Reviewed for FilmFactual.com by Karen Benardello
Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Writer: James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick
Cast: Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mason Gooding, Liana Liberato, Jack Champion with Skeet Ulrich, Hayden Panettiere, Courteney Cox, Dermot Mulroney and Samara Weaving
Opened: March 10, 2023
Screened at: Regal Union Square, New York City, NY, 3/7/23
Honoring classic genre tropes while also distinguishing the difference between new and legacy characters and plot points has been a long held tradition in Hollywood horror movies. The ‘Scream’ franchise has found extreme success doing just that in a comical, meta way since the release of its first entry in 1996, which helped make household names out of its lead star, Neve Campbell. The series is continuing its successful run as a property that empowers its female leads with the release of its fifth sequel, ‘Scream VI,’ this weekend, courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
The latest installment in the franchise was directed by returning helmers Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, who initially garnered attention in the slasher genre when they directed the acclaimed 2019 horror comedy, ‘Ready or Not.’ The helmers not only reunited with the latter film’s lead star, Samara Weaving, who appears in Scream VI, but also Scream (2022)‘s writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick.
‘Scream VI’ reunites the four surviving lead characters from its immediate predecessor, who are led by Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera), the illegitimate daughter of Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), one of the two killers in the series’ original movie. She’s joined by her half-sister, Tara (Jenna Ortega) and two of her high school friends – Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown), the most franchise-conscious member of the group, and her twin brother, Chad (Mason Gooding), who nicknames them “The Core Four.”
The siblings have moved from their small town of Woodsboro, California to New York City, after the most recent Ghostface killing spree left them as the only survivors in their group of friends in ‘Scream (2022).’ The trauma from the experience – which involved Sam’s boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid) and Tara’s best friend Amber (Mikey Madison) as the masterminds of the killing spree – has affected each of them differently.
Tara and the twins are attending college, while Sam works two jobs and wrestles with her connection to Richie, Amber and her father, which leads her to be very protective of her younger sister. Even though Sam’s hovering hyper-vigilance upsets Tara, who just wants to forget everything that happened in Woodsboro and lead a normal life, things seem to be going reasonably well otherwise.
The group’s sense of security is soon displaced with fear, however. They’re attacked by a new Ghostface killer after attending a Halloween party with Ethan (Jack Champion), Chad’s roommate, and Mindy’s girlfriend Anika (Devyn Nekoda). With the help of detective Wayne Bailey (Dermot Mulroney), the father of Sam and Tara’s roommate, Quinn (Liana Liberato), as well as Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere), who’s now a special agent in the FBI, The Core Four will do whatever it takes to survive another Ghostface massacre.
‘Scream VI’ honors the franchise’s success in interweaving resilient, distinct characters who aren’t afraid to defend themselves in emotionally intense, captivating fight sequences. While the movie stays true to the series’ enthralling whodunit element of who the new Ghostface killer is, Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett brought more of an action-film aesthetic to the franchise’s fifth sequel. The directors collaborated with the film’s stunt coordinator, Alexandre Cadieux to create highly choreographed fight scenes and spectacular stunts that take place at stunning heights.
Cadieux, Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett highlight the actors’ physical capabilities through action sequences that allowed the performers to actually perform the stunts themselves. One sequence that truly stands out is when Sam leads and encourages several of her friends to crawl on a rickety ladder between two apartment windows several stories above the street.
‘Scream VI’ also thrives on the fact that Vanderbilt and Busick built on the cast members’ connections from the series’ previous installment to emphasize the returning characters’ unbreakable strong connection. The Core Four truly feel as though they’re a real, supportive family as they help each other contend with the past, and how they’re also working together to get through their current ordeal of fighting the new Ghostface.
Much like in its immediate predecessor, Barrera thrives in ‘Scream VI’ as Sam, who’s not afraid to confront her past and present fears. The actress doesn’t emotionally or physically hold back as her character sets out to do whatever it takes to protect her younger sister. Barrera is fearless in emphasizing how Sam is such a complex character over her moral struggles; she’s still fighting back against her continued visions of her father urging her to embrace the salvation she feels in physically stopping those people who are targeting her.
Sam feels a continued sense of satisfaction of unleashing all of her anger and hurt through fighting back against her opponents throughout the latest ‘Scream’ follow-up that began in the previous entry. But in the latest installment, Barrera embraces her character’s realization that she feels empowered by fighting back and defending herself, her sister and their friends.
Ortega, meanwhile, infuses Tara as a foil to her older sister’s toughness. The younger sibling is more in touch with her feminine and sensitive sides than Sam, which makes her more believably frustrated over having to be guarded all of the time. Sam is so overprotective of Tara that the latter purposely acts out to assert her independence in a profoundly stellar performance by the Golden Globe-nominated actress.
Tara uniquely begins the story in the sequel in denial about what happened to The Core Four in Woodsboro so that it’s easier for her to move on with her life. However, as the new Ghostface killer emerges, the SAG Award-nominated Ortega exudes a relatable vulnerability after she begins to slowly accept that the Ghostface killings have begun again.
‘Scream VI’ powerfully outsmarts its predecessors, as it continues the franchise’s successful run as a property that empowers its female leads, in part through its captivating fight sequences and emotionally intense character development. Barrera and Ortega once again give powerful, captivating performances as the resilient Sam and Tara, who aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves, their loved ones and their beliefs. The new movie infuses new life into the franchise by both observing and subverting the rules of the slasher genre.
Melissa Barrera (left) and Jenna Ortega (right) star in ‘Scream VI.’ Courtesy Paramount Pictures
Fun Film Fact: While its story is set in New York City, ‘Scream VI’s principal photography took place in Montreal.