“SCREAM VI”

Starring Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Hayden Panettiere, Courteney Cox
Written by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick
Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillette

By Matt Neufeld
March 9, 2023

The only, main question filmgoers will have after watching “Scream VI” is: Why on earth is there a “Scream VI?”

More like, after suffering through “Scream VI,” to be accurate. Because anyone unfortunate enough to have sit in a movie theater in front of this horribly, terribly tired, cliched, unoriginal, derivative, disgustingly violent–yes, that’s right, disgustingly violent, dumb–yes, that’s right, dumb, and, generally, poorly made grade-Z slasher horror movie will indeed suffer. “Scream VI” is amazingly bad, but the very fact that five sequels to director Wes Craven’s and writer Kevin Williamson’s original 1996 film “Scream” have been made is just so sad, so sorry, so stupid and so depressing, this will just make the suffering even worse.

Really, as with nearly all horror movie franchises, there was simply no real need for any other “Scream” movie after the first one. None. Not a one. Nada. Zero. No more. Quoth the raven, nevermore. Craven and Williamson set out to somewhat deconstruct, re-construct and construct the modern-day horror slasher movie with “Scream,” and they succeeded, with a movie that somehow managed to satirize, analyze and poke fun at horror movies; call out the genre’s many moronic, idiotic cliches, tropes, repetitions inconsistencies, failings and mistakes; be funny at times; and even, while the movie was at it, being just a little bit creepy, scary, mysterious, tense and frightening. Craven and Williamson succeeded. Well done, and job done. And then, everyone should have moved on to other projects and other ideas from there.

But the dreaded disease sequelitis, following a path like some of the plotlines in many horror movies, is consistently out of control and unable to be stopped, all the while slowly, eerily, hungrily eating away at the hearts, minds, souls and brains—-BRAAIINNSS!—- of poor, unfortunate, increasingly addled, backwards, psycho and lunatic Hollywood studio and production company executives who are powerless to fight the disease. Meanwhile, the frightened executives become holed up, cowering and shaking with fear, in their barricaded executive suites high atop the Sunset Strip and the Sunset Boulevard of Broken Dreams, as they destructively give in and bow down to the virus’ all-consuming threatening powers, as their entire filmic world crumbles to dust, destruction and eventual extinction all around them. Pretty soon, all that’s left wandering around Hollywood and Los Angeles are wayward directionless zombies in suits, eking out meager livings running cameras for mindless, rambling, ignorant podcasts and equally mindless and ignorant daytime talk shows and nighttime so-called reality shows, rummaging through Wolfgang Puck’s back-alley dumpsters for food and wondering what, just what, happened to their once powerful, pervasive, glamorous silver screened world. Don’t laugh–that’s not too far from the sad truth.

What does this have to do with “Scream VI?” Everything, of course.

“Cliche VI,” er, “Scream VI,” is just the latest sorry example of not just sequelitis, but the virus sub-category horror-franchise-itis sequelitis, which is one of the more pervasive and prominent–and seemingly unstoppable–forms of the disease.

“Scream VI” is poorly produced, offensively and disgustingly directed, just amazingly terribly written and, overall, this cash-grab exercise in bland, violent sameness rehashes the same characters, stories, plot lines, dialogue and sub-plots that we didn’t really care that much about in all of the previous similarly cliched, tired and moronic “Scream” sequels. The only filmic aspect that actually does stand out is the acting. The older and younger actors in the cast actually perform very well, considering what they’re given. The acting is this movie is a great example how talented actors can often deliver a strong, respectable thespian performance that wholly overshadows and stands above everything around them in the movie, on the set, on the page, behind the camera and in post-production.

Kudos, then, to lead actors Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Hadden Panettiere and Courteney Cox. They appear strong, confident, assured and are consistently watchable, and not just because they’re beautiful, which they are. They just deliver strong performances, even though their accompanying script, story, plot and dialogue are way beneath them and their abilities.

But a few good actors, alas, cannot save this bad non-entertaining, non-funny, non-clever and non-scary movie.

The plot is the same plot as all of the other awful “Scream” sequels, and this is not bring rude, short-sighted, lazy or unprofessional in summarization: A group of young, college-aged friends move to New York City, and they are harassed, killed, stabbed, chased, tricked, stalked, killed, chased some more and then killed some more by a psycho killer wearing a mask and scary clothes. That’s truly about all that there is in this movie. And, the killer’s name is…Jason Voorhees! No, that’s not it. It’s Freddy Krueger. No…Norman Bates. Jigsaw. Chucky. Candyman. Pumpkinhead. Pinhead. Alien. Predator. Leprechaun. Leatherface. Damien Thorn. Actually, the killer isn’t any of these guys. But, if you used a little CGI magic, you could easily put any of these compadres into many of the “Scream VI” scenes, the results would still be the same, and no one would notice the difference, except probably a few of those diehard horror fans.

Bizarrely, for a movie and franchise that is supposed to be satirical and funny, “Scream VI” is neither. The satire, which mostly attempts to riff off of horror movie conventions, was, again, played out by the end of the first movie in the series—-and that was twenty-seven years ago. Twenty…seven…years…ago. As in, 1996.

Also bizarrely, “VI” seems to wallow in, and eventually drown in, a disturbingly ultra-violent atmosphere that takes a sickening, stomach-churning, even mentally unstable satisfaction in seeing people getting viciously, bloodily and savagely stabbed to injury and stabbed to death. Why anyone would find as enjoyable sitting in a movie theater watching a repetitive series of innocent people getting stabbed to death is mystifying. It certainly isn’t too thought-provoking, intelligent or intellectual.

Thus, speaking of non-intellectual movie making, this is the perfect time to catch up with just where we stand now in the pathetic pantheon of horror-franchise-itis sequelitis. Herewith, the current standings for the number of films released through the ages for several horror movie franchises. Please note that the following list doesn’t even include the myriad accompanying television shows, video games, comic books, books, short stories and who knows what else in the franchises. Enjoy, or, rather, not enjoy:

–13 “Halloween” movies.
–12 “Friday the 13th” movies.
–11 “Hellraiser” movies.
–10 “Fast and Furious” movies.
–9 “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” movies.
–9 “A Nightmare on Elm Street” movies.
–9 “Amityville Horror” movies.
–9 “Saw” movies.
–8 “Chucky” movies.
–8 “Alien” movies.
–8 “Leprechaun” movies.
–7 “Predator” movies.
–6 “Omen” movies.
–6 “Exorcist” movies.
–4 “Ghostbusters” movies.
–4 “Candyman” movies.
–4 “Pumpkinhead” movies.
–2 “Grease” movies.

Quoth the raven: Nevermore.

–30–
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Matt Neufeld

Matt Neufeld

Matt Neufeld is a longtime journalist, actor and film critic in the Washington and Baltimore areas. He has participated in many local film events and projects in the region, and he has appeared as an actor, supporting actor and extra in more than 45 films projects, at all levels, during the past 20 years.