The Scream franchise has hit roman numerals. Some may think that a “Scream VI” is taking the murder mystery idea a little too far for a little too long — “Scream VI” thinks so too. The series, known for its self-awareness and metacommentary, pokes fun at the rules of horror franchises — which characters can die, who can be the killer, how legacy characters like Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox, “Friends”) can insert themselves into the mystery. “Scream VI” makes these rules fun by conforming to them while simultaneously managing to maintain the mystery.
“Scream VI” follows Ghostface (Roger L. Jackson, “Scream”) to the Big Apple, where sisters Sam (Melissa Barrera, “In the Heights”) and Tara (Jenna Ortega, “Wednesday”) relocate after last year’s murders in their hometown, Woodsboro. Sam is the daughter of Billy Loomis, the original Ghostface in “Scream,” and she and her half-sister Tara are now the new Ghostface’s targets along with their friends Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown, “Scream”) and Chad (Mason Gooding, “Fall”). While Tara tries to get over the previous year’s tragedies by attending college, Sam has run through a list of therapists, none of whom understand her trauma. To make matters worse, Sam is the victim of endless online conspiracy theories claiming she staged the prior year’s murders and is secretly a murderer like her father. Ghostface uses this against her, targeting the sisters and everyone associated with them, framing Sam all the while. As the rules of the sequel to 2022’s “requel” clearly state, no one is safe.
The Scream franchise’s newest installment adheres to its familiar structure. An irrelevant death at the film’s beginning establishes Ghostface’s return. Then there’s the explanation of the rules — this time by the group’s self-proclaimed film nerd Mindy. The rest of the film is basically a stabbing murder spree until Ghostface’s big reveal. Maybe this gets old for some viewers, tired of retreading past stories. But for fans of the series, there are endless Easter eggs and legacy character appearances that allow the film to remain fun, upbeat and clever.
Whenever Dewey (David Arcquette, “Scream”), Woodsboro’s beloved deputy sheriff (who died in the last film) is referenced, the film’s well-known tune plays. There are new legacy character appearances in addition to Weathers — this time by Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere, “Scream 4”). There’s a lot of past content to work with dating back to 1996 and, at this point, the franchise feels like one big inside joke. These subtle references are what I love about the Scream franchise. They’re enough to keep me coming back, even if “Scream VI” doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the story.
“Scream VI” does miss one crucial character: Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell, “Scream”). Campbell’s character made the franchise what it is, and she’s never previously missed a movie. Her absence is due to failed contract negotiations with Paramount Pictures. Campbell claimed that the offer did not reflect the value she brought to the franchise. While there’s not much public knowledge about what the offer included, I do know that “Scream VI” missed its original star. It’s just not as action-packed without a Sidney/Ghostface face-off. I think I speak for all “Scream” fans when I say that no one outsmarts the murderer like her.
A franchise that adheres to its own rules so well should know that failing to include its main star goes against the success of the series. Still, “Scream VI” is successful in bringing Ghostface back into the modern world and out of Woodsboro, a refreshing take on the franchise’s well-known murder mystery format.
Daily Arts Writer Laura Millar can be reached at email@example.com.