‘Scream VI’: Ghostface Takes Manhattan and Revives Franchise


Screenshot from the “Scream VI” trailer (Courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

By Andre Montoya, Arts Writer


Any franchise that has reached six installments is bound to show signs of fatigue to say the least, yet “Scream VI” is arguably the most alive the “Scream” franchise has ever been.

Directing duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (known collectively as “Radio Silence”) return to direct this latest installment after serving up the last entry, “Scream V,” to similar fan and critical acclaim. Radio Silence also directed the acclaimed 2019 horror-comedy “Ready or Not,” so it’s more than safe to say the franchise is in perfectly capable hands. The absence of franchise mainstay and horror heroine Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) looms larger than Ghostface. Campbell firmly stated that she would not return for this installment, as the pay she was offered was not commensurate with what she brought to the franchise.

Somehow, and it is complete heresy to state this, the film works fine as the change in setting, protagonists and tone help make the movie feel refreshed.

The Big Apple

Ghostface attacks in “Scream VI” (Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Spyglass)

Ghostface has stalked the small, fictional town of Woodsboro, a college campus and the backlot of a Hollywood studio. Yet, in the heights of New York City is the most menacing the masked slasher has ever been. The three set pieces that stand out are a shotgun raid on a bodega, a ladder-assisted escape from an apartment and a typical subway ride in NYC.

Jokes aside, the sequence in the subway cars is so chilling, with its use of quick editing, unsettling silence and longer camera shots to increase the tension, that it will stay with anyone that watches it. It’s no surprise that it was what was mainly used to market the movie. For a horror fan, it’s an absolute treat, as it is full to the brim with references to horror films both classic and contemporary.

There’s not a single bad Ghostface sequence, even though there are quite a few of them as this is seemingly the most screen time the slasher has received. They each make use of slow, calculated suspense transitioning quickly to intense chase scenes.

A Killer Cast List

Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega in “Scream VI” (Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Spyglass)

While the franchise may have lost its main character, sisters Samantha (Melissa Barrera) and Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) more than make up for it, as the pair are arguably the heart of the film. Making the girls sisters that have an intimate connection to the original Ghostface was a stroke of genius. If Barrera hadn’t won any fans over in the last movie, she is sure to win many in this one. With the spotlight on her, she is able to create a more complex and sympathetic final girl with an edge to her that is sharper than Ghostface’s blade.

Ortega, hot off the heels of the mega successful “Wednesday,” further cements her as this generation’s “Scream Queen.” Tara is in an emotional state after surviving the events of the last movie, but like her older sister, it helps to make her a more sympathetic character. Twins Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown) also return as part of this new story’s “core four” as they call themselves in the movie.

Gooding is charismatic as ever, returning to play a literal “Chad.” Not only is he a jock with a heart of gold, he’s actually given an emotionally earnest storyline with a castmate that could potentially develop into something more in a future installment. Savoy Brown expertly delivers the iconic film introspection exposition the Scream franchise is known for. Not only is she the most engaging character, she also provides enough commentary to keep the audience engaged in what the movie may offer up next.

The cast of “Scream VI” (Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Spyglass)

Despite the dwindling cast of legacy characters, Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) and Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) collectively make welcome returns. As the only returning original cast member, Cox is definitely not misused. Gale is as sharp as ever and is pivotal for the movie’s plot thanks to her journalism skills. Her encounter with Ghostface is one of the most thrilling and will delight fans, as much attention is paid to the first conversation between them.

The first time the franchise tried to reboot with “Scream 4,” Kirby emerged as an instant fan favorite as an unusually fascinating film nerd. The Kirby that returns now is not as captivating, as the moments she gets to shine are too far and few between.

A Sleek Slasher

Ghostface in “Scream VI” (Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Spyglass)

Despite the glowing praise so far, there are still hiccups.

There are times when the movie feels comfortable killing off random “Red Shirts” and not cast members in the same way. Simply put, if a character dies from a stab to the gut, then every other character that is stabbed in the gut should die as well. The final twist and killer reveal was a surprise, but certainly not one of the franchise’s best. However, the Ghostface from before the mask-off moment and the way in which the tables are turned is so enjoyable that it’s forgivable.

Without getting into spoilers, every entry in the franchise has relied on the previous entries, particularly the original, to supplement the latest. This is exemplified by the museum dedicated to previous Ghostface rampages shown in the trailer. While it is great for any franchise to pay homage to what came before, at this point it feels like it is keeping the movies from forging a completely new identity.

Horror movies are always quick to turn a profit because of their short production times and small budgets. Unusually, this latest slasher flick is shaping up to be a financial juggernaut. In its opening weekend, the movie raked in $44.5 million domestically and $22.6 million internationally, making it the best performing “Scream” ever. Critically, the movie has performed similarly to the last entry with a 77% Rotten Tomatoes Critical Score and an improved 92% Audience Score. Impressively, it earned a B+ Cinema Score, which is unheard of for horror movies.

As the franchise’s most featured song “Red Right Hand” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds says, He’s a ghost, he’s a god / He’s a man, he’s a guru / You’re one microscopic cog / In his catastrophic plan / Designed and directed / By his red right hand.”


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