Scream, Scrum, Scrum

Are there really people who vividly remember the events of Scream 4? Can anyone remember which characters Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell, Mariska Hargitay and Allison Brie played in this movie? Here’s the quiz: did you know Mariska Hargitay wasn’t in Scream 4? When you read her name, you weren’t sure if she was there or not, were you?

The revived franchise’s writers, James Vanderbilt and Guy Basik, expect a quasi-Tolkien slavish devotion to lore and legend… about a series of awkward meta-movies that once starred Skeet Ulrich and now stars Skeet Ulrich’s CGI-reanimated corpse. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillette, collectively known as Radio Silence either because they lost a bet or want to find the limits of white privilege, are also back on Scream VI. Once again, all participants somehow produce more than the sum of the severed body parts.

The plot is really similar to what you would get from ChatGPT if it was fed previous Scream movies. Sam (Melissa Barrera), daughter of OG Ghostface, and her sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) have fled the small town of Woodsboro, the murder capital of the universe, for New York City. They are joined by other survivors from the previous slasher chapter, Mindy (Jasmine Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding). Mindy is the one who provides pop culture observations and “horror movie and franchise rules” because her dead uncle did it in the original series. Here’s how this restart works: everyone does something just because they’ve done the same thing before, or been linked to someone who did it.

Tara is fantastic. Not only because Ortega is a great actress, but also because she broadcasts the public’s frustration by constantly yelling some version of “Can we not talk about all the other movies for five minutes?!” Unfortunately, no one listens to her. The dialogue in the film consists entirely of people recapping previous events, trying to determine who is wearing the iconic mask and is stabbing people this time around.

Scream VI is at absolute war with itself. He wants to be funnier than he really is, at least judging by Dermot Mulroney’s acting. He wants to get into some really interesting plot territory, at least judging by Sam’s constant temptation to “succumb to the dark side” like her snappy daddy. He wants to say something culturally significant, at least in the places where he muses on the really dangerous nature of modern conspiracy. He succumbs to none of these urges, leaving a chalk cadaverous outline of what might have been.

And still…

Where (sigh) Radio Silence is allowed to play, it appears. The strings of wine cellars and subways are second to none. Not only because they don’t look like anything the franchise did a decade ago, but not because of that fact either. Ortega is sensationally well-suited to the genre, able to walk the edge of dumb clichés and downright horror. Perhaps most stunningly, if they go where Scream VII seems to be hinting at, it could be a new playground for the horror series. The reversal of good and bad as a by-product of violent trauma is as potentially compelling as the possibility of two Ghostfaces being pitted against each other.

To be clear, none of this is happening here. Scream VI is fully compliant with the rules, redundant events are refreshed by moving the action to Gotham. His obsession with the past is a burdensome duty, but the cocky stupidity he takes when forced to conclude there makes him forgivably disappointing. Does anyone remember if Mariska Hargitay was in this in a few years? No. Let’s hope the Scream XIV doesn’t ask anyone about these details when it arrives here.

Grade = B+

Other critical voices to consider

Monica Castillo of says, “In terms of sequels, Scream VI is a strange, self-referential beast, a tail-eating snake with nothing left. What will it take to give him fresh blood and move forward?”

DarkSkyLady of Wealth of Geeks says, “The kills are impressive, the throws are crisp, and the tension is tight as this Ghostface is far more brutal than the previous ones. While you may not be jumping on every scene, there will be a lot of dizzying deaths and ear-to-ear grins.”

Lupe R. Haas of Cine Movie says, “This latest entry subverts the rules of the franchise and raises the level of horror to make for the best Scream movie since the original.”

The post Scream, Scram, Scrumpt first appeared in The Reader.

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