There’s a bit of habitual scene-setting chatter – spoken in clever ‘meta movie’ speak – in this sixth sequel to Wes Craven’s unarguably classic horror Scream (1996). In that scene, one of the films core characters explains what a ‘requel’ is (it’s a sequel to a ‘reboot’ aka franchise reset, of which the last film in the series is considered) and how this type of film must be bigger, bloodier, and subvert all expectations. It’s also noted that a ‘requel’ exists merely to milk an I.P now that the series’ reintroduction to the marketplace proved popular, with the main drive now simply continuing the franchise – for better or worse.
And if the unimaginative title didn’t already tip you off, that’s exactly what Radio Silence’s follow-up to their surprisingly effective Scream (2022) ‘reboot’ is – a rather typical, not nearly as crafty movie interested in impressing audiences than getting another eftpos transfer out of an already sold globe of t(w)eenagers.
And while Scream VI does deliver in the bigger and bloodier stakes (there’s some welcomingly feral kills here – and they’re a hoot!), and directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett do subvert expectations with an imaginative but shaggy opening sequence (featuring Samara Weaving, star of their much more imaginative Ready or Not) that’s where the thought, ingenuity and surprises end.
After the obligatory pre-credits kill, we learn that that the four survivors of the Ghostface murders – Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega as Sam and Tara Carpenter and Jasmin Savoy Brown and Mason Gooding as the Mason twins – have left their cosy town place of murderville, better known as Woodsboro for a fresh start in New York City.
Some are doing fine after the rampage that left their friends, and ex-friends, in the morgue while others like Sam – who you’ll recall is the daughter of the late, famed murderer Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) – are unhealthily struggling with their encounter with the series’ villain Ghostface. But when the villain reemerges in their lives, our heroes have to tap into their own lethal sides as they team with a plucky FBI assistant (Hayden Panettiere, reprising her Kirby Reed role from Scream 4), a veteran NY copper (Dermot Mulroney) and feisty reporter (Courteney Cox, reprising the role she’s played in every Scream film) to beat the bad guy at his or her own game.
Transporting a film usually confined to a small suburban town to New York, or any big city for that matter, should be an excuse for a horror franchise to have some fun with the tourist spots. But you won’t be seeing Ghostface slay folks in Times Square here or Gail Weathers chased upon the rooftop of Empire State here, nope. If the Vancouver filming location and Neve Campbell’s absence are any indication, the budget would seem to be considerably smaller – than previous installments- here with proceedings confined to an apartment and interior police building, as well as a rustic entertainment complex that could really be anywhere. We’re in multi camera sitcom territory here, as far as EXT’s go.
Whether that budget also paved the way to some last-minute radical script rewrites or tweaks, we’ll likely never know, but James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick’s script has robbed us of some of the franchise’s staple twists and wonderful core character arcs. Firstly, a legacy player is given nothing very remotely interesting to do – seriously, this is the most underutilized Cox’s popular Gale Weathers character has been used to date – and so much of the third act feels rush written and messy, in particular the big ‘villain reveal’ moment, which isn’t so much disappointing as it is going against the film’s own proclamation that everything in a ‘requel’ has to defy expectation, because the conclude doesn’t. You’ll see it coming like a Skeet Ulrich cameo in a reflection.
Still, there is is some fun to be had here (in that Scream 3 sense – fans get the comparison), and the new target market (emphasis now seems to be on forgetting the originals and mostly honoring the recent one and that’s fine; there’s a new target market now) will lick the bowl clean. There’s an enthusiastic and largely fantastic young cast, our two leads especially appealing, and the filmmakers’ determination to up the ante and creative kills here by having them really throw down when it comes to some no-holds-barred fight back moments save the movie.
Much like Wes Craven’s first sequel to his original ‘90s Scream (the brutal but not nearly as imaginative Scream 2), Radio Silence’s follow-up to their franchise debut isn’t as clever or fresh, and there’s not so much tension as there is tedium here, but if it’s super fun slayings you’ve come for.. it’s got ’em. In spades. And they do look, er, killer.