Ghostface Takes New York in the Bloody Good Scream VI

Pictures Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

“What’s your favorite scary movie?”

In 1996, Wes Craven revitalized the slasher genre with those five words in his groundbreaking meta-horror-comedy Scream. That one movie spawned a successful franchise with six entries and no end in sight. After 2011’s Scream 4, the franchise seemed to end until the filmmaking group known as Radio Silence (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett) rebooted the franchise with 2022’s Scream. Rather than a clean slate, that movie was an enjoyable continuation of the main franchise, just like the other Scream sequels. All the Scream movies are good (in their own right) and deliver what they’re pitching: a fun, meta-whodunnit with the characters you love and some gnarly kills.

But, like Craven, Radio Silence knew they needed to change things with Scream VI. It couldn’t just be the Woodsboro killer on the loose yet again. They decide to go bigger and bolder. We’re in New York City, the stakes are higher, and the cast can’t rely on legacy characters to save them this time. For big Scream fans (of which I am one), this may seem concerning, given that it goes against most of the “rules” that made this franchise so great.

Ghostface runs after someone with a large screen in the back, protecting a movie of Ghostface.
Ghostface on the run. Photo: courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Fear not Scream-heads, Radio Silence has hit it out of the park with Scream VI. For a franchise that has gone for over 25 years, multiple sequels, a requel, and now a sequel to the requel, this movie has no right being this good. It can’t reach the heights of the original Scream—which is an impossible task—but it is unequivocally the best Scream movie since the original and an outright fun time at the movies. 

After the events of 2022’s Scream, Sam (Melissa Barrera) and Tara (Jenna Ortega) move to New York City, along with surviving twins Chad and Mindy (Mason Gooding and Jasmin Savoy Brown, respectively). A new spree of Ghostface killings follows them to the Big Apple and the core four must fight to prevail once again. They are joined by a crew of new characters/targets/suspects in addition to Woodsboro and news icon Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and survivor Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere), now an FBI agent. 

Scream VI is all about subverting the audience’s expectations and Radio Silence waste no time in doing that. The opening kill is unnerving and incredibly different from the previous movies. No spoilers here, but the movie starts with a bang and shows you can’t trust anyone or anything they say. This scene also shows Radio Silence embracing the New York of it all.

It was really common for horror franchises to have one of their entries set in New York City (see: Jason Takes Manhattan), but recently there haven’t been many. Radio Silence brings that trend back, primarily because the city itself is so scary and daunting. The crowded streets, the subway, and aggressive people make for their own horror movie—now add a serial killer to the mix. The core four have to evade Ghostface with all of these obstacles in their faces which makes for some entertaining and frightening situations. Woodsboro was calm and eerie whereas New York is hectic and claustrophobic. It was a fantastic decision by Radio Silence to uproot the group to such a big city and flip everything on their heads. 

Sam and Chad try to escape Ghostface from their New York City apartment as they receive a ladder.
Sam (Barrera) and Chad (Gooding) attempt to escape Ghostface. Photo: courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

The killings that take place in the various locations throughout the city are what make Scream VI such a blast. I can confidently say the stabbings and deaths have never been better in this franchise. There have been some brutal ones throughout these movies, but Radio Silence directs some demented kills. The 2022 Scream kept the gore similar to the previous films, but this one feels more in line with the directors’ great 2019 movie, Ready or Not. There’s a copious amount of blood and knives entering people’s bodies in ways they have never through the six films. One sequence involves a garbage can that’ll have the auditorium shrieking with how gruesome it is. 

Even amidst all the brutality, we never lose the meta-humor that differentiates this franchise from other horror franchises. All the characters acknowledge how absurd the situations they find themselves in are but it never gets “Ryan Reynolds-schtick” annoying. Mindy delivers the compulsory rules monologue which is always a delight to watch. A line mocking Letterboxd users was the highlight (and hit too hard as someone who logged Scream VI as he was leaving the theater). There are callbacks to all the previous movies and multiple references to past killers which die-hard fans will love. 

What really sets this entry apart and, ultimately, makes it a more successful movie than 2022 Scream is how the “new” cast makes this franchise their own. The weakest part of last year’s movie was the shaky performances from the rebooted cast, especially from Barrera, who struggles to replace Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott. Really, the legacy cast saves that movie with a hefty dose of nostalgia and gives a security blanket to the core four. In Scream VI, there’s no more security blanket. 

Kirby, Mindy, Ethan, Sam, Tara, Chad, and Gale are in an abandoned theater that the killer has turned into a shrine of various Ghostface killers with one enclosed in a glass case.
The characters find themselves at the killer’s lair. Photo: courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Campbell does not return as Sidney to the franchise due to financial disagreements with the makers and, while you do miss seeing Sidney (the GOAT final horror movie girl) at the end of a Scream movie, I think it strangely helped the movie. The core four couldn’t rely on the legacy cast anymore and they do a terrific job of giving us an updated, confident, and fun version of the Sidney-Gale-Dewey trio we are so used to seeing. Gale is used perfectly in this movie and doesn’t overshine the main characters, and while you could argue that Kirby is a legacy character, she seems much more in line with the new cast rather than the originals. 

Barrera, albeit still with some suspect acting, is drastically better in Scream VI. Her dialogue delivery is more confident and I liked the obscure direction they’re taking her character in. Sidney is the model for her character, but she is Billy Loomis’ illegitimate daughter and has a violent streak in her. Ortega gives the strongest performance of the bunch and gets a lot more to do as Tara. She’s a modern-day scream queen but can also fight when asked to. I wonder if the franchise eventually makes her the central character—she’s far more natural in this world than Barrera. Brown and Gooding are both charming, delivering some of the movie’s funniest lines. 

Cox gets the best face-off with Ghostface in Gale’s stunning NYC apartment. It’s a joy to see her in this role, though I have some issues with how her character is dealt with. Likewise, it was a good move to get Panettiere back into the franchise. She gives this movie an extreme 2011 vibe with her character and dialogue, but it fits so well. I don’t want to say much about the new cast for the risk of getting into spoilers, but everyone is cast well and does an admirable job. 

Gale picks up Ghostface's call in her New York apartment at night.
Gale (Cox) answers Ghostface’s call. Photo: courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Perhaps where this movie stumbles is in its third act, a key part in all the Scream movies. This is where we find out who the killer is and what their motives are, culminating in a fun set piece. In Scream VI, the action is great and the setting is very cool, but it fails on the killer reveal and motives. Again, no spoilers, but the choice is a safe one in a movie with some bold choices. To ensure this franchise stays strong, Radio Silence will have to make the reveal/motive something we haven’t seen in a Scream movie before. I have faith they’ll do it sooner than later.

I hope Radio Silence never stops making Scream movies. It will be nearly impossible for fans not to enjoy an entry in this franchise if they keep making interesting decisions like Radio Silence does in Scream VI, while still retaining the core of what Wes Craven originally created. I went into Scream VI expecting a solid movie and still can’t fathom how entertaining and successful it was. It’s going to be tough for another 2023 movie to be my favorite scary movie of the year. 

Written by Aqib Rasheed

AQIB RASHEED is a staff writer at Film Obsessive. Member of the Chicago Indie Critics and served as the Resident Film Critic for the Loyola Phoenix from 2021-2022. An admirer of movies, old and new, from all over the world. President of the Al Pacino and David Fincher fan clubs.

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