Raphael Georg Klopper’s review published on Letterboxd:
Arriving way too late and with no hurry whatsoever to receive exactly what was to be expected out of this, even though I might’ve actually hopped for the reaction to be different this time around given how people were hipping it up as a “vastly” superior film from 2022’s Scream Awakens (definitely a win no matter how thin the challenge was).
And I gotta say, the movie’s first half sure almost fooled me into thinking I was going to enjoy this. With frenetic straight to the point narrative supplanted with gory brutal kills meeting Ghostface at his most full-on executioner mode, turning the Jason key up to eleven; I sure was enthralled to see where it was going, despite the bucket of cold water the intro thrown at me with one of its suggestions that the movie seem promptly to move forward, and that seemed immediately discarded.
But who knows, maybe they’ll have something new at storage to be revealed later on, a “cool idea” to play with as it surely seems. The menacingly unstoppable tour de force of the new Ghostface sure seemed to promise that, the toughest challenge that any character of the franchise faced by this point, facing up the actual lethal possibility of death; and given that all these new characters, added few others in this, are all disposable walking gen-Z body bags, I was all but down for that!
But them right after the bathroom attack followed by the window-ladder scene (that’s pretty cool and tense)… and some characters survive some ridiculously violent stab wounds… and the narrative consistency begins to get murkier and murkier as it goes along a very messy stitching of its parts, while barely using its setting without any ounce of creativity in a New York that looks like Toronto and studio lot, merely a place not different than Woodsboro in how the characters move and interact across it; up until we arrive the expected climatic reveal, whodunit taken to slasher gore-fest levels, the movie committed the worst sin I can take of a current franchise production: it revealed itself as a stale, obvious, coward lie.
Just taking up from the fact that the movie is departing from the ‘promise’ of being the movie that will change the franchise forever, that will insert new ideas, break legacy-sequel recycling expectations and turn the table around, like I’ve seen some claiming how progressive of the film changing up the traditions by having a male being the main victim answering the phone at the intro this time around – didn’t Scream 3 hadn’t done already?!
Oh well, my mind must be getting blurs of unnecessary lore, the important thing is the NOW, what THIS represents for our NOW. And that’s exactly the problem, the reaction of praise is acclaiming for what the movie does and what it represent, instead of how it ultimately executes. Definitely better than its predecessor, no doubt, but just as messier in what’s trying to do – which is not much AT ALL!
When Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven conceived the original Scream, and what the later films went on to represent, was an attempt to explore the guts of the Slasher sub-genre, to know how to pave a future in the possibilities of horror and the promising free-rains to play around with its clichés and inject new human vitality to what had become staled norms and formulas.
The challenge now lies in how to go beyond with the genre amidst current market of the elevated A24 or the cheap irreverent thrills down at Blumhouse. Then well…Scream VI at least tries to pay respect to one of the main sources of inspiration that ran behind Craven’s directed flicks, by trying to appeal to Argento and the Giallo – including some obvious direct mentions; maybe more so than Craven did in execution – apart from the third movie where some sections carrying that surrealist imagery that had that influence wide open clear!
But Scream VI similarly carries that carnal rawness of the deaths where the female protagonist has her mental and moral stability questioned while being tormented by the real killer acting like a carnivorous monster, right down to the tangled and bloated plot full of tragicomic twists and turns. Is a nice play along in what’s selling on the unapologetic crude violence that does carry some punch in what are pretty good individual sequences: the metro and the apartment escape. However, the farcical nature laid within Giallo itself just doesn’t fit under this tone of extrapolated realism.
At the attempt of trying to be the most brutal of the Scream movies – when 4th had already taken care of that, and with a purpose, by making fun as well as criticizing the entire wavelength of 2010s remakes wave whose only main selling point was gory-fying the level of violence. Not just in that installment however. The violence with Craven always had the weight of causing a real impact of loss, which always led us to fear for the fate of the protagonists even though we knew they would probably come out alive.
But the increased dose of carnage here is said to want to increase brutality and shock value like never before – which in itself is redundant and self-sabotaging with past films that have done this and MUCH better; they also commit the act of reveling in this enormous desire to want to impress with their dismemberments and bloodbath that doesn’t spare anyone from being stabbed in the gut.
On the one hand it treats everything with a cathartic effect of sadistic violence, while at the same time removing all the weight when we see Jenna Ortega surviving three stab wounds to important organs and walks it off fine. Made it worse when trying to sell all that with serious self-importance and barely knows how to play with genre norms as Craven did so well.
No, is not preciousness, it just reveals how the team behind this has a very creative limitation in their own vision of the genre when not even the meta-narrative element brings anything new, and acts with so much smudge cynicism covering all of it. “Who cares about movies”; “Legacy is useless, only cool sometimes”. If the meaning of ‘deconstruction’ is to destroy to rebuild, something Craven and Williamson understood well and had already done in past installments, this film ultimately fails by not having any willingness to ‘destroy’ anything and just tease the ideas of such thing happening with nothing to show for it!
Trying to be the expurgation of dependence on past films, getting rid of the shadow of its villains and plot pieces by using it as a direct plot thread, the ultimate meta-stage of conflict from the franchise in a way; but of course wanting to maintain the perfect balance in giving a little something to do for old surviving characters by the few legacy surviving faces that happened to accept the paycheck that Neve Campbell refused to receive, and her punishment was a near-laughable mention excusing her absence.
Kirby is fine, she was more fun in 4 but Hayden Panettiere still has plenty of charm to show, but barely having anything to do other than deliver some extra girl-power motivational speeches to Jenna Ortega’s Tara. And Gale...why, just why?! Outside Courteney Cox having barely nothing to do here other than act as the ‘mentor from the past’ voice.
What to me feels like an almost disrespectful downgrade to the character who seems to have gone back to square one of the bitchy reporter who cared more about the story than the people she completely changed over the course of the films, grew up and matured by creating actual human compassion while yes keeping her resilient journalism intact to use as her best weapon.
But in the last film she was already able to let go of the love of her life Dewey and only briefly mourn his death?! And here she even has a new boyfriend without showing a hint of remorse or missing her lost beloved only when he is mentioned where you see the character disappear and the actress having to act out the emotion that the script asks for instead of conjuring both in harmony?!
I know people move on, and in any other horror flick this would be just acceptable near-satirical behavior, again we turn back to the farcical elements Craven worked so well, but when that’s in a movie that’s trying to sell a layer of hard-core groundedness and ‘psychological disruption’ themes…it just feels off.
It was like seeing Han Solo again in Force Awakens, returning to being the immature hot-shot that apparently hasn't grown at all over the years, and this coming from a film that is said to be titled to change expectations of a continuation legacy sounds, again , like a beautiful huge hypocrisy!
It's funny how Dewey's death in the previous feature was so vile, treated as real penance and disdain, as if it was symbolically executing that spirit of self-preservation that is expected from every Hollywood franchise, while criticizing it. But the movie right here ends up committing the same crimes of basically just killing new characters and sparing previously established ones.
That’s because it is basing the entire foundation of the film on nothing more than making false subversions. Flirting with possibilities and indications of possible good new ideas instead of following them; teasing conclusions that this time may be definitive, but in such a didactically scripted way so that in the end everything goes back to the same place it departed from.
It felt exactly like watching The Last Jedi again, both movies that banks itself on expressing how’s trying SO ON YOUR FACE HARD to dodge similar elements, twists and turns; that it will reinvent the wheel of situations that audiences have come to expect from the franchise’s films, constantly proclaiming THIS IS NOT THE SAME ANYMORE; ALL CARDS ON THE TABLE; ANYONE CAN DIE, TRUST US. Then it unavoidably ends up in the exact place its past self-sequel did: The Last Jedi being nothing more than just a in-reverse and flattened Empire Strikes Back – similar scenes, thematic purposes, settings; and this is Scream 2 right down to the same freaking climax that people have been calling BRILLIANT.
The creators are acting precisely with that attitude of: we must pretend that we are audacious and ready to dare with new ideas, but not risk anything because we have to bring an audience to fill the seats and fans that we shouldn't upset. Boycotting themselves in the process just so they can remain safe at the comfort zone that will guarantee your audience and financial return no matter what, by keeping to the standard formula schemes and using meta-textual narrative as their shield against potential criticism from the devices they are using. Or when there is some element of real interest, it works as a punctual and little-explored element.
Like with the - apparent - Ghostface revealing his identity early on at the intro could’ve been a great idea to explore this current “Literally Me” abnormal fixation on top of True-Crime psycho narratives, delving into identity and psychopathy by trying to blend in with the good guys and build from that a Hitchcockian ‘bomb under the table’ feeling of dread...but it's just a distraction for the REAL Ghostface to show up and steal the spotlight and won't be unmasked up until the final big revelation followed by one hell of a expository monologue about his original motivations it won't be the same...BUT IT WILL;
Or Sam's possible psychopathy, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the film, which again, is nothing more than a suggestion that never comes to fruition and I'm willing to bet money on the fools who actually hope that this will come to fruition in a future film. Or rather, they even play with the idea of her yes symbolically becoming Ghostface at the end only to generate some applause at the climax as a form of some deranged idea of modern twitter feminist have of female-power grab, revoking all the toxicity dumped on her as a rightful value and exterminating her oppressors.
Nothing but that, after all, a real female psychopath?! Only if she is being influenced by two white males in her family of course like one of the members from the trio of Ghostfaces (WOW IS A TRIO NOW?! HOW BOLD AND ORIGINAL BY GEORGE)! Make sure she’s white too, we got to keep our sociological decency virtue signaling rolling consistently!
And just as an addendum, and I'll probably take some heat for this, but my current theory that in modern horror movies or original murder mysteries, you can guess the villain based on skin color and gender alone than any other written personality trait, has only been proving true with these two new Scream films! Rian Johnson didn't fool me in Glass Onion, and the Radio Silence duo didn't fool me again here neither. Modern Hollywood has taught me well to never believe these pesky straight white men, all devils in disguise.
That when they're not being laughed at, dead weight of COURSE they were going to be the real Ghostfaces this whole time, no matter how hard the film tried to make us think otherwise, even as a comedic attempt, is just idiotic by this point and self-satirization without even realizing! The Barbie effect served to show what this and other movies have been committing for a while now, but unfortunately few are ones willing to admit or realize it.
Well, at least most of us might rally behind the fact that Scream died when Craven died, and all that came afterwards is everything he warned us in the forth movie:
- creative stagnation
- having to appeal to internet trends to satisfy a more spoiled new audience
- graphical gratuitous disguised as shock audacity
Or at least let’s agree on this: Friday the 13th Part VIII this is NOT!