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Scream VI (2023)

I just saw Scream VI and it was a lot of fun. I saw it on a double bill with Scream V (I refuse to call it Scream), which I’d already seen, although I think that I liked it a bit better this time. I liked it before as a silly satirical piece, but this go around the motivations felt a little funnier and even slightly more believable as a commentary on toxic fandom. There probably are privileged and psychopathic idiots on message boards like the sickos of that film, so detached from reality that even as they’re about to be disembowled they’re still whining over their fan grudges.

Scream VI takes the story out of California to New York, where survivors of the last film Sam and her sister Tara have fled to find a new life. The adorable, bug-eyed moppet Tara is now in college while Sam is seeing a therapist, still worried that her family heritage will make her a killer. From there the film follows Scream II’s template by expanding the circle of suspects (or setting, at least) and increasing both the body count and gore. (There’s a heavier focus on facial destruction in this one, knives through an eye and mouth and nose.)

It was fun seeing these movies in a cinema with an audience of fans for whom at this point the franchise functions as a cross between an in-joke and a soap opera. Days of Our Lives, but with spurting wounds. It’s the kind of franchise that encourages talking back to the screen to a certain extent, laughing and gasping at the absurd twists in the plot.

The film did something legitimately new with the story as well, starting with a prologue that plays with the rules of the slasher genre and ends on an amusing reference to the prologue to Friday the 13th: Part II. The solution to the whodunnit is also somewhat original to the series, though modelled on elements from Scream II. If this is the Jason Takes Manhattan of the Scream franchise, it does more with the concept than that film did. Some of the set-pieces are genuinely creative and nasty in the vivid pulp style of classic slashers.

Unfortunately, the writing appears to have caved a little to the trend in American franchises to make everything about “family”; there are so many references to the theme in the dialogue that I half-expected Vin Diesel to show up and give an eyes half-closed nod to the protagonists.

I could have done without a fair amount of the sentimental speechifying and teen drama dynamics. The fact remains that all of the Scream films post-III are basically trashy epilogues without the same intensity and suspense as the original trilogy.

But it’s also true that that doesn’t really matter. Scream VI is utterly absurd, but it has gory killings, soapy theatrics, and lashings of nudge-nudge wink-wink silliness, all wrapped in a twisty and pleasingly trashy whodunnit. It’s grisly good fun and it leans into its own absurdity, such as a truly laugh-out-loud moment where a character survives when they really, really, really shouldn’t have.

It would be easy to grouse that it doesn’t rise to the heights of Wes Craven’s original satirical vision. None of the dialogue is as “chef’s kiss” as the immortal monologue from Scream II. (“I am sick to death of people saying that it’s all the parents’ fault, that it all starts with the family. Wanna blame someone? Why don’t you blame YOUR MOTHER?”) But if you like slashers, Scream VI is a roaring good time, one to see in a theatre packed with fans who know all the tricks and tropes of the territory.


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