Updated: Mar 14
[The following review contains MAJOR SPOILERS; YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!]
The Scream formula is nothing if not dependable. At this point, fans know exactly what to expect from the first few minutes of each film: a short, self-contained teaser that features an established celebrity/rising star being stalked, taunted, tormented, and butchered before the opening credits roll. Of course, every new installment deconstructs this trope to some extent, from simple escalation (Scream 2, which sets the scene in a densely crowded public space) to mild subversion (the fifth entry’s would-be victim manages to survive her harrowing encounter with the killer) to straight-up postmodern absurdism (Scream 4 begins with the characters watching a cheesy, derivative, painfully “meta” horror flick about… characters watching a cheesy, derivative, painfully “meta” horror flick).
Initially, Scream VI’s contribution to the tradition feels comparatively vanilla and uninspired: an attractive young woman on a blind date is lured into a dark, ominous alley, where she is quickly and unceremoniously gutted like a fish. Rather than abruptly cutting to black, however, the frame lingers on her blood-soaked corpse. The murderer leans in to admire his handiwork… and casually removes his mask, revealing his identity to the audience before the title card has even appeared—a major departure from the series’ usual “whodunit” structure. From there, he returns to his apartment to rendezvous with his accomplice. Instead, he finds himself on the other end of the knife, thoroughly filleted by a significantly more competent and efficient slasher. The wannabe Ghostface pathetically pleads for his life, insisting that he only wanted to “finish [his predecessor’s] movie.”
“Who gives a fuck about movies?” his rival retorts as he delivers the coup de grâce.
This seemingly straightforward line of dialogue leaves one hell of an impression. This time, it implies, the villain isn’t merely a deranged cinephile, thus depriving our protagonists of their greatest advantage: their encyclopedic knowledge of genre clichés and conventions. The “rules” no longer apply: nothing is sacred and everybody is vulnerable—lending the otherwise familiar narrative a delightfully (albeit not excessively) unpredictable flavor. Scream VI isn’t the franchise’s best effort, nor is it my personal favorite, but it is gleefully gory, charmingly campy, and a whole lot of fun.
After so many sequels, "requels," reboots, and reimaginings, I’d consider that a resounding success.