Review by Jason Godbey
This week we were invited to a preview screening of the latest film in the Scream franchise courtesy of the good folks at Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.
After being rebooted last year, the Scream franchise continues with the new characters, Sam and Tara Carpenter. In this installment we’re in New York City where Tara (Jenna Ortega) is going college. She and sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) have come to NYC, to start over after surviving the perils of the Ghostface killings in Woodsboro.
Without giving anything away, Scream VI continues in the tradition of the original Scream complete with pretty young people, a mask serial killer, and plenty of meta-commentary, but is this one too meta for its own good?
On the positive side, this film is a lot of fun. There are plenty of thrills and creative kills with some truly suspenseful, heart-pounding scenes. The film is at its best when it has you on the edge of your seat wondering if the intended victim will survive.
Like the original, it’s also a solid murder mystery that will keep you guessing right up until the end. Right from jump, the story has some unexpected twists and turns. As soon as you think, “oh that’s how they’re going to do it,” the rug is pulled from under you, very reminiscent of the first Scream which arguably has one of the greatest opening scenes of a horror movie ever. There are moments where Scream VI captures some of that Hitchcockian magic Wes Craven captured 27 years ago.
The performances are also quite good here. Despite some clunky dialogue in places, the actors acquit themselves well. Jenna Ortega fresh off her success from the Wednesday series, gives Tara much more depth than what’s on the page. Melissa Barrera gives another star-making performance as Sam. She manages to rise above the usual horror movie tropes and lights up the screen every time she appears.
We also get some fine performances from returning legacy actors. Courtney Cox walks into the movie like she owns it as if to say “step aside kids, and let me show ya how it’s done.” Hayden Panettiere gets some well-deserved cheers from fans as the plucky Kirby, a survivor one of the previous Ghostface killers.
The film also does a fine job in helping those of us who haven’t seen kept up with the plot and history of the saga. There are exposition scenes that help guide us through all the previous killers and victims of which there are many.
On the negative side, many of the same faults of the original are still here. There were several moments when I found myself being taken out of the movie. First of all, everyone in this film, looks like a movie star. The cast is young and gorgeous. Even after a close brush with death, being chased by a maniac or even stabbed, everyone still has perfect hair and makeup just accented with some fresh fake blood and enough perspiration to make them look pleasantly dewy.
The cinematography is slick and glossy, evocative of the 80’s action films of Richard Donner where every street is wet after a fresh sprinkle of rain and the lens flares are just right. It was like a movie within a movie about movies, telling us constantly “this isn’t real. It’s just a movie.” At times the film feels like a parody of itself.
The characters also seem to know they’re in a horror movie. Even though I hadn’t seen the original Scream in quite some time, I could still see Jaime Kennedy lecturing everyone on the rules of horror films and telling them how to survive. I could still hear him yelling “Everybody’s a suspect!” In this addition of the franchise, Jasmin Savoy Brown’s Mindy takes on that role. There’s a very similar scene where she tells the group of friends what the new movie sequel/franchise rules are.
There are instances of people witnessing the brutal murder of a loved one, and then joking about horror tropes just minutes afterward or even during a harrowing situation. One could argue that this is just a trademark of the franchise, but at some points the movie feels like it is without stakes or consequences. When characters are brutally stabbed multiple times, you may find yourself saying “yeah he’ll probably come back in the sequel.”
While sitting a packed theater filled with adoring Scream fans who were cheering, gasping, and laughing in all the right places, it’s plan to see this movie knows exactly what it is and who it is for and makes no bones about it. If you love this saga, you’ll love Scream VI. In spite of its flaws it’s still tons of fun. It’s popcorn cinema at its finest, and a good time at the movies.