot Mulroney, Devyn Nekoda, Josh Segarra, and others.

Writers James Vanderbilt and Gary Busick come out swinging almost immediately and shake things up in major ways. Normally the opening thirty minutes is fair game for review fodder, but honestly, the surprise of it all is genuine and best experienced without knowing the details in advance — so you won’t be getting them here. The story settles into the expected format soon enough as the cast is whittled down in brutal and bloody ways, and it’s hard to argue with most of the characters’ choices as they stick together and play things as smart as possible, with the result being some spectacular set-pieces.

The move to the big city is a smart one for numerous reasons, one of which is the abundance of people. Rather than ignore that and stick us in empty hallways and rooms again, Scream 6 embraces the challenge with glorious results. Violence explodes in a busy bodega, a packed subway ride becomes a nerve-shedding sequence, and an apartment attack spills out into an alleyway three stories up. The kills are mean, but they’re also electric with rage and razor-sharp knives — the sheer panic is visceral as slaughter unfolds with absolute abandon. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett understand these films are at their best when fun and fear collide, and they’re more than up to the task.

Scream 6 is just a wildly entertaining slasher for most of its two-hour running time. An early television glimpse of Friday the 13th‘s eighth entry, Jason Takes Manhattan, offers a knowing nod to horror history in the region (ie Canada). Composers Sven Faulconer and Brian Tyler dip into “Dewey’s Theme” from past Marco Beltrami scores when the character’s name is dropped. Sidney Prescott’s absence is explained away with a single line, and it makes perfect sense. Mindy does her familiar monologue, one that would make Uncle Randy proud, even if she seems to miss the mark at nearly every turn. That meta element remains, but the script leans a bit heavier on real-world mental states corroded by conspiracy theories to engaging effect.

And then the big reveal hits, and everything goes downhill fast. Don’t worry, there will be no spoilers here, and the explanation is well in line with the Scooby Doo shenanigans of past Scream films even if it does borrow liberally from at least one of them. The issue here comes down the whodunnit angle mentioned above. It’s a major selling point in these films as viewers and characters alike try to piece together clues and suspicions into a solid suspect list, but if you’ve seen the previous five movies — and looked at Scream 6‘s poster — well, you already know who the killer(s) is/are. Possibly worse, whereas past films played an honest game with viewers, here the rug is pulled out from under them in that some explanatory beats deflate a few of the film’s surprises to that point.

But enough about that (at least until I turn my argument into an essay…) as the main takeaway here should be that this isis a massive step up from the previous film and the best sign yet for fans that the franchise is in good hands with Radio Silence. End reveal aside, Scream 6 is a terrifically thrilling time delivering suspense, laughs, tension, and some insanely stab-happy murders.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.