SCREAM VI. Massacre in New York [REVIEW]
What to expect from the sixth part of the series? Rather not originality, but above all what governs the principle of sequels – so the offer is what we already know well, but served in a much larger dose. Slasher fans know that number 6 doesn’t necessarily mean a bad movie (an example is the pretty good Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, 1986). The Scream series already wins because of the idea of making fun of American pop culture, which is still developing and taking various forms. The quintessence of the style initiated by Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven, the creators of the original Scream (1996), is playing with genre clichés and starting a discussion with the viewer about film phenomena.
One such phenomenon is the requel. Its feature is the combination of old convention with modernity, as did the fifth film in the Scream series (Scream, 2022, dir. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett). New heroes joined those we know, but not to remain in their shadow, but to perform a much more important function. They were supposed to constitute a new team, and the series was to enter new areas. The mission to refresh the ossified formula was undertaken by filmmakers from the Radio Silence collective: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett and Chad Villella (the latter acting as executive producer). Scream VI, which is a sequel to the requel (this wording was used in the film), of course, did not avoid a certain repetition characteristic of the series, but thanks to the refreshed cast and the transfer of the action to a large metropolis, there are more elements here that prove a new quality than exhaustion of the formula.
So far, the killer in the Ghostface mask has been strongly associated with the fictional town of Woodsboro, California, but in the sixth installment the action moves to New York. This opens up new possibilities, such as showing a tense scene in a crowded New York subway, where many passengers are wearing a Ghostface mask because it’s Halloween. The metropolis harmonizes well with the main theme of the film – the awareness that life is a film franchise, in which each subsequent stage is a film with an increasing budget, an increased number of locations and dark alleys, where the probability of finding a degenerate is much greater. In one of these alleys, the murderer attacks at the beginning of the film right after the phone call, which is “a constant part of the game.” To the surprise of the viewers, the murderer’s face is already revealed then, but what seems to be breaking the convention is actually a lure typical of the series to keep the tension going.
What strikes most in slasher films are empty and unsympathetic characters who behave stupidly and thus make the viewer await their death with cruel satisfaction. There is no such problem in this production. The relationship between the two main characters, Samantha (Melissa Barrera) and Tara (Jenna Ortega), is perfectly constructed here, and it’s no coincidence that they received the last name of John Carpenter, the director of Halloween (1978), which initiated the popularity of slashers that continues to this day. But apart from the relationship, these characters work great as individual characters – Samantha is in therapy after stabbing her boyfriend 20 times. He was a psychopath, she is the daughter of a serial killer and fears that she may have inherited her father’s tendencies. I had the impression that in the previous installment she had less to play than her film sister – but in this part both characters are brilliantly played, both are characterful and psychologically credible, which is why the viewer’s sympathy is on their side.
There are also great roles in the background, such as Jasmin Savoy Brown as Mindy, Liana Liberato as Quinn, the daughter of a police officer, Hayden Panettiere as FBI agent Kirby Reed, and also a character who survived from Wes Craven’s Scream 4 (2011). The opening scene is dominated by Samara Weaving, an excellent actress of the young generation, with whom the Radio Silence collective made the black comedy Ready or Not (2019). Men were given much less room to show off… However, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), one of the leading final girls of modern horror, does not return. From film to film, her character evolves, matures, goes through various stages from a traumatized girl to a crisis counselor. The new heroines don’t have such a large bag of experience yet, but it’s already clear that they are also not paper figures to be killed, but characters with personality and the potential for interesting psychological progress.
What distinguishes this series from Halloween, Friday the 13th or A Nightmare on Elm Street is the scheme of whodunit – a crime story in which the identity of the murderer is the most important element. In each part, the voice of the killer is the same (he is voiced by Roger Jackson), but different people are hiding under the mask. Therefore, in addition to the emotions associated with the bloody horror, there is also an interesting puzzle and no less interesting motives for the psychopath’s actions. And in that regard, the film does not disappoint either. But it also offers more – on the example of Samantha Carpenter, who wonders if the trauma did not release her psychopathic tendencies, the creators draw attention to the theme of violence as an addictive substance. Once you’ve tasted blood, you crave more. And it’s the same with slasher fans who prefer the visual presentation of the massacre over the plot. “Stab, stab, stab and there’s no man”. The filmmakers meet these expectations and create a fatalistic atmosphere around the characters, which makes anyone can be a victim and a murderer. And this, in turn, means that even the most important rule of cinema can be broken, rule which in the film in question was summed up with the words: “Spoiler alert – the killer always loses!”.