WARNING: Spoilers for Scream VI
It was a long time coming, but Scream (2022) finally revitalized the franchise! And now we get the inevitable follow-up, a sequel to a requel (but really, this is just Scream VI). But sequels are never as good as the original right? WRONG! Not only is Scream VI better than the previous entry, it is one of the best of the whole franchise. But you may be asking yourself "movie number SIX? Among the best of a film series?"
Scream VI pulls off the impossible by focusing on character first. Sam and Tara, the two best written characters from Scream (2022) return alongside their friends Mindy and Chad. Not only does this film continue dealing with the trauma of the previous film, but it uses this opportunity to let Sam and Tara grow as siblings. Sam has been dealing with the toxic environment of online discourse and misinformation. She has been at the center of a rumor that she was the Killer in Woodsboro the year before, not Richie. This feels very timely, as we have learned in recent years that just the slightest online rumor can completely destroy a person's career.
Ever since Richie carved up her friends, Tara has been pushing the events aside; choosing instead to drink heavily, party, and engage in casual sexual encounters. Sam disapproves, and is always ready to drop everything and protect her younger sister, even if she doesn't want it. This is exemplified in a party scene where an intoxicated Tara wants to go upstairs with an older college guy who clearly only wants to take advantage of her. Enter Sam with a taser to prevent this unseemly event from happening. But Tara is not happy. The stress on their relationship is one of the key elements of drama, and the sisters' arc throughout the film is very well crafted, culminating is an emotional moment between the two as Sam learns she needs to trust Tara more than she has.
Chad and Mindy also fair much better in this film. Before they were relegated to the role of "explainer of the rules" just like their dearly departed uncle, Randy Meeks. However, they are much more rounded as characters this time around and get to show that they are more than just a stand-in for Randy. Chad in particular shows just what kind of person he is: sensitive, sweet, and caring. He also seems to be the new Dewey in that he's survived being stabbed so many times, it's nearly comical. And Mindy has a lot of fun ragging on herself throughout for not being able to keep up with the constant rule changes and surprises.
The "Core Four" as they are referred to in this film, really help anchor the action in a place of emotion. You honestly want to see each of them make it out of this alive. Jack Champion, Liana Liberato, and Dermont Mulroney join the cast as Ethan, Quinn, and Wayne respectively, and each of them are welcome additions to the ever expanding cast.
One of this film's greatest strengths is its relentless pacing.
The editing here is tight, unlike in Scream (2022). This is the longest Scream film to date, but it does not feel like it. The stalking and attack sequences are some of the most intense we've seen. The film uses its New York setting very effectively, like the ladder scene which takes advantage of the vertical layout of the many high-rise buildings in the city. The subway is also used to creepy effect. And I'm happy to report that the film does not feel the need to shoehorn a famous landmark into the proceedings. It would have been easy for them to manipulate a situation in order to feature Ghostface in the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty. But we are thankfully spared. The filmmakers instead use the grimy urban setting very effectively. The bodega sequence is a standout of the entire series, and proves that just just because you are in a city full of people doesn't mean you are safe. Our characters are constantly surrounded by more people... and yet they've never felt so alone.
But this is the first Scream film NOT to feature Sidney Prescott.
And while her presence is missed, the film proves that as long as the characters are well written, Sidney may not be as necessary to this franchise as we previously expected. Of course she will come back in a sequel, but this particular film feels right by focusing on Sam and Tara. The only reason Sidney returns in the previous film was because Dewey was directly involved. I don't think she would rush out to see Sam and Tara just because they shared a similar experience. So Sidney's presence may have just complicated things.
That being said, we do get two legacy characters returning: Gale Weathers once again, and the most welcomed return of Kirby from Scre4m! Kirby is now an FBI agent with a particular interest in any Ghostface appearances. Hayden Panettiere returned to acting specifically for this role, and she still has the wit and energy we have come to expect from Kirby. I really hope we see more of her in the future. Gale on the other hand is at the center of one of my main complaints about this entry. Her presence is pretty much limited to an extended cameo. She doesn't do much to further the plot other than find the Ghostface museum (more on that in a minute) and try in vein to convince everyone she is on their side. I wish Gale had more to do here. Especially considering she's back to being a pariah after writing another book about the previous film's events (even when she said she wouldn't). It's frustrating seeing Gale backtrack. But we do still get some regret in this decision from her. It's even harder to convince the Core Four she is there to help, and I hope this feeling continues to build into a redemption arc for her in an upcoming sequel. But here, she's kind of wasted.
My other main complaint is an issue of logic. At one point a character dies and their body is taken in by the police. But later that character is revealed to be alive. So, did none of the coroners realize it was the wrong person? I will confess that while I was watching the film, I didn't think about this at all. The relentless pacing, and engaging characters ensure that this plot-hole whizzes past you before you realize. But if you think about it after the fact, it's a bit of a head scratcher.
WARNING: FROM THIS POINT ON I WILL DISCUSS MAJOR SPOILERS.
If you have read up to this point and are thinking "well I'm sold. I want to watch this movie without knowing who the killer is and what their motivation is and would like to discover that on my own," then SKIP this next section and jump directly to the Overall conclusion. However, if you have already seen the film or don't care about knowing these details, continue reading.
Of course the big new addition is the Ghostface museum.
We discover that this was the private collection and shrine of Richie ("Stab" franchise mega-fan, and Killer #1 from Scream ). Not only do we get masks from each Killer in the franchise, but he has plenty of other memorabilia; including Gale's previous books, bloody used knives, and even burned up scripts and film belonging to the late Roman Bridger (the Killer from Scream 3). This goes a very long way in retroactively making Richie an even better villain. We see here that he wasn't just some fan gone nuts, but a truly devoted follower. No wonder he was so mad at "Stab 8"!
But of course no Scream film is complete without the reveal of the Killer (or Killers) behind everything. This time the film gives us THREE Killers in the form of Ethan, Quinn, and Wayne, who reveal themselves to be Richie's family. This shocking reveal calls back to Mrs. Loomis from Scream 2, but if I'm behind honest, it works much better this time around. For one, Wayne (father of Richie and the detective assigned to the case) is a father that truly loved his son. Not only did he not abandon his son, but he used his police connections to gather the artifacts within the museum for Richie. And having a brother and sister involved adds an extra level (and another person with a knife). So it's nice to have an entire family working together for revenge.
Like its predecessor, Scream VI had a lot going against it. It was rushed into production and released barely a year after the previous film. Not only that, but when negotiations with Neve Campbell fell though, the writers had to furiously re-write it to accommodate. By all accounts, it should not be good. But it achieves the impossible, not just being a superior than Scream (2022), but one of the best in the whole series. The directors learned from their mistakes and put their best foot forward, delivering a film with relentless pace, tense directing, well-rounded characters, good dialogue, and shocking twists. This is the extremely rare fifth sequel that rocks!