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‘Scream VI’ strikes the right balance between nostalgia and novelty

The Scream series is one of the most influential and recognisable in the horror genre – and with the successful relaunch of Scream last year, there was a palpable sense of anticipation for the next instalment in the saga, Scream VI. Moving the setting away from Woodsboro and the omission of Neve Campbell’s iconic final girl Sidney Prescott meant that there was apprehension about how successful Scream VI was going to be, but a successful opening weekend confirmed that the Scream franchise is as strong as ever.

Set in New York City, Scream VI sees the return of the Carpenter sisters. We see older sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) in therapy following the events of Scream (2022) while simultaneously trying to protect her younger sister Tara (Jenna Ortega). Randy’s niece, Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and nephew, Chad (Mason Gooding) also return, firmly cementing a new ‘core four’ for the audience to invest in.As always from any Scream film, we are introduced to a whole array of new side characters, as well as the return of Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox). However, it is the surprising return of Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) that steals the show, even though it was hinted at in Scream (2022) that she survived her attack in Scream 4. Her reappearance was a welcome addition and offers a different dynamic to the usual legacy characters we have become so accustomed to seeing.

The legacy of the franchise meant Scream VI was met with a difficult task, having to balance appeasing the long-term fans whilst also catering to the new era of fans, a task it achieved seamlessly. As a viewer who falls somewhere in between these two categories, I appreciate the filmmaker’s acknowledgement of what came before. This acts as a direct contrast to the recent SAW reboot, Spiral, which prioritised the enjoyment of new fans who hadn’t seen any prior film to access the story, unfortunately to the detriment of fans invested in a franchise that is so renowned for its complex, multi-film spanning plot. Whilst Scream is of course not restricted by such intricate plotlines, to truly get the most out of Scream VI, it is essential to have seen the other films in the franchise. Rather than ignoring those threads, the film overtly nods to prior Ghostface killers and the impacts they each had, therefore showing appreciation for the hardcore fans of the series. Yet, the film is fully accessible to newer fans, as it is not overly confusing, and history isn’t too heavily relied upon to the point of confusion.

Scream VI is so successful because directors Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin (also known as Radio Silence) took feedback from fans following Scream (2022) and used that information to boost its sequel to a different level. What was most evidently missing from the 2022 reboot were the chase scenes that the original trilogy was so renowned for and Scream VI amended this tenfold. To unpick the details of these scenes would detract from the first-time viewing experience, but it’s worth noting a certain scene involving a ladder is arguably one of the tensest moments of the entire franchise.

The relocation from Woodsboro to New York City allowed the franchise to take a whole new direction, with the isolation replaced by crowded streets.

Radio Silence, thanks to the success of the reboot, allowed themselves much more creative freedom with Scream VI. After Scream (2022) followed quite a predictable, linear structure to ease people back into a story that hadn’t been on screen for over 10 years, Scream VI takes a complete U-turn right from the opening sequence. The relocation from Woodsboro to New York City allowed the franchise to take a whole new direction, with the isolation replaced by crowded streets, particularly prominent in the subway scene featured in the film’s trailer.

Despite the film’s success, there is one notable absence, the franchise’s iconic final girl, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), who declined the opportunity to appear. However, Scream VI proved the franchise can adapt and succeed even without its final girl. The situation is handled with respect, with Gale mentioning that Sidney is keeping her family safe with the return of Ghostface, which arguably makes a lot more sense than her travelling to New York. To say Sidney’s shoes are filled by Sam Carpenter is disrespectful to both characters. Instead, Sam shows how the franchise has evolved offering a darker contrast to Sidney’s innocent girl-next-door persona, highlighting how Radio Silence have no intention of simply remaking Scream, but are revitalising the whole franchise.

These decisions allowed Scream VI to be familiar yet exciting and fresh. Although I would love to see a return of Sidney in Scream 7, which has already been greenlit, and the talks of a potential return for Stu Macher are intriguing, even if none of the legacy characters returns and the film is spearheaded by the core four, I have no doubt it will be a success. Scream VI has been a true hit and continues the undeniable peak in horror cinema we are currently living through.


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