Scream VI spoiler postgame: The highs and lows of a killer sequel

How do you make a sequel feel fresh when it’s being released just one year after its predecessor? In Scream VI’s case, you don’t seek to emulate the previous film, but fill in its gaps. 

Indeed, with Scream VI, it feels as if directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett and writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick made a list of everything they didn’t quite get right the last time around and crafted a sequel built around emphasizing all of those elements, even at the expense of what did previously work. So what we get is a follow-up that’s either better or worse depending on what you want out of a Scream movie. For my personal taste, it’s a step down, but only a tiny one. 

Let’s break down what worked, and what didn’t, in this overall solid installment in my favorite horror franchise:  


High: The cold open 

One of my chief complaints with 2022’s Scream was that the cold open didn’t feel very inspired. Coming off the wildly creative movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie beginning of Scream 4, simply doing the Drew Barrymore opening with Jenna Ortega didn’t cut it, even if the fact that she survives was a decent enough twist.

But boy, does Scream VI address this complaint by delivering perhaps the greatest cold open since the original film. The shock of seeing a Ghostface reveal themselves no more than five minutes into the movie, throwing the entire formula of the franchise out the window, provides such a delightful rush of adrenaline, and “who gives a fuck about movies” is a killer punchline after such a movie-driven fifth outing. The whole thing serves as a thrilling mission statement that all bets are off this time and we should forget everything we think we know about Scream, an especially exciting notion after the 2022 film was so driven by nostalgia. 

That’s why it’s a bit disappointing that the movie never really messes with the Scream formula too drastically for the rest of its runtime and ends up essentially copying its third act from Scream 2. But as its own little short film to start things on a high note, this opening was pitch perfect. 

High: The set pieces 

The other big problem with the 2022 film was the lack of great chase sequences or set pieces in general. The ones that were there felt fairly small, most notably the chase with Chad outside of Stu’s house.

This is another area where Scream VI really outdoes itself. The ladder sequence, Gale chase, and subway scene are all unbearably tense, creative, and well-choreographed. In fact, this is probably the most effective a Scream movie has been as a straight-up terrifying horror movie since Scream 2

Low: The fake-out deaths

But here’s the big problem: these great set pieces are undermined by the fact that the movie just keeps fake-killing characters. Now, look, I’m not completely convinced Scream VI absolutely had to kill off a member of the “core four” or a legacy character, and I’m legitimately happy everyone lived if only because I’ve grown to love these characters. But it’s too much for the movie to give us not one, not two, but three moments that very much play like death scenes — particularly Gale and Chad — only to have the characters survive almost as an afterthought. 

Obviously, it’s rather implausible that Chad would survive his wounds, for example. But I’m willing to suspend my disbelief that these characters are just superhuman at this point. It’s more about it feeling cheap that the movie thinks it can get the emotions that come with presenting a character’s death out of us, but then take it back with no consequences. Do that enough times and the stakes are out the window, even though the notion that no one is off limits is pretty important to a Scream film. This is an area where the 2022 movie is superior; I was actually worried about every single character that time, especially after Radio Silence had the guts to kill off not one, but two legacy characters in the first hour between Judy and Dewey.

High: The character development

But something else that was a bit lacking in the 2022 film was the development of some of the side characters, particularly Chad and Tara. While the Tara and Sam sister storyline worked well in the previous film, Tara wasn’t really well fleshed out as an individual. So one of the wisest decisions Scream VI makes is to slow down and spend more time getting us to care about the “core four,” and by the end, I did find myself just as invested in this group as I was in the “big three.”

Mindy as a character is also improved this time. She was a bit too callous in the previous film, at times seeming flat-out indifferent to the death of her own friends. Here, she’s still snarky but in a way where it’s clear she does care about Sam, Chad, and Tara.

Low: Mindy’s rules and the meta commentary

The 2022 film had some of the strongest meta commentary of the franchise, and the way it emulated the rules and format of a “requel” was on point. So it’s disappointing that it feels like Scream VI never quite hones in on what it’s satirizing this time. Mindy presents the rules of a “franchise,” but hasn’t Scream been a franchise for years now? How is any of this different from what the series has said before? Heck, the first rule Mindy presents, about how everything is bigger than last time, is basically identical to one of Randy’s rules for surviving a sequel in Scream 2.

This could have been avoided by honing in more on the tropes of a “requel sequel,” e.g. films like Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Jurassic World: Dominion, and Halloween Kills. The closest it gets to that is via Mindy’s rule that “whatever happened last time, expect the opposite,” which does feel like the mantra of a lot of requel sequels. But the movie overall seems surprisingly uninterested in satirizing movies, which I hope is just because the last film went so heavy on that and not because the series is slowly abandoning the meta commentary that is so fundamental to what makes a Scream movie a Scream movie. 

High: The handling of Sidney’s absence

It’s still disappointing to think that Paramount and Spyglass low-balled Neve Campbell and that she would have been in Scream VI had they simply paid her what she’s worth. At the same time, it’s kind of hard to imagine how she was ever in the movie. There’s no way it could have been more than a cameo, as it certainly doesn’t make sense for Sidney to come to New York unless Gale actually did get killed by Ghostface. I also appreciated how the movie handles her absence, giving us an update on where she is and a totally logical explanation for why she’s missing in action this time. 

Low: The killer reveal and motive

The previous movie’s motive is possibly my favorite in the entire series, mainly because part of what I appreciate about the Scream movies is how “of the moment” they always feel. Having the killers be toxic fans who are setting out to create their own requel was a brilliant idea that smartly spoke to the time we’re living in. So I couldn’t help but be let down that the killers this time are simply out for revenge over the death of the previous killer, in what is essentially a complete retread of Scream 2.

It feels like a missed opportunity to not lean harder into the conspiracy theory plot by, for example, having the killers be people who actually bought into the lies about Sam. That way, the angle could be that this movie is about the dangers of online misinformation leading to real-world violence as a commentary on things like QAnon and Jan. 6. Instead, the movie relegates that idea to the background in favor of something more familiar. 

The killers also felt easier to guess this time than usual, particularly Detective Bailey. The use of evidence from the past killers strongly suggests a member of law enforcement is involved, meaning it could only be Bailey and Kirby, and there’s no way Radio Silence would have the guts to make Kirby the killer. This is also part of the problem with having three Ghostfaces in a movie with so few new characters: chances are, you’re going to guess at least one or two of the killers. There are really only about four people who could realistically be the killer and it’s three of them. That being said, the Quinn death fake out is fairly well done, even if Ethan was also another fairly obvious Ghostface.

For Scream 7, I would love to see the Radio Silence team combine the best and worst of both of these movies considering the past two both have something the other is missing. Give us the smart meta commentary, clever killer motive, high stakes, and effective whodunnit mystery of the fifth film, but combined with the spectacular chase sequences and strong character development of the sixth. If they can do that, they may well have crafted my new favorite scary movie.

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