Recreating the magic every time is quite a feat, one that has been repeatedly pulled off in a franchise dedicated to celebrating the horror tropes that it constantly skewers. Last year’s Scream  was a triumphant if oblong return for a series that has finally stepped away from its creator to become the franchise beast it always teetered on. Luckily filmmakers Radio Silence (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett) have come a long way since their gleefully vicious Ready or Not and continue to show that they understand evolution and celebration in equal measure.
Series in this vein are often cut from very similar cloths, leaving a repetitive and rule-based narrative to the proceedings. Our slashers are our modern demons, the things that go bump in the night, and they’ve been everything from silly to stupendous, but something that the Scream series has always been held to is subverting or weaponizing these structures. What Radio Silence has done for a modern audience isn’t exactly groundbreaking in this regard but it’s damned entertaining, going down every bit as smooth and fiery as a good shot of decent whiskey. Continuing to toy with the idea of modern horror elements, its “sequel to a requel” angle builds at last from a story about a small group of people in a little town to a series that can outlast any of its stars. I longed for Neve Campbell but her very absence built Scream VI into a triumphant new direction that now only relies on the fact that we will constantly need to discuss the state of modern horror.
We begin as almost any film should – a horny Samara Weaving (Ready or Not, Babylon) on a meetup in an upscale restaurant, taking shots to build her courage and lasciviously waiting for her date to appear. In typical fashion for this series a phone call leads to your standard opening and we’re off to the races. Gone are the multilayered metatextual commentaries, the films within films, and instead we’re merely presented with fandom at its most deplorable. Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera) and her sister, Tara (Jenna Ortega), have wisely left Woodsboro and moved to New York. Sam is suffering a lot of online cruelty, much of it aimed at theorizing that she committed the latest massacre and framed her former paramour for the deeds. The return of Ghostface in a new city leads to panic and police investigation but Sam’s past still haunts her, leading to a confrontation that blows this series wide open.
We spent a lot of time in Scream  commenting on legacy characters, their place in the franchise, and how modern films weaponize them for nostalgic purposes. I’m aware of these kinds of tactics, built by marketing teams to draw me into a film by appealing to a younger and less jaded me, but it was still so goddamned satisfying to have Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) reappear in all of her glory. Gone is the need to have the original trio involved in every installment, though I did miss my little Dewdrop, and instead we begin to harvest from later installments and it pays off here. She’s joined by Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) in a reduced role, one that continuously manages to entertain even as she takes more and more of a backseat.
Beyond some fun appearances and a stellar performance from the lead cast (particularly Jasmin Savoy Brown as Mindy, who made me feel seen and lambasted at the same time) we just get some sheer brutality that’s worth the trip to the theatre on its own. Ghostface has never been a classy killer, with each embodiment being clumsy and half-cocked as they brutally slaughter their victims, but Radio Silence has outdone themselves this time by unleashing the most vicious masked murderer yet. A great many of our characters meet untimely ends in the bloodiest fashions, much of which left my audience wondering how no one had ever thought to use a knife like that onscreen before. Most of this two-hour film just breezes by and all of that comes down to how intense it is at every turn.
Deeply missed is sadly the music of Marco Beltrami, who worked on the franchise until the death of Craven. Radio Silence has a longstanding relationship with Brian Tyler and he does an excellent job, working with a more modern sound that continues the evolution of this franchise, but I miss the bombast and campiness of Beltrami’s work even as this moves further into horror and away from comedy.
I adored Scream VI and am thrilled that they’ve already announced another installment. If the quality keeps up like this I don’t think I’ll ever be done with Scream. This is one of the comfort food film series that I turn to when I’m having a bad day and its outstanding ability to never relinquish quality has been a real treat over the years. I cannot wait for the rest of you to see this one.
Scream VI is currently in theatres.