Right up until the expected killer reveal moment, Scream VI is a fun, energetic franchise sequel. Perhaps this is a bit of a rose-colored take given how little I enjoyed Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett's previous entry, 2022's Scream. Gone is the unearned commentary on the horror genre as the series returns back to personal motives for the killings. Scream VI is more willing to subvert the conventions of the series, including leaving Woodsboro and taking the series to the Big Apple.
The quick turnaround between Scream entries only shows in the rather ridiculous ending. Otherwise, there is a grounded approach here as we follow sisters Tara and Sam who are fully aware they are in a real-life slasher. The opening kill is particularly fun here, setting the tone for plenty of twists to come. Tara (Jenna Ortega) is not letting the events of the last film ruin her college experience or define her life. Sam (Melissa Barrera) can't move on, taking on the role of a protective mother hen over Tara. The tension between them is pulling them apart but it also fuels the film with more emotion than we have seen in a Scream film in some time.
Sam feels justified then when a new Ghostface killer arrives and begins to finish what Sam's ex Richie started in the last film. Sam and Tara are joined by the other two survivors from Scream, Mindy (Jasmin Savoy-Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding). There is a daunting amount of new characters that pop up, mostly to be killed in some of the most brutal ways the franchise has seen. Scream 4's Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) and Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) return as well.
Scream VI quickly sets up a new set of rules for franchises, making sure we know that legacy characters can be killed off and that most of the rules that were defined in the original Scream are no longer in play. The film also tries to work in some social commentary about social media but mostly that falls flat. There is a nagging sense that the filmmakers here know their killer reveal is lame and so a lot is done to keep the pace moving along briskly. The film creates a wonderful sense of tension in its first half, that peaks with a thrilling set piece in a bodega. Sadly, the film deflates once we understand who the killer is and the reasoning behind it. You can't help yourself from thinking of ways in which the reveal doesn't line up with what we have seen before it. Kirby's return is also lackluster as the film struggles to connect her to anything going on in the film. She has little to do but occasionally drop a bunch of exposition. Gale is also underutilized. However, the two sisters at the core of Scream VI are great. Ortega is a wonderful new screen presence. Barrera has the ability to be entirely convincing as both a victim and a badass survivor here. They are the reason this sequel works, both giving stronger performances than the previous film.
While the third act is a major letdown, there is a suggested possible way the next film will go that would be fascinating. Sam's visions of her father Billie Loomis are used here to potentially take the series in a wild direction. I am all for it.