Scream VI Issues (Spoilers, Obviously)

I'm blessed with having many friends who are also horror fans, and as we are all of a certain age, the first Scream is very important to us. For some it was the reason they got into horror in the first place, for others (like me) it was the thing that got us BACK into our favorite genre after Hollywood largely abandoned it in the first half of the '90s and (being pre-internet and, as kids, without much money to import stuff from Japan or the UK) we didn't have much to look forward to. That we "felt seen" by the film thanks to folks like Randy and (for the next generation) Kirby, fans tend to get a little more heated and protective of the series, albeit sometimes for different reasons. The rankings for this series are absolute chaos, which is kind of beautiful in its own way, but it also means it's increasingly hard for the filmmakers to deliver a film that satisfies even the hardcore fans, because what we want out of these things seems to be very different.

Anyway, because of all this, I found myself having repeated discussions about Scream VI over the past few days, and I got tired of repeating myself. So, for that and for the fact that my review had to be vague about many elements because I didn't want to spoil anything there, here are my specific criticisms/issues with the film's third act (which is honestly where all my concerns were; the first 75 minutes or whatever are largely fantastic). Spoilers, obviously! No indvidual warnings, if you read further it's all on you! Also, I spoil Sick, so if you haven't seen that yet you a. should and b. are warned about that, too.

OK, the big problem for me was the reveal, in that it not only sucked but also rendered a lot of the movie idiotic. Having Dermot Mulroney (who was kind of terrible throughout, I thought, though at least his phoniness makes sense in retrospect) say "Of course it's me!" felt like the writers trying to get ahead of the criticism that it was pretty lazy, and that rubbed me the wrong way. Sure, you can almost always guess at least one killer just based on process of elimination or basic slasher 101 rules, but here even the damn motive was clear all along, thanks to his and Quinn's vague mentions of a dead son (or brother, to Quinn), which is the sort of thing that anyone with even a passing understanding of how movies work could tell you was a dead giveaway. The film is a little over two hours long, and so you gotta figure they were trying to get it UNDER that mark however they could - they wouldn't mention this unseen, unnamed dead person twice unless there was a reason. That it was a copy of Scream 2's "avenging parent" motive was already weak enough (it was also identical to Sick, something Kevin Williamson seemingly should have noted to them in his executive producer status), but that it was all so obvious from well over an hour before made it kind of insulting on top of it.

Similarly, having Ethan also be in on it was a huge cheat, because he was the only other person around on the subway with Mindy. There was zero reason for him to do anything but simply get off the train at their stop, something the filmmakers didn't even have to show - once she was stabbed, they could have cut back to the "Kill box" stuff and let the nearly nonstop action/reveals of that scene distract us from not knowing Mindy's fate/wondering where Ethan was. Hell, they could have gone one step further and had Chad or Tara get a text "from Mindy" saying she was off the train and almost there, rather than show us exactly what did happen. But no, we have the killer plead with strangers to help, call 911, etc, while helping her off the train to ensure she had a better chance of survival. Even if you buy into their "we are going to frame Sam" plan, it didn't make any goddamn sense at all. The only reason the scene existed was to fool the viewer, which is always a cheap, insulting move. Even S4, as sloppy as it was at times, never had Jill be attacked by Ghostface unless someone else (Sid, Kirby) was there to witness it.

Then there's everyone being indestructible, which I can at least see their point with: no one wants these beloved characters to die. I get that, even if I don't fully agree with it. Personally, I feel we should get mad, and we should believe that anyone is in danger. That's what S2 did when it killed Randy, and S5 did when it killed Dewey - and guess what my two favorite sequels are? And no it's not because I got to watch these people die, but because they gave me that heightened sense of genuine suspense, the closest thing a sequel can get to the first film's "Holy crap Drew Barrymore is already dead?" feeling of unknown territory. In those instances, I wasn't quite sure what would happen; sure, maybe Sid would forever be OK, but Gale? But here, they fell right back into S3/S4 territory, where you spend time with people who are seemingly impervious to stab wounds, and then they pad the body count with anonymous victims. Say what you will about S2 (I've recently discovered it's among the least popular entries with younger fans, not sure why that is but to each their own!), but even the most random people in the movie: Phil and Maureen in the opening and the two bodyguards for Sid, have some basic identifying traits (Maureen is a biology student and likes Sandra Bullock! Officer Andrews is a gemini who may be gay!). But I defy anyone to name Gale's boyfriend without looking it up, and even he got more of a personality than the randos in the convenience store or Quinn's bathtub boyfriend. For all their talk about how this was the most violent and bloody one yet, to me it never registered that way at all, because I didn't care one iota about the majority of the film's victims. It has the series' highest body count at 13, but only three (3) of those people were actual characters: the film professor in the opening scene, Sam's shrink, and Anika (Mindy's girlfriend). The other ten were five anonymous people (three at the store, Gale's bf, Quinn's bf) and five Ghostfaces (two opening guys - one we never see - and Richie's family).

That's just kind of gross to me. I'd trade all five of those whoever people for one death that actually meant something. Gale doesn't even blink when her boyfriend dies (she even agrees with Ghostface's joke!), and likewise Anika's death didn't seem to bother Mindy all that much; she's still making jokes and whining about "missing the monologue" a day later. So when you add that sort of thing to the fact that Gale instantly went back on her word and wrote a book about Richie (without ever so much as finding a picture of him with his family, I guess - something Kirby the Ghostface obsessed FBI agent also couldn't bother to piece together), it feels really crass that death has no affect on people (maybe because they themselves are seemingly invincible so they see dying as a weakness?). I don't have a lot to defend about S3, but even there both Gale and Sid seem affected by Cotton's death; neither of them loved the guy, but they at least gave him a moment's reflection when they heard of his passing. If death doesn't mean anything to these people, why should it mean anything to us? It was never about a body count with these movies - hell it was kind of "off brand" even in S5 when Ghostface killed that security guard (offscreen), but at least there was some logic behind it, to further isolate Tara. If their plan was to frame Sam, why chase her and her sister into a populated store (one probably with cameras) and kill three people? Answer: so we could get something unique for the trailer. For all the praise about the film's setpieces (and they are well executed, the direction is not the issue here), I started getting the suspicion that they came up with al of these sequences first and then figured out a way to string them together without a lot of thought behind it.

Short of some dumb Roman-esque "I put them up to it" reveal in the next movie, there's not much we can do about the crappy motive here. But they can still salvage their inability to let anyone actually die from their injuries (Chad in particular had such a great "death" with the quiet "Go." to Tara) by at least acting like people who were nearly dead when they all return in Scream VII. Considering Dewey at least had his nerve damage/limp, Chad should be in a wheelchair or something. Have all of them afraid to go outside, keeping all sharp objects out of their houses, something, anything. Let's not forget Chad in particular was seemingly dead last time too (his own girlfriend even thought so) - did he really seem like a guy who was that damaged only a year ago? Gale has now been shot/stabbed in her lower chest three times and survived from it - assuming she's roughly the same age as the actress who plays her, how does that affect a person who is nearly 60? Make their survival mean something besides "they're still around for the next one because we love them", because that's not a real excuse. Otherwise it seems they've lost sight of what made the Scream movies special: they took place in the "real" world, where things didn't work like they did in the junky slasher movies we loved. Jason coming back over and over is the sort of thing these characters should be scoffing at - at this point they're not much different. And when you consider that every single Scream universe character who was alive at the end of Scream 5 is still alive at the end of Scream 6, they really need to do something to justify this movie's existence in the canon for the long run, because was otherwise it was just treading water.

It bums me out. There's so much to like in the film, but nearly all of it is in the first two acts. Whiffing the reveal and repeatedly walking back mortal wounds just all feel like a waste of time in the long run; empty calories as a movie. They were on point with the previous film, so I'm just curious what went amiss this time for them to bungle the mystery so badly (hell even Roman was a better villain), and if they got scared of killing anyone ever again after last time's petitions to redo the movie and keep Dewey alive (yes, the same toxic fans the movie was mocking got toxic). I had to laugh that there was so much handwringing about Sidney's absence when it turned out to be the least of the movie's issues. Her not being there was fine, and explained well! Why WOULD she travel across the country to deal with this when there was zero indication the killer had any interest in her? There shouldn't be more perma-safe characters than actual victims in these things, and having Sid show up would just mean yet another person that THREE GHOSTFACES couldn't manage to actually kill, though she'd probably get a few stabs in the stomach yet again for the trailer. If you're not going to kill someone, don't attack them with the intent to do so! Remember in S3 when they just knocked Dewey out rather than deal him another dozen stabs he'd survive from? That's the sort of approach they should start taking to these climaxes - unconscious, but not bleeding to death for 20 minutes while the killer monologues and then just walking it off. It's Scream, guys - not Scary Movie. At least try to make it dangerous again.

What say you?


  1. My main frustration is how they underuse every fresh idea (including Sam's psychological issues), except for the ladder scene.

    I still don't care about the main cast besides Tara. Mindy is so obnoxious I thought it was a contest with the other girl of Original Sin. ::) I understand this type of know-it-all characters can be annoying on paper but Jamie Kennedy and others in similar roles did a terrific work in their own way to appear likable. She sounds so arrogant and is wrong most of the time. The writers didn't do her any favor, I must admit. But I suffered more during her lectures than during the most gruesome death scenes.

    Also, some characters are more invicible than Jason - it's getting ridiculous even by Scream standards. It makes most of what they go through almost irrelevant.

    Yet, I found it better than the previous one. More memorable set pieces and new characters overall. An easier rewatch for sure. And I'm glad Kirby AND Hayden Panettiere are back on the big screen. I can't be objective, I'm so in love.

  2. About Ethan in the subway scene, I would assume that, because she didn't die, he wanted to be perceived as a good friend by the witnesses and the police?

    1. They were literally on their way to reveal themselves and the only way he'd know she survived would be if he knew he was in a modern Scream movie and thus it's a guaranteed survival for anyone who had more than five lines. And what witness would be helpful in a situation where they didn't even notice a girl bleeding out?

  3. Rob/TheSlasherSpotlightMarch 17, 2023 at 11:00 AM

    I completely agree with your issues with the 3rd act. By the end of it I was disappointed that so many people survived, the one saving grace was that at least Chad died. When they then revealed even that wasn't the case it was a "You've gotta be kidding me!" moment. Having so many key characters survive really left a sour taste. It's been an issue with the entire franchise to some extent but more apparent than usual here.

    A lesser more nit pick type problem I had with the film pertains to the very beginning. I thought it was unrealistic how the professor in the bar was so willing to help the guy on the phone (when he claimed he was lost). There's no way an attractive woman would bend over backward like that and actually leave the venue to go down an ally just to assist some dating hopeful she'd never met before.


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