Scream 6: Taking a Stab at the Big Apple

Hunter Vasey, Opinion Editor

An ever-increasing crime rate, a confusing maze of public transportation, twenty-nine dollars for a vodka soda. All of these make New York City terrifying enough, now add a masked killer stalking you through a city that never sleeps. That’s right, Scream is taking a page out of Friday the 13th‘s playbook and taking on the “Big Apple.” The only difference is this time, it’s a good movie! 

The story of Scream 6 follows sisters Sam (Melissa Barrera) and Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) now living in New York a year after the events of the fifth movie. Tara is a student at Blackmore University alongside fellow survivors Chad and Mindy Meeks and trying her best to forget the massacre she barely survived. Like most Scream movies, however, the past quickly comes back to haunt them in the form of another Ghostface who kills a pair of Blackmore students and then viciously attacks Tara and Sam in a convenience store.  

The pair decide it’s safest to flee the city but are unfortunately now suspects in the Ghostface murders and forced to stay by the police. So, the group of original survivors, along with some new friends, must fight for their lives while simultaneously not trusting each other because if they learned anything from the events of the last movie, the killer is definitely someone close to them.  

As usual, Jenna Ortega delivers an amazing performance as Tara Carpenter, a role that really evolves in this movie. By now, she’s already survived several brushes with death and has been subsequently traumatized as a result. In previous Scream movies, the main character Sydney Prescott deals with her trauma by withdrawing, trusting no one, even changing her name, and moving to the wilderness to escape any potential Ghostface copycats.  

In Tara, we see a very different kind of trauma response, she regularly gets blackout drunk and one scene sees her almost go home from a party with a complete stranger. I think this representation, especially when presented in contrast to her sister Sam’s control freak behavior, is a fascinating study of trauma and how it affects people differently. The Scream series has always showcased trauma, but only really in one way: the character of Sidney Prescott and her survival of repeated traumas. This expansion, especially with the inclusion of Gen Z characters and their off-color dark humor, feels very fresh. 

Another great aspect of this movie is the return of Kirby Reed, played by Hayden Panettiere. The writers decided to retcon her death in Scream 4 because she was a fan favorite. However, it was mostly due to the actions of the actress herself that the character returned. She revealed in an interview with Good Morning America that she actually called the writers of Scream 5 when she saw it announced. She pitched her ideas for the character and what she thought Kirby would have been up to if she had survived.  

The writers not only agreed but were ecstatic at the idea and agreed she should return for the sixth movie. Seeing her progression from horror movie nerd to badass FBI agent was really fulfilling, especially when she interacts with Mindy, the new survivor’s resident horror movie expert. Seeing two generations of survivors interact was a rare soft moment in the film that worked surprisingly well. 

Of course, no Scream movie would be complete without a brand-new Ghostface, with a brand-new twist motive. I obviously can’t tell you who Ghostface is without spoiling the entire movie, but I can speak on several aspects of this iteration and its uniqueness. Jenna Ortega mentioned at a red carpet event that this Ghostface will be more violent and have gorier kills than in the past — truly the understatement of the century. I’m not sure if it’s the improved filming techniques, special effects, the method of killing, or a mix of all, but these kills make you squirm. They feel brutal and cringeworthy, and I found myself tensing up and turning away from the screen more than once.  

Even the appearance of Ghostface seems rougher. The mask has a worn and almost dirty appearance. They’re also much more aggressive and borderline unstoppable. Where in past movies the door could be locked to keep them out of the room, one scene sees the survivors pushing an entire dresser against a door only slowing Ghostface down by a few minutes. This is an interesting change in my opinion because, in the past, something that set Ghostface apart from other horror movie villains was that he was just some person that decided to wear the mask. He’s not Jason Voorhees, an unkillable zombie dredged up from the bottom of the lake. Ghostface’s strength has always been his ability to surprise his victims and play mind games, not brute force. The mental manipulation was still present, I just wish we saw more of it.  

Although I loved this movie, and as a longtime Scream fan it perfectly fit into the rest of the series, I must admit it wasn’t perfect. I felt like the survivors of Scream 5 didn’t get as much character development as I would’ve hoped, partially because Sidney Prescott was still the main focus of the franchise. I was hoping that this sequel would give us another chance to get to know these characters, especially because all of them seemed interesting. Even the newcomers in this movie: the “sex positive” roommate Quinn, the “nerdy introvert” Ethan, and Scream’s first openly queer relationship Mindy Meeks and her girlfriend Anika, felt like great ideas that just didn’t get enough fleshing out. I know that Tara and Sam are the main characters of the movie, but I would’ve loved more side character content.  

There’s also the issue of Neeve Campbell being excluded from the film, marking the first time Sidney Prescott has not appeared in a Scream movie. The absence of Neeve was due to an issue we see all too often, the undervaluing of women in Hollywood. She announced on social media she would not be returning to the series for the first time ever, and that it was due to the fact she felt the offer she received was not equivalent to the value she added to the series. This is so disheartening to hear, especially because Neeve was the face of the Scream movies and probably the only reason they became as popular as they were. If a woman in her position can’t even get proper treatment in a franchise that she kickstarted, it really feels like a slap in the face to all women. 

As a die-hard (pun fully intended) fan of the Scream series, this movie truly felt like a love letter to fans. With so many references to past movies and the parallels to Scream 2, I felt like I was watching a fan film in the best way. As the series continues, I can only hope that we continue to see more from these characters as they work their way into our hearts and, hopefully, out of danger.