An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Nathan Weinbender reviews "Scream VI"


In the nearly 30-year history of the Scream franchise, there have been 9—or, wait, is it 10?—different Ghostfaces, that knife-wielding killer in the floor-length cloak and Edvard Munch-inspired mask that has sliced and diced who knows how many small-town teenagers to pieces. This is perhaps the only slasher series in which the killer’s identity changes with each installment, but you can bet that every Ghostface is the same brand of grinning psychopath, and that they’ll eventually detail their twisted plan in a final monologue so long-winded that they give their intended final victim a chance to turn the tables.

We’ve arrived, perhaps inevitably, at Scream VI, and Ghostface 2023 is paying tribute to those who came before. He’s now hacking his way through New York City, just like Jason Vorhees did when his series ran out of new ideas, leaving as calling cards the specific masks belonging to the series’ previous killers

The Scream series has, of course, always been a self-referential snake swallowing its own smug tail. They’re horror movies that punish their characters for not knowing enough about horror movies. I thought 2022’s entry, a reboot simply titled Scream, was pretty clumsy in its meta commentary, but that movie’s writers and directors have upped their game for Scream VI, which turns out to be one of the more enjoyable later entries in the series.

Here, the surviving teens from Scream (2022) have fled the blood-soaked hamlet of Woodsboro (and at this point, most people probably should) in hopes of outrunning their violent reputations. Back again is the sister pair of Sam and Tara (played by Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega) and their friends, twin siblings Mindy and Chad (played by Jasmin Savoy Brown and Mason Gooding). They’ve started new lives, but the past catches up with them and the bodies start piling up again.

If the previous Scream film was a treatise on toxic fandom and how it subconsciously influences art, then Scream VI is (sort of) about the ways in which big-screen violence influences us. It had me thinking back to Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, in which the cast and crew of the Nightmare on Elm Street series were menaced in real life by their own creation, Freddy Krueger. The similarities must be intentional, considering that film was a dry run for the Scream franchise that Craven would kick off a couple years later.

None of the Scream sequels have ever captured the snap and verve of that first film—or, for that matter, New Nightmare—which was not only savvy but genuinely scary and suspenseful. The first hour of Scream VI plays like another retread of the earlier films, complete with the once fresh, now irritating discussion of horror movie lore. Characters pointing out which of their peers are most likely to die and debating which Candyman is better? Been there, done that.

But the novelty of this fifth sequel is its jump from suburban California to Manhattan, and it actually uses the specificity of its setting in a few inventive set pieces—one involving a ladder laid between the 10th-story windows of neighboring apartment complexes, and another in which a crowded subway car on Halloween proves to be the perfect cover for Ghostface. I still don’t think the series will ever hit the heights of its 1990s forebears, but now I’m a little less perturbed about the prospect of Scream VII. It is, after all, inevitable.

For Spokane Public Radio, I'm Nathan Weinbender.


Nathan Weinbender is a co-host of Spokane Public Radio’s Movies 101, heard Friday evenings at 6:30 PM here on KPBX.