Cinema Dispatch: Scream VI

Scream VI and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures

Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett

The Scream franchise is certainly a unique presence in horror with a few solid entries under its belt and a premise that frankly hasn’t been replicated well by anyone else.  The blending of slasher tropes with whodunit elements feels like one of the most obvious premises imaginable, right up there with using Superheroes as the basis of big summer blockbusters, and yet nothing has really tried to put their own spin on it outside of arguably the Saw movies which itself ran out of steam the same way Scream did after the third one.  The reboot series of films which started with four has had some interesting takes on the formula and a few good ideas to keep the series relevant, but can they keep that momentum going long enough to round out the trilogy, or will it crash and burn as spectacular as Scream 3 did?  Let’s find out!!

After the events of the last movie, the survivors have decided not to stay in Woodsboro and instead move to New York City for a change of scenery.  After all, it’s not like slasher villains have a history of making New York City the one other place they go to kill people, right?  Sure enough, another Ghostface Killer makes themselves known and it’s up to Sam and Tara (Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega) to find out who is donning the outfit this time and to keep their friend group from becoming mincemeat.   This includes Mindy and Chad from the last movie (Jasmin Savoy Brown and Mason Gooding) as well as newcomers Quinn, Ethan, and Anika (Liana Liberato, Jack Champion, and Devyn Nekoda) who could all be the new killer because that’s how these things usually work out.  Oh, and of course, Gail Weathers shows up again (Courteney Cox) because this is a Scream movie and we can’t have one without at least one of the original survivors.  Will Sam and Tara survive yet another serial killer that’s hot on their heels, and in doing so resolve the tension that’s been building between them since the last time this happened?  Who could the killer be this time, and what new rules of horror movies need to be explored in order to stay one step ahead of Ghostface?   What exciting new ways of murdering are available to Ghostface now that he’s in the big city?  Maybe he can stab someone in an overpriced apartment instead of an oversized suburban home!

“Can you even name another horror movie that takes place in a bodega!?”     “Uh… Vampire Vs. the Bronx?”     “NO!  NETFLIX MOVIES DON’T COUNT!”     *BANG*

Yeah, this movie is not very good I’m afraid, but before I start in on this very disappointing movie I want to put my cards on the table.  This movie stumbles on a particular pet peeve of mine which is carbon copy sequels which are ones that take the story beats from the last film and just do them over again.  I can take sequels that are similar or ones that don’t have a lot of new ideas, but when you’re simply repeating the last movie I feel like I’m just wasting my time.  This is one of the most guilty examples of it I’ve seen since Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, but what also didn’t help this movie’s chances is that I saw Scream 5 for the first time the night before seeing this one, so for most people, the comparisons aren’t likely to resonate so strongly and even then I doubt most people are going to be all that bothered by it.  I on the other hand found this to be insufferable and a complete waste of what could have been the most significant shakeup to the franchise since the soft reboot of four.  Maybe demanding significant changes at the end of another trilogy is not a reasonable request, but I’d argue that stagnation is what killed this series off after the first trilogy and frankly the movie does itself no favors by emphasizing the new setting as the shiny new toy for us to play with.  Said toy is severely underutilized with only two or three scenes that take advantage of the setting with the subway scene, in particular, being a massive letdown and a low point for the movie.  It’s a perfect setup for something we haven’t seen in a Scream movie, and yet it plays out exactly as you would with almost no fanfare or intensity.  Say what you will about Jason Takes Manhattan, but at least they got a few chuckles out of its cheap and underwhelming gimmick!  Still, whether we set it in Woodsboro, Hollywood, or New York City, Ghostface can’t help but feel tired and played out as it bangs on the same drum it’s been playing since the nineties, and while I went with the shark-jumping levels of self-awareness of the last film, it’s just grating here and is yet another sign of them scraping the bottom of the barrel to keep fans engaged.  The one thing I was holding out hope for was the ending as the series has been pretty consistent with giving us a winding mystery with plenty of red herrings before a fun villainous turn to set off a thrilling climax.  Sadly the mystery is about as half-hearted as the change which trades in any genuine intrigue to wax nostalgic about the last five films in a way that can charitably be described as earnest but more often feels cynically manipulative.  I won’t spoil anything here, but the amount of iconography and clues to the last film feel like distractions, and the big reveal at the end does not justify any of it, nor is it interesting in its own right.  The reveal is perhaps the worst of the entire series and the post-reveal scuffle has no dramatic weight to it which makes it just as much a slog to get through as everything else here.  So is there anything good?  Well, the cast from the first film has solid chemistry and there are some solid performances all around.  Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega are good actors even if their character arcs are as blunt as a baseball bat to the head, and I think Hayden Panettiere holds herself well in what clearly seems to be an audition to be the next protagonist of the series.  There are, if nothing else, enough crumbs of plot and character for a much better movie to come out of all this and I’d be interested in seeing a sequel that actually takes steps away from continuity to get back to the core appeals of the series instead of just recycling the tired old formula again trying to convince us that its self-awareness absolves it of being lazy.

Wait, now Gale is the one on the phone!?  Well, excuse me, writers!  Clearly, you’re onto something truly unique and innovative with this one!

This is a movie that doesn’t know the words to the song but thinks it can by simply mouthing along.  What made every Scream movie interesting is mushed up and thrown back in our faces here to astoundingly diminished returns and while it’s not incompetent in its execution, it’s utterly pedestrian in its impact.  I suppose it’s worth seeing if you are a fan of these films and are genuinely invested in the film to film continuity, but there just aren’t enough new ideas to bother seeing it in the theaters.  To me, the franchise can only stay relevant if it evolves with the times and at this point, the ironic self-awareness of it all feels like a relic of an earlier time; dragged along from sequel to sequel as a way to differentiate itself from other slashers without ever considering if doing so undercuts the point that it was trying to make in the first place.  All I’m saying is that it’s gonna need more than a change in zip code to keep me engaged, and perhaps they’ll learn that lesson by the time we get to the next one.  That, or they’ll just make an ironic joke about bad endings to trilogies and Ghostface will wield a lightsaber or something.

2 out of 5

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