Scream VI Montreal review

Scream VI puts Montreal in the spotlight

3.5 out of 5 stars

Let’s begin by laying all my cards down on the table: though I’m a huge horror fan, I’ve never been a huge fan of the Scream franchise. The movies are fun pulp, a mostly engaging precursor to the ironic meta-poisoned tone that has had the culture in a vice grip for nearly two decades. They’re clever and always have a nice, unexpected twist. They’re the horror equivalent of a good chocolate bar: It satisfies a base urge, but, at this point, the films are little more than a well-made factory product (though, self-aware as always, the filmmakers know that). 

Scream VI is a good Scream film. The young and witty cast balances a sense of play with appropriate seriousness. The updated locale from small-town Woodsboro, California, to New York City does some heavy lifting in keeping things fresh. It pays homage to the previous films without losing sight of the times. Nostalgia, though employed, is also carefully undercut. The filmmakers seem to understand what other similar franchises fail to do: Scream no longer belongs to the generation that first made it a success. It needs to be rebuilt and retooled for a new generation. 

Scream VI movie film review
Scream VI

The inclusivity and trauma-informed perspective of Gen Z pop culture do guide this new film. Without going too much into detail, as the big studio made all critics sign big scary embargoes over spoilers, after the events of the previous films, the survivors are more than a little fucked up. When the ghost-face killer re-emerges in the big city, it’s clear that everyone — even our charming leads — are also potential suspects. And, as our new horror-movie guru Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) makes clear, even legacy characters are disposable in the cynical, money-driven world of cinematic franchises.

Scream VI was shot in Montreal. For locals, the city is only tangentially disguised, with notable appearances of McGill and parts of NDG taking the spotlight. Though this might be local bias, the specific mix of grime and greenery signature to Montreal only contributes to the film’s atmosphere. Rather than impossibly sleek, set-like interiors, everything feels a little dirtier than your average over-dressed movie set. 

The college student’s apartments, in particular, have all the markings of a lived-in space. The paint is cracking, the doors stripped and the worst kitchen cabinets you’ve ever seen (I have them, too) create an environment ripe for a new horror. While the city is hardly a novel environment for the genre, it is for Scream. While they never entirely cross the line of good taste, keeping their mainstream audience within their comfort zone, the tension remains one of the more compelling parts of the franchise. It fits the brutality of the violence, which increasingly stands at odds with the overtly polished look of the fictional Stab movies at the centre of the narrative. The smartest thing about Scream is how it simultaneously indulges (by undercutting) the genre tropes while unveiling real-world violence’s real, bloody consequences. 

Scream VI movie film review

This dirtiness, emblematic of the big city, but perhaps, most acutely Montreal (and to be clear, I mean this lovingly), helps push the franchise into a new direction. Even the set decor, in particular an apartment decorated with a Last House on the Left podcast poster, insinuates something about the characters and the new landscape for horror that increasingly invades and exploits real victims and survivors of violent crime as cheap entertainment. Kudos to the art and production design for lovingly putting together these spaces. 

For horror fans who prefer a little more dread than blood, Scream VI may not satisfy your itch. As far as how this film stacks up against the best films of the franchise, it’s squarely in the middle — inching a little more toward the top of the pile than the bottom. The new entry is a fun time at the movies, likely improved by a late-night crowd eager to see some blood spilt. With more than enough twists, the film feels fresh without losing track of the ethos of the original Scream film, which is notably older or the same age as most of the current cast. Do you feel old yet?

Scream VI (directed by Tyler Gillett & Matt Bettinelli-Olpin)

Scream VI opened in Montreal theatres on March 10, and is streaming now in Canada in Paramount+.

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