Scream is that rare franchise that does not really have a single bad film in its line up. That is not to say that some of the entries are not far better, but more so that even the worst Scream film is still an enjoyable slasher that manages to make some interesting commentary and criticism of Horror at its time. The latest entry into the franchise is no different even with the shifted focus on the newer cast of characters from the previous film. However, for all the praise, rave reviews, entertaining theater experience, and impressive box office numbers, I found Scream 6 to be one of the weaker films in the overall franchise. Definitely not the worst but in the latter half of the six movies.
The plot of Scream 6, oddly, follows the similar story of Scream 2 with the main characters of the previous film (Scream 5), Tara, Mindy, and Chad (played by returning cast Jenna Ortega, Jasmin Savoy Brown, and Mason Gooding) attending college the year after surviving the new Woodsboro Massacre. Tara is followed by Sam (Melissa Barrera) who wants to make sure her sister is safe from the tragedy that her deceased boyfriend, Ritchie, caused. Sam is also still struggling to come to terms with who her father (Billy Loomis) was and what she did the previous year to save herself, her family, and her friends. As well, unlike the other survivors, Sam’s experience with the Woodsboro Murders has taken a darker turn with media, both social and traditional, making her out to be a psychotic murderer who was the actual mastermind behind the tragedy she and her loved ones wen through.
This is the first inkling we get of social commentary, and it could have been a very intriguing examination. After all, we have seen the speed and efficiency in which the collective internet turns on people. The rise and fall, usually by being taken down, of people has become a common favorite pastime of social media circles. Some is deserved. Some is not. And it would have been fascinating to see that conversation play out and have a larger impact on the story and Sam’s ultimate development. Unfortunately, not much is done with this, and it eventually falls flat when it comes to light that the collective backstab of Sam was actually a ploy by the killers. Which is both a let down and illogical in its presentation, but more on that later.
The movie begins with a classic cold open in which Ghostface tricks an attractive young woman, in this case Laura Crane played by Sam Weaving who has previously worked with Radio Silence Productions in Ready or Not, into a surprise attack through a phone conversation. Again, pretty much the expected opening scene. However, in this case, we see Ghostface immediately unmask himself. Of course, this ends up being a clever ruse as we follow Jason (Tony Revolori) back to his dorm room and learn of his connection to and appreciation of Ritchie’s past exploits. From here, we get the real cold open introduction as Jason and his roommate are dispatched by the movie’s actual Ghostface as a warning to Sam and her cohorts and admonishment of Jason’s attempts at abducting Ritchie’s past creative pursuits of murder and mayhem.
Admittedly, I found this to be rather clever and surprising. I began to wonder how much the new production and writing team would play with and alter the established formula of the films. Obviously, this consideration did not matter in the end as the film squarely returned to formula, but this little surprise was a nice reprieve that I wish the film had attempted more of.
From the opening scene, we get the standard Scream movie setup and execution. We are reintroduced to the main characters from the previous installment and caught up to where they are at this point in time. Sam is in therapy and having a pseudo relationship with her cute neighbor. Tara, Mindy, and Chad are living it up in college trying to forget and move on from the past year. We also are introduced to the new cohorts: Jack, Chad’s roommate; Quinn, Tara’s friend and roommate as well as Wayne’s daughter; Anika, Mindy’s girlfriend; Danny, Sam’s new love interest; and Wayne Bailey, an NYPD officer and Quinn’s dad. Of course, we also eventually get Gale into the mix and are given a spoken explanation for Sydney’s absence in the movie.
Of course, at some point in the film we are also given the framework for the film. Mindy, continuing the role of her late uncle, breaks down the new rules of the film they are in. She states that they are no longer in a requel, but are in a franchise. This was pretty much the moment I realized that for all the marketing and promotion and budget and new blood, Scream 6 was just a rehash of Scream 2 and was trying to be clever, like previous installments, but without really having much to say. For one, franchises come before requels. In fact, the only films to get the requel treatment have been established franchises because they have enough narrative and audience to merit the possibility of such a thing. Second, outside of the word franchise, the stated rules are basically the same rules Randy said in Scream 3 for a trilogy. Third, for all the new rules and possibilities stated, the film does nothing with them and plays it very safe by just having the same plotline of Scream 2 down to the reveal of the Ghostface killers, except Scream 2 at least killed more characters off. Yes, this movie had a higher body count, but it was mostly unknowns who didn’t matter instead of actual named characters.
As well, for all the teases about how the returning and legacy characters could be killed or could end up being the new murderers themselves, they all magically survived their very mortal wounds and suffered no real consequences of worth. Sam did not go crazy and go on a murder spree regardless of the supposed mental trauma she was suffering from her past and the internet. Tara was a bit insufferable but no more than any other average teenager and still managed to take out one of the killers, survive several attacks, and get a love interest. The returning twins were once again stabbed but survived and actually helped in solving the mystery this time around. Hell, even Gale survived again even after reverting her character back to being the pushy, aggressive, success obsessed journalist for the third, or fourth, time. Frankly, it was a bit more of the same with even less critique or commentary.
Beyond that, one factor that truly took me out of the experience and I found to be exasperating was the use of the internet and how seemingly it only worked for and favored the killers. Technology has always been a bit of mixed bad with horror, and the Scream franchise has tried its best to address technology and its use in the world in relation to the actions of Ghostface. In this installment, the toxicity and use of social media and internet is a key plot point. At the final fight, one of the killers even mentions how they specifically worked to make sure the mob turned against Sam which, again, would have been an interesting take. However, I, and anyone who has ever spent anytime online, know how the internet, and in particular social/fandom spaces, operates. So, the fact that in an entire year, not a single person learned of the existence of Ritchie’s family, the new trio of Ghostface killers, even though he used his real name. Or that he had owned an entire movie theater in New York City with extensive memorabilia that required bribing police and lawyers to obtain. Or that his father was in law enforcement. Or how his father transferred to the biggest police force in the country with no discovery. Or the cheap excuse/explanation how the father being a midlevel detective allowed him to manipulate the entire police system. Again, somehow by pure miracle the internet and social media managed to only help the killers without ruining or complicating their plans. That was genuinely annoying because for the Scream franchise to ignore such a basic detail reads as simply lazy storytelling and world building to seem clever but not want to put in actual effort.
Even with all my complaints and criticisms, Scream 6 is still a fun, engaging, slasher film that makes great use of its cast, budget, and executes a solid film. Which it is; it’s just a subpar and average Scream movie.