Rated R and this one probably deserves it the most. I remember cringing in Scream 2 with the knife through the bathroom stall. Yeah, there were a lot of vocalized "Oh geez." It never gets into torture levels, but this is a really violent movie, even for the Scream franchise. As per yoozh (the acceptable spelling of the shortening of "usual), there's swearing and sex jokes without actually having on screen nudity. There's talk about date rape as well.
DIRECTORS: Matt Bertinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Man alive, I'm glad I rewatched Scream because I forgot everything about that movie outside of mostly liking it. The thing is, I'm kind of an expert on Scream, Scream 2, and Scream 3. Scream 4, despite a second watching, is still kind of a haze. All you need to know is that Kirby exists and that she wasn't the killer in that one. And somehow, Scream VI became the second best Scream movie, even without any Sydney Prescott in it. I'm on board.
I really wish that I was posting this immediately. I want to get it while the FOMO is still kind of palpable. The only problem with being ahead of writing (because I'll tell you, it's awesome), is that no one cares about the Oscar nominations at this point. But one a day for a lot of days takes a while and I'm not burning off all that labor-intensive content. So let's talk about Scream VI, way after anyone really gives a darn about Scream VI. Scream VI works for so many reasons. If I put those reasons on paper, you'd have a handful of reasons for it not to work. In an attempt to not get list-y, I'm going to try to write slowly and in an organized fashion. You know, the method that English teachers like me swear by (despite making a blog mostly composed of word vomit?).
I need to talk first about how Ghostface is straight up scary in this movie. Ghostface, a name I hate writing out, has always been someone who is a killer, but lives in the real world. The thing I always dug about Scream is that it always acts a commentary on fandom. There's always something a little pathetic about the villains once they are revealed. Billy Loomis was a loner on the other side of town. Stu Macher was a spoiled rich kid with too much time. Heck, Mrs. Loomis wasn't suspected because she was a tiny little lady that you could probably push over. But there's a couple of scenes in this movie where Ghostface comes across like Michael Myers. Now, normally, I would be bemoaning this. (I SHOULD POINT OUT RIGHT NOW THAT I'VE ALWAYS TALKED ABOUT SPOILERS, SO I'M STRAIGHT UP GOING TO DROP THE KILLERS NAMES AND MOTIVES THROUGHOUT THIS PIECE. I DON'T NORMALLY MAKE SPOILER WARNINGS LIKE THIS.) But golly, it makes so much sense why, sometimes, Ghostface is just a tank. Detective Bailey is a cop and a sadist. He's probably the first Ghostface who regularly works out and is probably a doomsday prepper or something like that. He's committed to being a nutbar before he decided to become Ghostface. That scene in the bodega seems like nothing is going to touch him. Ghostface has always been someone you can temporarily dispatch and he'll run away, like a video game or something. Not so much here. He just booms his way through things and it's upsetting. They always throw in that "The old rules don't apply anymore." Yeah, I finally believe that. That line about not caring about movies? Yeah, thank you for understanding that meta only works so far. Bailey's need to kill his son's killers makes way more sense as motivation than simply wanting to be famous.
New York should not work as a location for a horror movie by the way. I mean, it does. But there's something about sleepy little hamlet that is haunting. The notion of Woodsboro being the home too all of these Stab reenactments works because there's always a limited suspect list. I'm going to try to piece together why the suspect list stays small in Scream VI, and that comes from the notion that Scream VI is a direct sequel to Scream (the reboot). Knowing that this isn't about Maureen Prescott (whose name isn't mentioned once in this movie, to my understanding) and that it's all about Richie keeps the suspect pool small. Sure, we have to understand that we don't know that three characters in the movie are Richie's siblings. But there's this suspension of disbelief that one of the people in the room has to have a tie to Richie. For all intents and purposes, it could have characters outside the group of friends. But that's why Jason and Greg work so well to establish the rules. (For all my love of this movie, I want to talk about the alternate reality where Jason and Greg are the lead villains of this story.) Because Jason and Greg are only tangentially related to the characters, we understand that it has to be someone in the friend group. Jason and Greg, being distant classmates, defeats the idea that someone outside of a personal relation to Sam and Tara could be the killer.
Let's divert from things I love about Scream VI to Jason. I love the openings of the Scream movies...except for 4. A very special sorry to everyone involved in that opening. It's not the actors' faults. It's just that I can't make heads-or-tails of that opening. But Scream VI answers so many things I had about how to make New York work as a location. After all, the entire notion of New York is that it is overly crowded. LA in Scream 3 was weirdly absent and depopulated for being a sprawling metropolis. But that opening with Jason in the alley is fundamentally perfect for how the city acts as a character. This version of New York is the worst of us. If the world of Scream is a world built on idolizing villains, even in the most tasteless ways, seeing how people choose not to see violence is fascinating. It never really feels fake. (Man, I'm doing it again. I'm talking more about New York than Jason.) Let's get back to Jason. Watching that scene where Laura is killed, it fulfills the needs of the opening of the film. It's a cool reminder of the protocols of Scream.
But when Jason takes off his mask the opening titles don't appear, oh my goodness. There was this moment that I thought that Scream had truly redefined itself. I mean, every article I read about Scream VI was that it was a gamechanger and I thought the gamechanger involved Jason. Again, this is Alternate Universe Tim talking. Scream VI was such a banger of a horror movie that I don't want to detract from what I saw. But Scream's formula is ultimately a formula. The surprises come from the reveals. Some of those reveals are more disappointing than others. See, as much as I liked the last Scream, the reveal of Richie and Amber as the killers is a little vapid. If anything, Sam and Tara had more connection to anything in the story than Richie and Amber. So when we see Jason take off that mask, there's part of me that wants to imbue the villain with the amount of attention the hero gets, which is something is both congruent with the message of these most recent Scream movies by being so blatantly against what the message is. Like I said, the world of Scream is a cynical one. The world embraces serial killers in Scream as if they are all a kind of game. As satire, we have to take that criticism. But the notion that the biggest revenge that one can take on Richie and Amber is by keeping their identities secret is beyond me.
Which brings me to Gale. Gale has become a depressing character. One of her fundamental traits has become never becoming a better person. The lesson that Gale always learns in these movies is to put people first and career second. Yet, every time that there's a new killer on the loose, we see her knee deep in her career, sacrificing the little guy to get ahead. There's always this understanding that Gale needs an arc, but by placing Scream and Scream VI so close together, we are now aware that Gale is actually not a good person. It's depressing, but it's also what we've earned by having Gale in every one of these movies. She's had the opportunity to change, but we realistically know that she will not. My goodness, that is bleak, considering that Scream acts as satire. Instead of Gale having relapses, Gale barely has a moment to keep the promise that she made at the end of the last Scream movie. Instead, we've just embraced her for her terrible commitment to her friends.
But the thing that makes me love this movie is the lack of Sydney. I know. I would have loved to have Neve Campbell back and I know that the studio was doing her rotten by offering her little money. But Sydney's story, for all intents and purposes, is done. Gale oddly makes way more sense than Sydney, especially in this story. The thing is, and I mentoned this earlier, is that Maureen's story is done. There has to be a degree of realism that was almost completely shattered by the retconning done in Scream 3. Maureen became the center of a soap opera that reached absurd levels. The odds that Maureen Prescott caused that level of insane trauma just by following her dreams of going out to Hollywood almost demonized her. I know that we have no right to be mad at Maureen (outside of abandoning her family), but the odds that so many serial killers were the byproducts of her infidelity is a little silly. Yeah, the very notion that so many people want to get invested in the Ghostface story is a little absurd. But I also get that Detective Bailey separating himself from the narrative of Sydney Prescott makes way more sense than anything I've seen the franchise do for a while.
Scream VI just works. It looks different. It feels different. And yet, it ultimately is a Scream movie that was made because the directors were having fun making the last one. If anything, it ironed out some of the weaker stuff in the last one and made it work. Is the whole thing perfect? No, I think Detective Bailey gets a little nerfed once he's unveiled to be the killer. I also absolutely think that Kirby should have been the killer because she's not the cult figure for any good reason. There's good stuff here and it's all about a good who-dunnit. Maybe it's why, for a guy who only likes horror once in a while, to get really excited for Scream movies. They are really good whodunnits with a slightly different vibe every time.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.