Scream VI review: Ghostface takes a juicy bite out of the Big Apple

Radio Silence delivers another stellar Scream entry.

Ghostface in Scream VI
(Image: © Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media)

What to Watch Verdict

Scream VI features duller horror commentary but a sharper killer's blade, trading satirical blows for gruesome fates that'd make any slasher jealous.


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    Kills don't skimp

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    The core survivors from Scream (2022) strengthen their roles

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    Uses NYC's landscape well

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    Love the opening kill


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    A bit too winky at the audience

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    Less to say about horror tropes than all other entries

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    Not as shocking as usual

Ghostface takes a juicy bite out of the Big Apple in Scream VI. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett convert Montreal shooting locations into a claustrophobic New York City landscape that pulsates with overcrowded metropolitan tension. Writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick rise to the challenge of a sixth Scream film and what that means to franchise lore. 

However, Scream VI feels more in line with Scream 2 and Scream 3's slighter horror genre commentaries because of speedier turnarounds. Maybe that’s why Ghostface's kills are somehow even more brutal this time than the last two violently escalated sequels, painting a never-sleeping city red with crimson reminders of Woodsboro's tainted history.

The "Core 4" survivors from Scream (2022) all move to New York City when Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) pursues her education at Blackmore University. Big sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) — daughter of Billy Loomis — lives with Tara like a helicopter sibling overcome with paranoia after their Ghostface ordeal. Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad Meeks-Martin (Mason Gooding) round out the crew as brother-sister reinforcements also attending Blackmore, which allows the group to process their joint trauma. The screenplay gravitates towards coping mechanisms and the hard conversations around how everyone processes grief, charting more than just another grotesque slasherfest.

The balance between this Ghostface's massacre spree and the connection that Sam's gang strengthens makes Scream VI both beastly and morbidly beautiful. Not to say Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Dewey Riley (David Arquette) never developed smitten chemistry, or Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) didn't wrestle with survivor's guilt. There's just this validation of chosen family and horrific events bringing survivors together that's more aware than prior Scream films. Scream VI takes breaths between brutal slayings to playfully gossip around dinner tables or hone on the Carpenter's us-against-the-world resilience to humanize beyond slasher caricatures. The “Core 4” establish themselves as more than “The Next Dewey” or “Sidney 2.0” — the Carpenters and Meeks-Martins cement themselves as franchise pillars (in the making) on their own merits.

Less successful is the meta component of 2023's Scream entry. Scream 3 is about trilogy tropes, Scream (2022) the rebootquel craze, but Scream VI struggles to deliver the same satirical oomph or subversive electricity. The screenplay overflows with franchise in-jokes that will assuredly please Ghostface worshippers, yet characters too often feel like they’re talking into the camera with winks and nudges. Scream, Scream 4, and Scream (2022) are so successful because years between releases equate to seismic shifts in genre evolution — Scream VI doesn't have the same spark as a commentary on contemporary horror movements. 

Maybe it's a personal preference, but Mindy’s delivery of Randyism rules or the constant callbacks to well-known Scream fandom stances land weaker than expected. Scream VI peers inward for minable commentary — more than usual — and aside from some swipes at armchair Letterboxd critics or cheeky digs as pretentious Dario Argento snobs, the movie finds less exciting self-parody analysis.

Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jasmin Savoy Brown and Mason Gooding in Scream VI

Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jasmin Savoy Brown and Mason Gooding in Scream VI (Image credit: Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media)

What succeeds in spades is the ruthless violence that spills blood around New York City, maximizing everything from sardine-packed subway cars to moderately remodeled multi-story apartments with flimsy and outdated construction. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett pay attention to authentic details like bathroom door locks that unhinge after two bashes from the other side or the anonymity of primetime subway hours as despicable figures disappear into crowds. Scream VI is expressively characteristic of a New York City horror tale, not wasting more action-forward slasher chases that incorporate gruesome physical tolls. Ghostface feels at home stalking alleyways between main avenues or cracking skulls in plain daylight as Sam's crew dashes for their lives in a city where everyone is suspect.

Body mutilation goes above and beyond — Ghostface holds nothing back. Knives don't just plunge, they twist and rearrange organs. Towering drops lead to sickening thuds as bodies hit concrete. Scream VI forces its characters to endure what comparatively seems like more pain than usual (outside Dewey's continued brushes with death), since tighter rental quarters promote more altercations with less space to flee. There seems to be a gushing wound or gory escalation around every corner, making the already stab-happy franchise proud.

Scream VI doesn't dethrone the top tier Scream movies, yet still manages to refuel franchise enthusiasm. Radio Silence continues their stab-a-thon with another bloodthirsty whodunnit in the name of Ghostface's glory. We're treated to another excellent Scream opening kill and newcomers make their presence known without overshadowing figureheads. Its struggles are with chosen commentary avenues and elements that tie directly into third-act reveals or character reintroductions, which I'm purposefully leaving vague because Scream movies aren't to be spoiled.

Scream VI is slice-happy, super sassy and challenges modern slashers to be as maliciously murderous — a comfort Scream sequel like a dependable bodega sandwich after a night at the bars. It's not fine Manhattan dining, but damn if it doesn't hit the spot when you need it most.

Scream VI releases exclusively in movie theaters on March 10.

Matt Donato

Matt Donato is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic who stays up too late typing words for What To Watch, IGN, Paste, Bloody Disgusting, Fangoria and countless other publications. He is a member of Critics Choice and co-hosts a weekly livestream with Perri Nemiroff called the Merri Hour. You probably shouldn't feed him after midnight, just to be safe.