“Scream VI” Takes Meta to Another Level

It’s one thing to be self-referential and it’s another to be an egomaniac. Scream VI manages to toe the line deftly with a thrilling installment to the Scream franchise. When the rules are all made up and the points don’t matter, it’s easy to wonder what the point even is? The point, it turns out, is perseverance, pluck, and accepting all parts of yourself, even the villainous.

Core 4
The Core 4: L-r, Melissa Barrera (“Sam Carpenter”), Jenna Ortega (“Tara Carpenter”), Jasmin Savoy Brown (“Mindy Meeks-Martin”), and Mason Gooding (“Chad Meeks-Martin”) star in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group’s “Scream VI”

Our “core four” leave Woodsboro and head to New York City! The Carpenter sisters, Sam (Melissa Barrera) and Tara (Jenna Ortega) are rooming together with newcomer Quinn (Liana Liberato). Quinn’s dad is a police officer, Wayne Bailey (Dermot Mulroney), which helps make the girls feel safe. The Meeks-Martin twins, Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding) are there as well. Chad has a roommate in fellow student Ethan (Jack Champion). Mindy also has a new girlfriend, Anika (Devyn Nekoda who is a longtime best friend of Brown).

Things go smoothly for about six months. Sam starts seeing Danny (Josh Segarra) who they refer to as “Hot Neighbor”. It’s a welcome respite after the disaster of Ritchie (Jack Quaid) in the last installment. Tara is in school and making more friends and things are finally getting back to normal. Cue a grisly murder on campus that brings everything to a halt. A Ghostface mask is found at the site and has the included detail of being a vintage mask, one that was possibly used in another Ghostface murder.

Sam and Tara try to leave the city, but Ghostface is one step ahead (or more often, right behind) them. Mindy surmises that they’re no longer in a sequel, but rather a continuation of the Stab franchise, which means all the rules have changed.

They get some help from Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and a surprise visit from Kirby (Hayden Panettiere), our unlikely heroine of Scream 4 whose fate was undetermined. It’s a welcome addition for fans of the franchise who knew that Panettiere was supposed to become the lead and star in movies 4 – 6. After the Weinstein shake-up and original director Wes Craven’s passing, all production was halted until the 2020 revival. In the film, we hear Kirby’s voice, but the writers and director seemed to want to include her in a much more meaningful way, thus waiting for Scream VI.

Overall it was a good choice. Panettiere is likable, but there are several questions around her part as an FBI agent in the investigation. This is one thing Scream VI does well. You can’t trust anyone, no one is safe and everyone is a suspect. As much as Mindy tries to lay down the rules, she usually gets upended by them in the process. In Scream (the fifth installment) she laughs at the unsuspecting person who is killed while watching a horror movie and then nearly becomes victim to the same fate. In a way, she’s the audience’s view as we try to solve the “whodunit” before the “who’s next?”

Ghostface on a train
Stranger on a Train

There are enough tongue-in-cheek moments so the audience knows not to take things too seriously, but it also sets the bar for how to get invested in our killers. In my screening, everyone figured out the killer(s) at different points and it was fun and engaging. Scream VI is made for the theaters and the directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett handle this wisely.

Every inch of the screen is accounted for and the creative use of small spaces adds to the tension. We all know those moments in scary movies where the person could have gotten away, but they tripped. Scream VI trades in obvious falls for the practice of hitting the assailant once and then trying to outrun them. Ghostface has always been a master gymnast and supernatural healer so the idea that you could incapacitate him with one blow seems a bit ill-informed, but you never hold it against them.

The movie was written and directed by the same team who did Scream 5 and will probably helm the next installment. Their obvious love for the franchise along with a tight script allows the audience to be very forgiving when the characters give into horror conventions.

The movie also does a great job of evolving its characters. Tara has been thrust into a franchise that the audience already knew about. Seeing her acceptance, triumph, annoyance, denial, re-acceptance and triumph again is a lot of fun. Also seeing Sam’s denial at being more like her father Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) than she thinks, is… well, a bit confusing, but it sows the seeds for the next movie which I hope explores this more.

Overall, Scream VI is a fun and exciting entry to the Scream franchise. It honors the movies of the past with thoughtful cameos and easter eggs. It’s well worth the watch and whets the appetite for more.

Scream vi subway mask

Scream VI is showing in theaters now.

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