Review by Sean Boelman
2022’s Scream was so successful that a sequel was almost immediately greenlit and entered into production that summer. It’s not unprecedented: Scream 2 came out in 1997, the next year after the original film's release, and managed to be just as good as its iconic predecessor. Disappointingly, Scream VI does not replicate that success, with plenty of good ideas that don’t fully come to fruition.
The film follows the survivors of the latest round of Ghostface killings as they leave Woodsboro in search of a fresh start in New York City, only to find that the danger might be following them. It’s the first film in the franchise since Scream 3 that isn’t set in Woodsboro, and that new setting is one of the few genuinely creative decisions the film makes.
Scream VI takes some even more ambitious swings than the last film when it comes to the meta commentary, but many of these efforts are in vain. The characters in the film — predominantly Jasmin Savoy Brown’s new generation of Jamie Kennedy — keep talking about how the “movie” they are living in is all about defying expectations. However, after an opening sequence that is very innovative and unique within the franchise, it’s largely just more of the same.
Once the film reveals its hand, it starts to become somewhat monotonous. There are obviously intense scenes throughout, but not enough of them, and despite the affirmations of the characters that “anyone goes,” this film deals very heavily in plot armor that means we never really feel the stakes. As a result, it feels very belabored in its over two-hour runtime.
The film also attempts to go even deeper into the trauma angle, but it doesn’t do so effectively. The first three sequels had similar themes, albeit without the psychological angle tied to Barrera’s character being descended from the original film’s killer, Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich). Unfortunately, it feels shoe-horned in here — with some of its commentary even feeling like a stretch.
Additionally, and somewhat shockingly, the acting is mostly not very good. Jenna Ortega is the sole bright spot, and deserves to become the film’s lead. The film’s true lead, Melissa Barrera, is clearly a talented actress, but seems to be struggling with the weight of the franchise. Of the non-returning cast members, the only ones that are memorable are Jack Champion and Josh Segarra, and not for good reason — both are terrible.
There are some really impressive sequences shot throughout, but as is the case with many films these days, they are mostly shown in the trailers. The two best and most suspenseful setpieces are the convenience store and subway scenes, and we’ve seen them virtually in their entirety in the marketing materials.
Scream VI isn’t a bad time, but it also manages to be the most boring entry in the franchise despite numerous claims of “new rules” or “subverting expectations.” Perhaps the intent is for the movie to defy our expectation of subversiveness by instead following exactly what we would expect of the formula.
Scream VI hits theaters on March 10.