Contains minor spoilers.
Hello, Sidney… or is it Samantha now?
The original Scream released in 1996 is not only my favourite horror movie, but also my favourite movie of all time. It wouldn’t be hyperbolic for me to say with my whole chest that it made me fall in love with films.
Even though the first movie I recall watching was Bride of Chucky (which is itself a Screamification of the Child’s Play movie), the moment that catapulted my irrevocable passion for film and filmmaking was the first time I saw Scream’s opening scene, elevated by its untouchable third act.
It also might have turned me gay, but who’s to say for sure?
Because of this, I don’t know if going into a new Scream movie helps or hinders my chances of liking it because on the one hand, I will literally always be hyped for new Ghostface content, but on the other, the slightest misstep could prove to be detrimental to an entire franchise – my favourite franchise.
So yeah, the stakes going into Scream VI were extremely high, made only worse by Neve Campbell not making an appearance as the franchise's face: Sidney Prescott.
When it was announced in June 2022 that Campbell wouldn’t be returning as Sidney Prescott in Scr6am, the first time in the entire franchise, I was gutted (pun may be intended) because Sidney is probably my favourite part of the franchise.
Sidney is an anomaly in the slasher subgenre. Where typically the face of a franchise would be its killer (See Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween), for the first four Scream movies, Sidney was their headline act.
In fact, every different entry had new killers behind the mask, but the one consistent was Sidney, Scream’s Michael Myers-esque Final Girl - the baddest one in the game, I might add.
However, in Scream (2022), with sequels here on referred to by their entry number, for the first time in its history, the gargantuan shoes of the franchise’s legendary head, Wes Craven, were filled by Ready or Not duo, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett.
Tasked to bring Ghostface into the era of the requel (a reboot-sequel hybrid popularised in the subgenre by 2018's Halloween), I think Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillet did an excellent job with Scream's fifth entry, all things considered.
With launching the franchise into the modern stratosphere, of course, came new faces in the franchise, now headed by Samantha Carpenter (Melissa Barrera).
Now, let’s get one thing clear: Samantha is no Sidney – and that’s fine.
Also, to her part, I think Barrera did a competent enough job as the franchise’s new Head Final Girl in 5, a sentiment that was mildly unpopular within the franchise’s stans.
But I would argue that Sam was a cool addition to the Scream zeitgeist, especially because of her convoluted reveal as Billy Loomis’s illegitimate daughter.
However, my biggest problem was that she felt undercooked and ill-prepared to take the baton from Sidney. She was also definitely outshined by her younger sister, Tara, played by current it-girl Jenna Ortega.
This became my primary concern for VI: without Sidney there, would Sam be able to carry the franchise on her own?
And as much as the setting moving from Woodsboro to New York seems fun in theory, Friday the 13th Part VII: Jason Takes Manhattan definitely contributed to my rising concerns that VI would tarnish Scream’s reputation as slasher’s most consistently good franchise.
Well, I’m happy to report that even if it wasn’t a slam-dunk, VI is a worthy addition to the franchise, and a lot of that was due to Sam’s character arc and Barrera’s performance.
Like Sidney before her, Sam was undoubtedly the heart and soul of the latest entry. My girl carried!
Admittedly, the ‘Core 4’ from 5 – Sam, Tara, Chad (Mason ‘Daddy’ Gooding), and Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) – were some of the best parts of VI. The writers may have starved with the killers’ reveal and motives, but they ate their character arcs and relationship dynamics up.
But even though it could’ve gone south in a heartbeat, VI’s focus on continuing the ‘Sam being the daughter of a serial killer’ arc was the slam-dunk of the movie.
In Scream’s original trilogy, Sidney was carved out as the benchmark subversion of slasher’s typical Final Girl: she was its face, she had a fully realised character arc over the course of the movies, she jumped Billy’s bones in Scream’s third act (she's just like me) and survived, she wasn’t characterised as ‘I’m not like the other girls’, she came up victorious in every entry in the franchise, and she was so hot.
My GOAT really defeated seven killers throughout her Head Final Girl run between Scream and Scre4m. Laurie Strode could never!
In VI, Sam takes this subversion even further by leaning into her killer instincts because not only did she kill Richie, one of the two Ghostfaces in 5, but VI reveals that she enjoyed it and, in her words, ‘it felt right’.
Continuing this angle was a big risk given its initial reception, but it made sense with the franchise’s emphasis on character continuity.
What made Sam’s arc in VI make sense was Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillet’s commitment to having it be the central narrative drive for the movie.
Throughout VI we as the audience have a front-row seat to a masterclass in character development, with the film delivering several moments of nuance where we are shown and not just told of Sam’s conflict between wanting to be a good person by normative standards, and giving in to her inherited bloodlust.
And by the time Sam saves the third act from being the worst one since 3, you would be hard-pressed to find a former Sam hater not growing into at least respecting her as the role of Scream's new Head Final Girl.
Even if Sidney never fully returns to the franchise as its lead, I have no doubt in my mind that Sam will not be able to extend her legacy – propelling the final girl forward just as Sidney did in the original.
Giving Scream VI 8 litres of corn syrup (the same thing they used for pig’s blood in Carrie) out of 10.
Scream VI is out in cinemas everywhere.