SCREAM is a franchise that certainly has left its mark on the horror landscape, with the last two films Gillett and Bettinelli-Olpin have started steering this ship in a wild direction. The franchise as a whole is obviously known for its meta and self-referential dialogue, taking tropes of the slasher genre and hitting them so hard on the head it’s kind of brilliant, while also subverting expectations by keeping the audience guessing up until the glorious final act when all is revealed. Much like Scooby-Doo, the gang is always looking to unmast its villain and there will always be a bad guy monologue, the trick is to make those tropes exciting and appealing to the fans, while also forging your own path ahead.
The biggest gift to fans that Gillett and Bettinelli-Olpin have given is staying away from the obvious choices that horror franchises usually go, the move to keep the films grounded (as much as these things can be) and not the schlocky, B-movie territory you would find on the sixth movie, there is no need for a dark and gritty reboot like we have seen most recently with Halloween. Being able to put a different killer behind the mask is helpful, but also not being overly reliant on legacy cast members, while staying true to Wes Craven’s original vision. There is a fine line between using a legacy cast for nostalgia and to get longtime fans in seats, and just rehashing the same story with the same people. Newcomers to the series Melissa Berrera, Jenna Ortega, Jasmin Savoy Brown, and Mason Gooding are a fantastic core group that embodies the archetypes that are necessary for the film, but gel so well together that there is an investment in their characters.
A few lines that a lot of the cast and creators are peddling are “brutal kills” and “no one is safe, everyone is expendable”, which are great for soundbites, but audience expectation is killer, and when you have a film where you have told everyone to expect big deaths, and not receive those deaths, is a bit underwhelming and a letdown. The negative aspects of the film are few and far between though, the breakneck pace and thrilling encounters with Ghostface are some of the best put to the screen so far. Leaning into the “whodunnit” aspect of the franchise in today’s landscape with films like The Glass Onion having great success is another approach the filmmakers have taken to keep that original spirit, but also stay relevant and with that, successful.
SCREAM 4 started a trend with brutal murders, 5 took that to new heights and now with 6, we are treated to some of the most animalistic attacks yet. A particularly fantastic scene set in a convenience store with Ghostface wielding a shotgun will definitely have its place among the annals of encounters. Keeping Ghostface lean and mean is something screenwriters James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick have stuck the landing on, their collaborative effort on these last two installments has been a breath of fresh air in a horror landscape that has had some tough competition. The spirit of the originals lives on, and a new and exciting path forward with a great new cast to carry the torch.
4 out of 5