In “Scream 2,” it eventually was revealed that, as in the original, there were two Ghostface killers. In that sequel, it was the deranged mother of Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) and a film student aiding her in her quest for vengeance, portrayed respectively by Laurie Metcalf and Timothy Olyphant. In “Scream VI,” there is at least one novel twist: for the first time, there are three Ghostface killers. But as in “Scream 2,” it’s a family affair. The previous entry revealed that Sam’s boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid) was secretly a hyperfan of the in-film franchise “Stab,” and was working with a fellow fan to create a new series of murders that would hopefully inspire better entries in that fictional series. This time, the various and sundry (and very gross) Ghostface murders are being committed by NYPD detective Bailey (Dermot Mulroney) and his two children (Liana Liberator and Jack Champion, fresh off playing Spider in “Avatar: The Way of Water”) … who just so happen to be Richie’s dad and siblings.
Getting that twist up front is the most appropriate thing to do. While “Scream VI” has scenes where the modern equivalent of Randy — his niece Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) — explains the rules not only of sequels, but of sequels to “requels” (the past film’s attempt to co-opt the previously discussed idea of legacyquels), it does not have the same edginess of “Scream 2.” Consider that in “Scream 2,” not very long after Randy explained to other characters, including the now-deceased Dewey, how horror sequels work, he was brutally murdered in broad daylight by Ghostface. “Scream VI” — once again directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, and written by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick — tiptoes against the edge of similarly visceral shock a few times here, but never goes all the way.
The new entry comes close to killing off a few established characters, but is unwilling to plunge the knife all the way. Mindy and Chad each are attacked brutally in the back half of the film; the attack sequence with Mindy, taking place on Halloween night on a crowded subway car, is fairly effective in the moment but loses its edge once it becomes clear that she’s going to pull through. Both she and Chad seem to have remarkable healing powers; the latter is attacked in a dilapidated movie theater-turned-“Stab” shrine and stabbed … a lot, but also survives to the final moments, so that he can have a brief reunion with the other characters, who he’s dubbed “the Core Four,” including his love interest Tara.
Last year’s “Scream” did have one notable death, of course: that of Dewey, as David Arquette returned to play the same role Harrison Ford did as Han Solo in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” essentially passing the torch to the younger generation and being killed in the process. That film’s much-debated follow-up, “The Last Jedi” (referenced in “Scream” in its own way), removed Luke Skywalker from the equation in a late surprise that devastated fans aplenty. “Scream VI” comes very close to killing off its sole on-screen legacy character, Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox). (Gale, it should be noted, is tasked with explaining why Sidney Prescott is not in the film, and the explanation is as silly as the possibility that Paramount Pictures didn’t do everything in its power to convince Neve Campbell to return.) Gale has her first encounter with a Ghostface killer on the phone and is then attacked, and would seem to have bit the big one in an extended attack in her Upper West Side condo, but … well, by the end of the film, Mindy quickly tells us and the rest of the Core Four that Gale is going to be fine.