Scream VI: an exercise in autocannibalism

Title card of the movie 'Scream VI' released on March 10th, 2023. (Courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

Why did Scream need a sequel? Beyond that, why did it need five?

The first Scream was really fun, intelligently written, and just meta enough that it didn’t have the time to be annoying.

With more sequels comes more time to flesh things out, and hence Scream has now had the time to stick its head so far up its own ass that it has become something of a self-consuming Oroborus.

Scream is a series that I refused to watch the sequels of for a long time. I ended up binging through all of them last year prior to the release of the fifth Scream movie. Scream 1, 2 and 3 were fine at best, and retroactively ruined the themes of the first at worst. Scream 4 was better, but was ruined by contemporary editing styles. Scream 5 was fun, but not great.

Similar to every other Scream film, the constant need to talk about how you always need to shoot the bad guy in the head, instead of just fucking going ahead and shooting the bad guy in the head, is infuriating.

So many characters in this franchise face the same fate as Syndrome in The Incredibles — they all get caught monologuing.

Scream VI is not bad by any means. It’s fun and has some great tense moments and for the first time in Scream history, it introduces a one liner that isn’t impossibly cringe-worthy.
The problem with modern Scream is a seed that was planted in the start, and one that has claimed many series over the years: the desire to subvert expectations.

Scream VI makes it clear that the Scream series is no longer about satirizing horror films, but instead just about trying to subvert audience expectations. While I admit that what Scream VI ultimately does is clever, it’s incredibly unsatisfying and begins to open up several plot holes throughout the film.

In trying to one up not only itself, but every other previous entry, it begins to spiral out of control, doing nothing but chasing its own tail in a desperate attempt to appear in control of its own themes.

At one moment a character who is the killer takes their victim to the hospital to cover up their own tracks, but then reveals themselves just a few short minutes later.

Subverting what you set up is fine and can be fun, but it isn’t the only trick in the book, and sadly it’s the only one Scream’s writers are aware of.

The point of all this is to say that Scream is a franchise now; it’s no longer just a piece of art but instead it is a brand, a product that exists to fulfill a niche. It’s fine, it’s fun, some of the chase scenes and kills are fun to watch, but it’s hard not to be disappointed or cynical when you watch something become what it hated. I’m glad this one isn’t constantly making A24 references like the last movie, and I’m glad that the characters aren’t constantly brain dead, but this isn’t Scream; it’s what a board room thinks Scream is.

Scream’s legacy will not be its films, but instead the movies its comedic and meta style influenced. It seems Scream VI knows this as one of the throwaway lines a character quips: “Fuck this franchise.”