Review: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s ‘Scream VI’

Scream VI Review - 2023 Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett Movie Film

Vague Visages’ Scream VI review contains minor spoilers. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s 2023 movie stars Courteney Cox, Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega. Check out the VV home page for more film reviews, along with cast/character summaries, streaming guides and complete soundtrack song listings.


When the fifth entry in the Scream franchise, confusingly entitled Scream, was released in early 2022, it was the most wonderful and welcome surprise. Here was a franchise that hadn’t seen a new entry since 2011’s fan-favorite Scream 4, which was also the final project of dearly departed series creator Wes Craven. Without the maestro at the helm, it seemed unlikely that anybody would be able to capture the magic of Scream — even with the blessing of Kevin Williamson, Craven’s long-time screenwriter on the franchise. But nobody was betting on directing duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, the crack team behind Ready or Not, who delivered a clever, surprising and very modern take on Scream’s well-established mythos while also staying true to what makes these movies so special. And now they’re back to do it all again, just over a year later, with the even more confusingly titled Scream VI. 

Although it’s the sixth entry to date, we’re firmly in Scream 2 territory here, and rightly so. Much like Craven’s beloved follow-up relocated the action to college, so too does Scream VI, which finds the surviving members of the previous year’s massacre trying to carve out normal lives for themselves in New York City, all the while hoping that Ghostface doesn’t resurface to finish them off. Melissa Barrera’s Sam is also in The Big Apple, though she has less of a reason to be there. Rather, Sam is mostly following the sassy Tara (Jenna Ortega, buoyed by the success of Wednesday), trying to protect her but mostly just cramping her style. Right when it seems like Sam is completely overreacting, though, Ghostface pops back up to prove her paranoia was entirely justified. 

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Scream VI Review - 2023 Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett Movie Film

Much like her uncle Randy did all those years ago, Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown) calmly explains to her clueless friends that when it comes to sequels, everything must be bigger and bolder than before. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett seem to have taken this to heart since. Alongside returning screenwriters James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, they’ve crafted one of the leanest, meanest and most violent Scream sequels yet. It may even be the darkest of the bunch, though Scream 3 does deserve credit for mostly dispensing with the quippy tone of the previous films (for better and worse). There are less jokes in Scream VI, but thankfully the space where they presumably would be is filled with ruthless kills that push the boundaries of what one would generally expect from this franchise. 

While promoting Scream VI, returning star Courteney Cox admitted that she hadn’t realized there were so many ways to stab someone, and she wasn’t kidding. The cold open is a blood-curdling all-timer, easily among the strongest in the series thus far. Ready or Not star Samara Weaving waits in a bar for a Tinder date only to meet a grisly fate as, for the first time ever, Ghostface lifts his mask and immediately reveals his identity. Aside from establishing that Ghostface has infected male online denizens to such an extent that they no longer care about brazenly killing people in public, the cold open also serves as a middle finger to those who told on themselves by taking offence to Scream (2022)’s big finale, during which super-fans — who thought they could do a better job of rebooting the franchise than actual filmmakers — were ruthlessly skewered. The message is clear: If you think these guys are on your side, they’re not. 

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Scream VI Review - 2023 Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett Movie Film

The chilling cold open eloquently sets the stage for what’s to come. Scream VI is loaded to a bursting point with instantly iconic set pieces. The subway sequence, which was teased in the very first trailer for the movie, is saved until the end, and it doesn’t disappoint. But, before that, there’s a bodega-set shootout that’s nail-bitingly tense, and a shaky ladder escape across towering apartment buildings that’s jaw-droppingly well done and exceptionally cruel. The marketing surrounding Scream VI was focused on how this is a different Ghostface than we’ve seen before, leading many fans to speculate that maybe Sidney or even Stu was behind the mask this time. Where the sixth installment falters ever so slightly is in the whodunnit element, which has long been one of Scream’s biggest selling points. If you’re paying attention, it’s pretty clear who at least one of the killers is early on. Thankfully, there are plenty of misdirects and rug pulls to enjoy, many of which are saved for the big finale, so this doesn’t take away from the fun of the movie.

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Scream VI Review - 2023 Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett Movie Film

Scream VI is also the most propulsive entry thus far. It hits the ground running and doesn’t let up for the entire two hours plus, which means it’s tough to spot many of the nerdy little details — a poster for The Last Podcast on the Left here, a character named Jason watching Jason Takes Manhattan there — especially when the action moves to the “Stab” shrine glimpsed in the trailer. Scream VI has evidently been crafted for maximum re-watch potential, and your eyes may be so busy darting around the frame trying to catch everything the first time around that you miss how well it’s shot, scored and performed. The “Core Four” — as Chad Meeks-Martin (Mason Gooding) sweetly dubs them, leading to eye rolls all round — are more fleshed out than they were in the previous film. They feel more lived-in, and more established as real people too. They’re also surrounded by a whole bunch of interesting side characters, including The Beach House’s breakout star Liana Liberto, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Segarra (as the biggest New Yawker in the movie by far) and Scream 4 survivor Kirby (Hayden Panettiere), whose comeback was teased in Scream (2022). 

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Scream VI Review - 2023 Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett Movie Film

Fittingly, the sixth movie in the franchise boasts the biggest body count yet, which makes sense given the cast has swelled considerably since last year’s thrilling reboot. Just as everybody is a suspect, anybody could be a potential victim, which adds a thrill of danger to the proceedings. The kills are vicious, and more creative and drawn out than ever before. Clearly, the killers in Scream VI are seeking to up the ante in every way possible, so it makes a certain amount of sense that Sidney sits this one out (though the filmmakers wisely leave the door open for Neve Campbell to return — for the right price, of course). Her absence isn’t too jarring — not least because Gale confirms she’s safe elsewhere — thanks to how much more assured the new cast is in taking the reins. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett are more confident this time around too, taking more risks and putting their own spin on a franchise that they were maybe too fond of as fans to truly experiment with during the previous film. With presumably just one more movie to go, wrapping up their modern trilogy by shocking and delighting viewers even more in the next installment will be the real challenge.

Joey Keogh (@JoeyLDG) is a writer from Dublin, Ireland with an unhealthy appetite for horror movies and Judge Judy. In stark contrast with every other Irish person ever, she’s straight edge. Hello to Jason Isaacs.

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