Scream VI: A Meta-Thriller Back to its Roots

Andrew Britton argued in 1986, film audiences were drawn to the very predictability of slasher movies because “the only occasion for disappointment would have been a modulation of the formula, not a repetition of it.” The Scream franchise is no different. The plot itself is redundant. Redundant in acting, redundant in plot structure.

Image Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

However, we also know Scream as one of the slasher movies that reinvented the genre. The Scream franchise’s meta-commentary is why the films are considered beyond the post-modern genre of horror films. While many slasher films invoke meta-commentary; for example, Halloween (1978) has a character named Dr. Loomis, which references Psycho’s Sam Loomis, the franchise’s meta-commentary is not intertextual; it’s the text itself. While most slasher movies are about a maniac murdering someone, many of Scream‘s sequels invoke and are about slasher films.

The plot of Scream VI is a bit of Scream II with many Scream III. The movie takes us to a brand new city same as the plot of Scream II. The Core 4 have moved to New York City to go to college and escape what happened in Woodsboro a year earlier. However, as we already know, it won’t work with these movies. Within no time, Ghostface is carving bodies up left and right.

Ghostface has a chip on his shoulder in this city; attacking the Carpenters sisters in a grocery store and killing three bystanders. He also stabs Mindy in a train full of riders. He is gruesome and angry, which gives horror fans their fan service.

New Final Girl(s) Emerges.

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As I argued in my review of Scream V, most would agree that the franchise’s heart is Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell). She’s THE final girl. Audiences love to see her attacked over and over again because she always puts up a great fight. I agree for the most part, but I only think Sidney is as important as the people who attempt to kill her. The true heart of the Scream films is motive.

Motive drives the plot. Motive drives our connection to the final girl. In the previous movie, audiences were robbed of the importance of motive. Scream VI gave audiences back what they had been yearning for—a motive that connects us back to its roots.

My main critique of Scream V was that the film did almost nothing to connect us to Tara (Jenna Ortega) and Sam (Melissa Barrera) as Scream did for Sidney. In Scream VI, we can finally see Sam and Tara as the final girls they were meant to be in the previous movie. Tara’s struggles with not waiting to confront her trauma; Sam smothering Tara to deal with what happened to them; all help us connect to the characters in ways that were not present in Scream V.

The absence of Sidney adds to that; while we seemed to be waiting for Sidney to premiere in the previous movie, audiences were intrigued by the Carpenter sisters. One thing that has always been interesting is the final girl developing a swagger after surviving a murderer. Laurie Strode in Halloween (2018) and Sidney are great examples. Sam and Tara develop a swagger in the film, which is hard to ignore. The carpenter sisters have it down pat in this movie, with some great kills of their own.

The Good

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As mentioned in the film multiple times by our film connoisseur Mindy, Scream VI is a sequel to the prequel. None of the old rules apply. This provides a unique window for our directors to craft a story that does not dwell in redundancy. However, redundancy works for slashers, as Andrew Britton stated. Still, Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett attempt to make a new with this film. The kills are inventive, not as bloody as Scream V, but exciting. The number of killers introduced in the film makes for an interesting conversation.

Scream VI owes a lot to Scream II, which, oddly enough, is often regarded as the worst film in the franchise. Ghostface leaves clues at each murder scene that connects back to all of the Ghostface killers in the past. Although there is no real explanation for this (except for maybe nostalgia) like in Scream III, it was interesting to see. The final scene takes place in a theatre is well, the same as Scream III. Fans of the franchise will respect this decision. However, it does little to add to the plot.

There is a lot to praise in the film. There is a train scene that has some amazing cinematography and produces one of the tensest scenes ever in a Scream. Early in the film, a cross-apartment scene will have you on the edge of your seat. Gale produces a chase/fight scene that rivals her chase scene in Scream II.

The Bad

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Ghostface’s motive in the film works well if you do not think about it too much—certainly better than Richie (Jack Quaid) and Amber’s (Mikey Madison) motive in the previous movie. The monologue is always the film’s best part; Ghostface gets their time to shine. While Roman still takes the trophy home with his monologue in Scream III, Scream VI‘s monologue owes itself to Scream II. No matter what, the first four films always seem to haunt Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett. Whether intentional or not, these callbacks do little to set their films apart from Wes’s. While it is important not to lose the connection to the films that made the franchise popular, as new filmmakers, in a new generation, we have yet to see Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett produce something of their own volition. While fan service is important, filmmakers should not feel like they are held hostage by the IP they are continuing.

What Now?

Image Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Scream VI is what Scream 4 was for the series. The movie brought the franchise back to its roots. We got the final girls that we can actually care about! Strong motives for Ghostface are back. We now have a core group of survivors. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett are on the precipice of greatness if they can only live in the future and not the past. Scream redefined the horror genre at a time when slashers began to stale. Some have noted that Scream fell victim to its success in the last few years. I think Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett are on the precipice of greatness if they can only distance their art from the original films but hold on to what matters most to Scream fans. It’s a hard feat; I wasn’t sure after Scream V. But Scream VI convinced me these guys could hold onto the knife for a while.

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