Ghostface’s Comeback in the Big Apple


The “Scream” franchise and its characters make a move to New York City in “Scream VI.” (Courtesy of Instagram)

Since 1996, when director Wes Craven’s first film in the “Scream” franchise came out, the series has been walking a thin line of comedy, horror and parody. With the first three movies released in the ’90s and “Scream 4” a decade later in 2011, many thought the franchise was dead. However in 2022 with the release of the revival, “Scream” (painfully not named “Scream 5”) broke into the decade with a whole new era of witty characters, farfetched backstories and gruesome slasher killings. As the film was well received, and made money well above any of its franchise predecessors, the road was nicely paved for the release of “Scream IV,” just one year later. Instead of the usual California setting in the iconic town of Woodsboro, the characters swap coasts and spend the sixth film tackling the Big Apple while attending a fictional college in the heart of Manhattan.

Besides those lost in “Scream” (five), “Scream VI” features all the characters we grew to love last year. Those include Tara (Jenna Ortega), Sam (Melissa Barrera) and brother-sister duo Chad and Mindy (Mason Gooding and Jasmin Brown). Alongside them, new players come into the mix, with a suspicious nextdoor neighbor Danny (Josh Segarra), new roommate Quinn (Liana Liberato) and college friend Ethan (Jack Champion). Unfortunately, of the iconic legacy characters from the core films, only Gale (Courtney Cox) makes a return, as she still would do anything for a pressing story. We find out that the franchise’s original final girl, Sidney (Neve Campbell), is still alive and well through phone conversations in the movie, yet she never makes an on-screen appearance. And lastly, everybody’s favorite cop, Dewey (David Arquette), doesn’t make it to the big screen for obvious reasons (slight spoiler alert for 2022’s “Scream”), but his spirit remains alive through the film. 

I think they tried to make up for the diversions from the original movies, like the setting and lack of our favorite characters, by bringing back the failed first-scene kill victim from “Scream 4,” Kirby (Hayden Panettiere). She makes a dramatic return as an FBI agent that inserts herself into the investigation for the new slew of killings that followed Tara and Sam to New York City. However, unless you’d just recently re-binged the first five movies or are a “Scream” connoisseur, her return wasn’t as impactful as I bet they would have hoped. In fact, many of my friends who watched either of the newer “Scream” films did not prior indulge in the playful horrors of the first four movies and didn’t understand Kirby’s significance to the plot. 

As somewhat of an aficionado myself, my one and only fear for this film came true: a walkthrough of all the prior Ghostface killers. Sitting in the theater next to my best friend — who hadn’t brushed up on her “Scream” history — my heart sank as a police bulletin splattered across the silver screen with every killer of Woodsboro’s past. While yes, these movies have been out for decades and their plots aired out on all sorts of platforms before, it still stung hearing them go killer by killer through each past movie. 

In my expert opinion, after having somewhat of an odd hyperfixation with the franchise in eighth grade, “Scream VI” is good, but maybe takes itself too seriously. The movies that preceded this 2023 flick were painstakingly self-aware of how closely they followed a cookie-cutter slasher film. The series even features a paradoxical movie universe where they produce a film (called “Stab”) based on the Woodsboro murders that took place during the events of the first two installments, and on the set of filming those fictional movies is where the killings take place for “Scream 3.” Also, the characters in most of the precursors for “Scream IV” are a lot more likable than those in the newer revival films. That is besides Jack Quaid’s hilarious portrayal of Richie Kirsch in 2022’s “Scream.” If directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett dare to make a third installment of this new “Scream” era, it is my hope they loosen it up a bit and go back to the franchise’s playful and parodic roots.