Scream 6 brings Ghostface out of Woodsboro and onto the bustling streets of New York City. When the film opens, Sam and Tara Carpenter (Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega) have seemingly left the trauma of the 2022 Scream reboot/sequel behind them. Tara is enrolled at the fictional Blackmore University, and Sam is getting the therapy she likely desperately needs to unpack her serial-killer linage (she’s the secret daughter of Billy Loomis, one of the baddies from the original 1996 film) But, since this is a Scream film, we know that it is only a matter of time until another psychopath adopts the Ghostface persona and comes after them.
2022’s reboot thrived by finding the perfect balance of new + nostalgia. While that film could be seen as a symbolic passing of the torch from Neve Campbell’s Sydney Prescott to Barrera’s Sam, it is still jarring to watch a Scream film without Sydney. Especially when Scream 6 is so clearly inspired by Scream 2 (talk about sentences you never think you will write), which similarly followed Sydney as she escaped Woodsboro for a fictional college setting. This time though, Courtney Cox is the only original star returning, and she struggles to provide a meaningful link to the weight of original films. Honestly, with so many of the other beloved characters missing in action, a clean break might have been the better approach.
Despite all of the changes, Ghostface remains as sharp as ever. There are even more kills, and they are bigger and gorier. This film makes the most out of its R- rating. There are also great homages to the past films (so much so that the film had me begging for one twist that never materializes – maybe next time!)
The much-promoted New York setting ultimately feels a bit underused – filming actually occurred in Montreal, and there are only a few scenes that truly attempt to capture the energy of the city. It’s a shame because those scenes are some of my favorites in the whole film. There’s a moment where Sam and Tara hide from Ghostface in a bodega, only to realize that this killer is willing to use weapons even more deadly than a knife. Another scene on the NYC subway captures the rising anxiety facing the city’s public transit today, where a rise in unprovoked attacks has left citizens suspicious of their fellow passengers. But that’s largely it – it feels like a waste of the setting (although to be fair, New York has posed a challenging setting for horror films in the past.) What about Ghostface popping up in a cab, a chase through central park, or a set piece on one of the iconic bridges?
Overall, the talent of the core cast and the film’s passion for the rich history of the franchise more than make up for its shortcomings. But the inevitable Scream 7 should make sure to stay on its toes, or else risk that the stabbings will start to get stale.