It’s been a while since we’ve seen two Scream films release within fifteen months of each other. The length between Scream in 1996 and Scream II in 1997 was less than a calendar year. Yet history nearly repeats itself, with Scream VI releasing a little over 14 months after the newest installment. It’s no wonder that Radio Silence (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, & Guy Busick) and James Vanderbilt had their sequel ready to roll. While they cut some of the jokes, Scream VI might be the bloodiest and most explicitly violent film since the original. That’s no easy feat, given the blood-soaked battles in the last film.
After the events of Scream (2022), the Carpenter sisters moved to New York. Sam (Melissa Barrera) works a few day jobs and watches out for her younger sister. Tara (Jenna Ortega) attends college with Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding). They’ve all tried to move on from the latest Woodsboro murders. They found a fun roommate Quinn (Liana Liberato), who lost her own brother and has a cop for a Dad (Dermot Mulroney). They’ve also looped Ethan (Jack Champion) and Anika (Devyn Nekoda) into their group. However, when several of their classmates with ties to Richie end up dead, Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) and Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) return to help the Carpenters.
This time around, the characters joke about their popularity and their presence in a franchise, which allows for more twists and turns. However, the humor remains relatively light for a Scream film. Instead, Scream VI focuses on the very bloody consequences that await the returning characters. This leaves no one safe from the bloodlust of the most brutal Ghostface to date.
In that regard, Radio Silence run circles around many of its contemporaries. The gut-churning stabs and unconventional weapon choices seem to showcase a Halloween Ends of violence, with far better setup and character development. The old, flaking mask of the original Ghostface makes for an effective call to recent Texas Chainsaw and Halloween films. In that sense, the “satire” feels far more contemporary, poking its eye in the franchises that prefer style over substance.
The writing gives us far more backstory into each character, but opens the door to predictable endings. Yet at the same time, this Scream‘s success is not based on the whodunit nature of the kills. Instead, we get extremely poignant character development that is sure to set up a harrowing conclusion to the trilogy.
Ortega, undeniably the fastest-growing star of the cast, gets far more involved this time around. Her near death to kick off the first film put her out of commission for much of Scream (2022). Yet she’s integral to the mental anguish that Berrera’s Sam continues to suffer from. Her internal conflict remains as clear as ever, and her guilt has risen considerably. Berrera plays the brooding loner even better this time around. She can no longer keep her character’s relationship to her serial killer Dad silent, but at the same time, she yearns to push it further away. The two create the heart of the film with their sisterly bond, which helps keep us focused on the madness befalling them.
Radio Silence still peppers the film with new setpieces and embraces the urban setting. A shrine to the original Ghostface killers lies in a hidden warehouse in the city. More easter eggs than ever are on display, showing unique costumes and weapons from all five films. They even loop back to return Gale Weathers and Kirby Reed into the story. Their integration is actually strong, and allows them both to play off their own struggles within the franchise. While they are not the stars of this entry, they each get plenty of time to shine.
No place is safe, even allowing for a bodega-based set to shine for its unique limitations. In this regard, the production design and costume work of this Scream feels better than ever. Leaving Woodsboro opens a few more doors for our killers. It also allows Scream VI‘s amazing pre-credits sequences to soar.
At the same time, turning down the jokes inherently limits Scream‘s effectiveness as a slasher. Losing its special edge puts it in the same category as other kill-heavy films. While Scream has been known to lead in the genre, just as Carpenter’s version of Halloween had in the early 1980s, this one feels too beholden to modern tropes. Doing this without the corresponding comedy actually takes away from the overall enjoyment. Scream VI can still be a very entertaining entry, but these limitations mean it cannot rise to the greatness of 2022 or even Scream II.
You know what you’re in for when you watch Scream. It remains one of the most clever and exciting franchises in the horror realm. Knowing that Radio Silence is still guiding our journey only further adds to the excitement. This is certainly far from the last time Ghostface will grace our screens. With any luck, we might be looping back within the next eighteen months again.