‘Scream VI’ Sets Ghostface Loose on Halloween [Review]
Scream VI takes Ghostface to New York City and sets the masked killer loose in the days leading up to and culminating on Halloween in the bloodiest sequel and one of the most fun movies in the franchise.
While Fun World has marketed the Ghostface mask (not licensed from the films, because in this case the films license the pre-existing mask from its manufacturer) as “The Icon of Halloween” for years, none of the previous Scream movies ever took place on or around October 31st until now.
The Halloween setting allows for a never-ending sea of partiers costumed as all your favorite slashers and horror villains, and literally dozens of people dressed as Ghostface, just like in your neighborhood every Halloween, surrounding our returning characters. Of course a huge part of the fun of the Scream movies is the many loving Easter eggs referencing the horror genre and the franchise’s continually evolving commentary on itself, and Halloween Week in New York puts these references on screen like never before. Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Pinhead, the Babadook (Tara’s favorite scary movie, as mentioned in Scream 2022), and many more familiar faces are featured prominently.
Three of the core four survivors of the previous film are now in college, a tidbit that mirrors Scream 2, while Melissa Barrera’s Sam Carpenter has followed them to the Big Apple to keep a close watch on little sister Tara, played by Jenna Ortega. The twins, Chad and Mindy Meeks Martin, played by Mason Gooding and Jasmin Savoy Brown, respectively, are back, as well, and though everyone is doing their best to move on, they are each only masking the trauma of the last Ghostface massacre in Woodsboro.
Sam is fighting to keep her distance from the devil on her shoulder, visions of her dead father and one of the original film’s killers, Billy Loomis, but all of the previous Ghostface killers get more screen time than ever before, as someone begins leaving old Ghostface masks at the scene of recent murders. The fact that Sam is a bit of a serial killer time bomb is one of the most interesting aspects of this current story. The relationship between the Carpenter sisters is frayed, as Tara wants some freedom from Sam, who she resents for leaving years ago then returning only to become an overprotective guardian when Tara just wants to live her life independently.
Tara does not want to think about the Ghostface attacks any more, but Sam can think of little else, as she is struggling to find her own identity beyond the shadow of her dad’s dark legacy.
Jenna Ortega is one of the best actors of her generation, and she delivers another knock-out performance, as Tara is no longer confined to the hospital like in the previous film and gets to really express herself and find her voice.
Hayden Panettiere reprises her role from Scream 4 as well-versed horror fan Kirby Reed, who we thought had died at the end of that film, but is now back thanks in part to her popularity within the fandom and also because Panettiere has said that she reached out the filmmakers. Kirby’s movie talk with Mindy is a highlight.
The new film does a lot of self-examination of the franchise, especially in a delicious bit of dialogue during what is surprisingly Gale Weathers’ first phone conversation with Ghostface, as Courteney Cox returns for her sixth turn as Gale, as does Roger L. Jackson to once again provide “The Voice” used by the killers in all of the Scream films. Gale’s chat with Ghostface is one of the film’s best scenes, cutting deep on multiple levels.
If there is one indispensable star of the Scream franchise, it is easily Roger L. Jackson. While the killers, their methods, and their motives may change with each film, the iconic voice remains as chilling, seductive, and cruel as ever.
The sixth installment of any franchise is a pretty monumental undertaking, and while this entry certainly does not reinvent the Scream template, it does give it a strong dose of adrenaline in allowing this Ghostface to seamlessly stalk his victims easily concealed in the crowd of also-costumed revelers and the many other un-costumed New Yorkers who could not care less about the holiday or about the knife attacks happening right next to them.
This is the goriest Scream movie yet, with much bloodier, angrier kills than usual, but it is also one of the most entertaining, as long as you’re not overthinking what makes these films so great: as Mindy said in the previous film in her dead-on description of what defines the franchise within the franchise Stab movies, a Scream movie is also “a meta slasher whodunit.”
New York would always provide a perfect cover for a Ghostface to blend into a crowd, but New York on Halloween allows for a whole new level of whodunit mystery, as many non-killers are wearing the costume.
The subway scene featured in teaser trailer is probably my favorite sequence. Dialing up the tension and using the New York setting and Halloween time of year to maximum effect, it is much better than what is shown in the promotional footage.
While the Halloween atmosphere is almost entirely limited to the many costumes, with no jack o’ lanterns and limited decor to be seen, those costumes do a lot to keep the holiday a constant presence, not just on the big day itself, but throughout the days leading up to it, as well. Tara gets into the spirit dressing as a pirate early on, a Chad as a cowboy stripper(?), but most of our other main characters are not wearing costumes.
The big third act reveal, an anticipated tradition in the franchise, brings a new twist, even while paying homage to the first Scream sequel, which itself owes a bit to the original Friday the 13th, all the more fitting as Jason Voorhees too is a recurring presence throughout the film, specifically Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan for obvious reasons.
No spoilers here, but if you saw any of the promotional footage, you already know that the action will at some point lead to a Ghostface “shrine” celebrating the killers that came before in the ultimate murder museum, and just like how the Halloween setting provides for the usual spoken references to become living and breathing visuals, so too does the shrine allow for countless explicit references to all of the previous films in the franchise, as the past haunts not just Sam but everyone in the movie.
The genre love is all still there, and the newer elements effectively amp up the slashings, as Ghostface now has a go-to Halloween movie ripe for revisiting each October.
Scream VI is now playing in theaters.
See all of our Scream VI coverage here.
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