Horrors of 2023: Scream VI

The excitement around the Scream franchise is infectious. New entries are major events in the horror community, and the discourse dominates all the horror social media sphere, igniting debates, predictions and feuds. I myself made a point to revisit the entire franchise backwards from Scream V all the way back to the very first, legendary film.

All I can conclude from that exercise is that the franchise is comprised of missed opportunities and fascinating moments. Perhaps the main thing that diminishes in return as the franchise progresses is the commentary on horror cinema.

Also, I can report that Scream VI is an excellent horror film, if not my favorite Ghostface reveal or meta-commentary.


Scream VI (2023)
James Vanderbilt, Guy Busick
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Notable Cast: Melissa Barrera, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Jack Champion, Henry Czerny, Mason Gooding, Liana Liberato, Dermot Mulroney, Jenna Ortega, Tony Revolori, Samara Weaving, Josh Segarra, Hayden Panettiere, Courteney Cox,
The Scream V “Core Four” survivors – Sam (Barrera), Tara (Ortega), Mindi (Savoy Brown) and Chad (Gooding) are all doing college in Manhattan. A new Ghostface murders a sweetly awkward, yet beautiful film studies professor (Weaving), and soon begins to target our protagonists and their friends/acquaintances. Mayhem ensues. Featuring the return of fan-favorite Kirby (Panettiere) and franchise stalwart Gale Weathers (Cox).

With apologies, I’m going to post my reactions in a haphazard and slightly non-coherent way. Feel free to tell me to take writing lessons.

Noo Yawk, Noo Yawk

Disclaimer: I love New York and The City has my heart. Far from the racist reactionary visions that our current right wing pundits want you to swallow, New York has community, humanity, beauty and love a-plenty. It also has its horrors. It’s not about romanticizing or demonizing, it’s about an entire view.

A Scream movie set in Manhattan is generally a wonderful idea. Whether you like it or not (I generally don’t but I’ll allow it in a smart, sharp horror movie), Manhattan based horror will often queue some of the public associations The City has in the mind of the general public: the 1970’s, where crime was rampant, danger awaited at every corner, everyone was a suspicious stranger and Kitty Genovese rules apply.

In Scream VI we’re given some great scenes of slasher mayhem and tension. Of note is the subway sequence. In a race to get to a location and finally solve the murders, the Core Four and associates choose the New York City subway system. Why they didn’t hail a cab or rideshare is beyond me, but so be it. Depending on the time of day, the subway can be a jarring and disorienting experience. To add to the disorienting feeling, it’s Halloween season, and as the group is separated by aggressive costumed/masked crowds, one of the Core Four is viciously attacked in transit. The subway car is chock full of costumed party-goers, wonderful tributes to horror movie classics. Watching this you might also think of The Warriors, where that movie’s protagonists engage in a public transit race while targeted by garishly costumed enemy gangs.

Let me state that Halloween in a New York City subway car is pure magic. In the evening, as everyone heads home, to their party, or to the Halloween parade, you’ll share space with superheroes, rock stars, horror villains, historical figures, funny and creative parodies of the latest headlines and pop culture moments. I only smile when I think of it.

What else to say about the Manhattan setting? I’m pretty sure the bodega scene should not have been that easy for our killer. Faux Central Park looked terrible. And I’m also laughing at red-herring love interest Danny (Segarra) and his handy dandy ladder. That a Manhattan resident needs or keeps such a long ladder in what’s surely a small apartment with low ceilings is odd.

The Good

Good performances by our crew ( a vastly improved Barrera), a well edited and coherent narrative, and a strong emotional core to the film are all things I can praise. The celebrated Scream opening kill was fun, if highly serendipitous for our opening Ghostface. And that leads me to:

The Missed Opportunity

If you have seen the film you know that the short-lived opening Ghostface was a disgruntled giallo bro pissed off at his disdainful professor. It would never be commercially viable, but the metatextual Scream sequel I want would have this guy and his partner staging their own giallo movie with all of that genres rules and tropes. Maybe Scream 7 could involve the Core Four on their junior year abroad summer jaunt to Italy, France, Spain, etc.? That would take copious nudity, meandering plot, spacey soundtracks, less than empowered final girls, and bottles of J&B, and that would probably make future Scream creators very nervous.

The Disappointment

If only the film had settled on some sharp meta-commentary on horror cinema trends. As Randy’s niece, Mindi Meeks is our horror geek chorus (unlike her uncle, she gets to have a big sex life). She provides the meta-commentary on what Scream VI is supposed to be, and it’s kind of a tired laundry list of “sequel requel” that doesn’t add up to much other than “Scream VI is the new Scream 2.

Then there’s the matter of our legacy characters and absence thereof. I didn’t miss Neve Campbell’s presence. It’s perfectly fine to let Sidney avoid the mayhem until the production company can pay Campbell what she’s worth. I absolutely miss the character of Dewey, but I accept his poignant and meaningful exit in Scream V.

Which leaves Courtney Cox’s Gale Weathers. Gale has some interesting moments here, including a bomb Manhattan apartment and amazing Ghostface battle, where Gale has her very first telephone conversation with the killer in the history of the franchise. What made me sad that the character growth we were promised in Scream V – her giving up trashy exploitive journalism glorifying killers, and choosing to honor what’s surely the love of her life – ended up regressing hard. Gale wrote another horrible book for the fame and fortune. She has a boy toy whom she’s pragmatically nonchalant about losing to a Ghostface attack. Maybe there’s an excellent question to explore here: is Gale nothing without Ghostface? But that would take a whole other nuanced movie to do justice.

And what of our Ghostface killers? I didn’t enjoy the cheap, out-the-ass reveal. I did like Dermot Mulroney’s campy bereaved father, but generally, building a murderous legacy out of Scream V‘s Reddit warrior insanity feels a little weak. Despite the horror fan shenanigans of Randy and Billy, Scream 1 through 4 has the dark, gothic legacy of Maureen Prescott threading through the narrative to give those stories some heft. I like Jack Quaid and his Scream V performance, but this ridiculous, insta-sociopath family is nothing to build a significant narrative around.

Finally: It’s now expected that anyone who gets viciously knifed up or shot can revive. That’s fine for the villains of course – where would Michael and Jason be without that ability? – but as far as the heroes, in a world/universe that’s meant to lack any supernaturalism whatsoever, it’s annoying and now there are no stakes anymore.

In other words. I’m tired of everyone’s Wolverine level healing factor.

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3 thoughts on “Horrors of 2023: Scream VI

  1. πŸ˜‰ i think what dewy brought is the lovable loser/unlikely hero who is really the heart of the group. the chemistry btw the original core cast is a rare thing achieve and nearly impossible to replicate so i think moving forward they need to make a change that works for the new krew.

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