Scream IV Review: A Love Letter to the Franchise

A Scream stan’s POV on Scream IV and what this means for the franchise

Spoilers ahead!! For most of the movies in the Scream franchise!!


I will admit, as a Scream stan, I was scared for part six of the series to come out for fear of tarnishing Director Wes Craven’s near-perfect legacy with the franchise up until Scream 4. Could the creators of Scream (2022) actually create another entertaining and satisfying film with the newest installment?

Leading up to Scream IV – what I, at the time, assumed to be the last movie of the franchise – I had blocked all phrases on social media related in an effort to not have the movie spoiled: “scream”, “Ghostface”, “slasher”, “Billy Loomis”, and “Sam Carpenter” to name a few. Just over a year prior to the film’s release, Scream (2022) – also known as 5CREAM by hardcore stans – had come out and stunned both horror and comedy audiences. . Though 5CREAM was not without its flaws, many critics condemned the movie for “dragging it out”, most would agree that it effectively incorporated the ‘old’ storyline of 1996’s legacy characters and the modern day “Core Four” we get to know and watch develop in the last two films. However, despite my extensive attempts to shield myself from these spoilers, two facts snuck their way into my timeline: that Kirby Reed managed to survive Scream IV (shown in an easter egg in 5CREAM) and that it would be set in bustling borough of Manhattan. I accidentally snuck a peek at a one-second clip of Ghostface terrorizing a New York subway, which only further peaked my interest because of the stark contrast between Manhattan and Woodsboro’s iconic vast field landscapes and “The Town that Dreaded Sundown” energy that Sidney described in the OG Scream.

Post-Movie Shock

My favorite aspect of Scream –and the whole franchise– is its unwavering meta-satirical writing and storytelling, making for some interesting movie theater viewing experiences. The theaters are by no means as extremist as the opening scene of Scream 2 as the stans riot over Stab, but they are not totally dissimilar. Real-life Scream fans will absolutely be live-reacting gasping, screaming, yelling, and giving advice to the characters on-screen because of our love for this movie. So, I went to an early showing for extra fun.

Within five seconds of the film starting, the Samara Weaving – a scream queen in the making – appeared on screen to answer the first iconic Ghostface call with her Australian accent (we have never heard her actual accent in a movie until now)! Despite starring in just three lead horror roles so far, Samara Weaving will make the history books for her horrifying banshee scream. Despite the 27-year-old franchise having to create a memorable 5-minute phone call scene at the beginning of each film, the series still exceeds expectations with the conversation leading up to the skill becoming tenser with every word spoken Even after almost three decades, Roger L. Jackson’s voice only strikes more fear within me as he transitions from a normal-sounding guy to a cold-blooded murderer. I love the use of the extended conversation in Scream (2022) and Scream VI more than in the original films. The main characters being tricked into talking to a serial killer with an initially-sweet voice for a long time is much more horrifying than talking to a creepy-sounding killer for 30 seconds. 

After the unequivocally brutal slashing in the opening scene, Ghostface unmasks himself and appears… He turns out to be a normal-looking guy in his early 20s who we found out is a college student just one minute later. During the unmasking, at least five other people gasped in the theater along with me: how could they show Ghostface in the first five minutes? But of course, the Ghostface who just killed his film professor, Laura Crane (Samara Weaving) is revealed to be one of many. The final line that “actual Ghostface” delivers to the college student before his death had me cracking up, “Who gives a f**k about movies?” before the slash takes us to Scream’s iconic title card. 

I absolutely loved this opening scene! The creators of the film, a trio of men named Radio Silence, made intelligent decisions throughout this movie, especially with the beginning phone call, as the opening scene has the ability to set the tone for the rest of the movie Radio Silence made the smart choice of subverting the trope of cutting straight to the title card after the first Ghostface slash: the camera lingers a little longer and we hear Ghostface panting after killing his professor before he does the unthinkable… unmasking themselves. Having Ghostface do this makes the viewers infer that this is not your typical slasher Scream movie with the familiar setting of Woodsboro: this is Ghostface in New York. 

An aspect of this film that I was initially worried about was how they were going to navigate technology.Scream had come out just a year before, how were they going to ensure the introduction would not be repetitive? Having this conversation with Ghostface happen because someone was ‘lost’ looking for their Tinder date was an inventive way to use technology but not in a way that felt cringey or like a plot device.

Though I have already sung praises of the film opening more than enough, I want to lastly add that I love that we are told this film involves Richie, the last Ghostface, from the first ten minutes. While I completely understand people who love anthology series (I do, too) and who want a completely new plot introduced, this (in my opinion) truly portrays that the creators care about the plot lines and about the new characters’ development – it signifies that they are not just going to throw the last part of the story away in attempt to satisfy newcomers. In this franchise, history, connections, and relationships matter: they are the crux of the whole story. However, this may be me being biased because 5CREAM had my favorite Ghostface in the entire franchise: the idea of someone being radicalized over the internet is especially prevalent and made me laugh considering Amber and Richie’s masochistic stan views. Radio Silence wants their audience to understand that the plots that have come before are important to the new story and where we go from here; they were not just thrown in for the sake of filler.

Neve Campbell’s Absence (and what is going on at Paramount?)

Okay, okay. Even though I have been praising this movie a little too much, I do have a problem with it – not a huge problem but not a little one either. Around mid-February of 2023, news broke that Neve Campbell, who played one of the most iconic horror characters of all time, Sidney Prescott, would not be reprising her role in Scream VI despite starring in 5CREAM. Campbell said:

“I did not feel that what I was being offered equated to the value that I bring to this franchise, and have brought to this franchise, for 25 years. And as a woman in this business, I think it’s really important for us to be valued and to fight to be valued. I honestly don’t believe that if I were a man and had done five installments of a huge blockbuster franchise for over 25 years, that the number I was offered would be the number offered to a man. And in my soul, I just couldn’t do that. I couldn’t walk on set feeling that – feeling undervalued and feeling the unfairness, or lack of fairness, around that” (Variety, 2022).

Thankfully, it seems that Campbell and her former fellow costars are supportive of each other, with Melissa Barrera (Sam Carpenter) saying Neve sent her a “really sweet text” before filming and Jenna Ortega (Tara Carpenter) acknowledging that, “ … There’s so much going on in this next one, that it’s so action-heavy and so gore-heavy and I think you’re gonna be distracted almost… but it’s very clear, like, there’s references to Sidney, of course… she’s missed and thought of.” I am happy that Neve Campbell is doing what is right for her and not tolerating the disrespect of low pay considering she is the most iconic final girl of all time. 

However, this conversation had me thinking, what is going on at Paramount??? If you don’t know, Paramount Pictures is a production company that has been acquiring a lot of popular ‘older’ (90s and 2000s) movies, including Scream VI. In 2022, Sandra Bullock and Tom Cruise have stated that they were cheated out of millions by Paramount, all five lead stars of Mean Girls (2004) said that they would not return for a reunion due to a “disrespectful” money offer and that, “Paramount Pictures doesn’t want to pay the girls what they are worth.” There are many more examples, but perhaps most offensively, Arden Cho who played Kira Yukimura on Teen Wolf also rejected to come back for the movie after a disrespectful offer of less than half of her other (White) castmates. However, after watching this for the second time in theaters, I believe Jenna Ortega’s comments that you will be mostly distracted by everything going on to be true, especially on the rewatch. Even though the movie is great despite Campbell’s absence, I could not help but have this icky feeling while watching that they disrespected the main actress; I thought, “what would the film have been like if they paid her correctly?” I am not exactly sure, but on this, I will say that Sidney did not need to be in this film: her issues with Ghostface have been resolved since there is a new Ghostface every time. There was certainly some closure for her at the end of Scream (2022) but I could not help but think the throwaway line of Sidney ‘protecting her kids with Mark’ coming from Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) was a bit cringey and a somewhat lazy excuse.

However, considering that there were so many plotlines occurring simultaneously, Dewey Riley’s (David Arquette) departure from Scream and Gale’s intermittent presence does not feel as jarring as you would think. Every moment that Gale was onscreen – which amounted to less than 20 minutes – she truly captivated the audience and helped reinvigorate the nostalgic 1996 Woodsboro setting. One of the aspects I missed the most about the OG Screams were the chase scenes; one of my favorite sequences of the franchise was Gale’s famous chase scene in part two through the film department. The ‘chase’ scene – or stalking scene is more accurate – had me on the edge of my seat and truly solidified Gale as the boss of the series: Gale is so aware but also so brave simultaneously, and Courteney Cox did an amazing job despite limited screen time.

Plot Lines That Should Have Stayed in the Drafts (and things I did not like)

Okay, so now we can really talk about the negatives: 

The one thing I had scribbled in my notes over and over again: ‘Stop forcing Chad and Tara together!’ While some viewers may have enjoyed this possible friends-turned-lovers duo, and while I am happy they enjoyed it, it felt entirely unnecessary and cringey (as in, I kept covering my eyes because it was so awkward). I do like the idea that two people who have been through a traumatic experience are getting to heal together and having someone to confide in, however, I do not see the chemistry between their characters. And I do not think it is the actors’ faults (they are both talented), their romantic relationship is not believable and it would be even more meaningful to get through it together as friends. But who knows? Maybe there will be more exploration in the next Scream that will change my mind. For now though, this was the least interesting part of the movie. 

My least favorite part of Scream (2022) were the strange “Billy Loomis” hallucinations that Sam was experiencing. The first two times they appeared, it did not seem annoying because it was supposed to illustrate to the audience that Sam is having delusions; however, this did become a plot device, especially when Sam goes to stab Richie and the hallucination tells her information that she would not know. I am not one of those people who complains about surreality in movies because they are fiction, but the whole reason fans love Ghostface is because they are the most human serial killer; making the Billy hallucination appear pretty often and give secret information takes this movie out of reality. However, this is not a dealbreaker and just makes me roll my eyes a bit when he does appear. 

Another aspect of this movie that I am now iffy on – but was initially negative towards – was Gale’s arc, or more accurately, the lack thereof. At the end of 5CREAM, Gale says that she will not write a book about Amber and Richie’s killing spree and to “let them die in anonymity”. However, when we first see Gale in Scream VI, Sam and Tara are rightfully yelling at her for writing a book about the latest crime spree. At first, I hated this plot point, I thought, “Okay, that pretty much reverses all of Gale’s character development from the last movie, has she learned nothing?” But now that I have watched the movie the second time and have really thought about it, Gale’s regression into the hateful journalist we saw in the original makes a lot of sense: in some ways, Dewey was her consciousness and always motivated her to do better but now that he is not here, Gale would realistically go back to her old ways. Aside from this, the main problem I have is that Gale was there for the crime spree and knows that Sam and Tara did not have any further involvement… so why would she say Sam is a psycho? Perhaps it was for the money but we will never really know.

Lastly, the most prominent ‘negative’ in this movie. Simply put, Kevin Williamson not being a writer caused some malalignment with the script and dialogue. Kevin Williamson was the writer of the Scream 1, 2, and 4; he also wrote I know what you did last summer and was the showrunner for Dawson’s Creek. Williamson has this trademark satirical yet serious yet comedic writing that make the other Scream films so enjoyable. Scream VI, along with Scream 4 were the least funny in the installments. Scream VI’s script was written by Guy Busick and James Vanderbilt (yes, he is actually a Vanderbilt), and I believe they confused satire with being meta, which is not the same. Regardless of the missing comedy in this film (except for a few moments), the film was enjoyable, entertaining, and accurately portrayed requels and franchises.

Final Thoughts

Because of the film’s complexity and many plotlines (most of which I have not talked about), it is hard to give a rating of this movie without adding nuance; most of the reviews of this movie have been dynamic and have also struggled to give this a rating. 

What I can say is that despite the somewhat predictable Ghostface reveal, the last 20 minutes of the film was the most fun reveal scene since the crazy-ness that transpired in Scream 4 with those two Ghostfaces. When Ghostfaces’ shrine appeared on screen with all nine costumes and all the memorabilia, my jaw dropped. Even though the writers may not have been aiming for it, that scene was quite meta because it really did establish a Ghostface Cinematic Universe (GCU): this shrine is how you do fan service right! It did not feel like the writers said “let’s just give them what they want” for no reason, there was a purpose that related back to Richie.
I have seen some reviews that dislike the reveal, which is understandable because Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) had been calling out Ethan (Jack Champion) since the first attack. Even though it was somewhat predictable, what you cannot say is that it did not make sense. All the clues were there and it was especially fun on the rewatching seeing all of the detective and Quinn’s shady behavior. I loved Lianna Liberato as Ghostface and wish we could have gotten more of her.

Lastly, a final post-movie thought about the Scream franchise altogether was how effectively the torch was passed from Sidney Prescott to Sam Carpenter. Last year, many people cited their issues with Melissa Barrerra’s performance in Scream and becoming this ‘final girl’ we have come to love. Everyone can have a preference for Sidney versus Sam but I think a lot of people are seeing Sam as a replacement, which is absolutely not true. I loved Sam and I think there’s a good reason why she is like this. When we meet Sidney, she is reeling from the murder of her mother and Billy Loomis’ increasing pressure to sleep with him. She is portrayed as the Madonna in the Madonna-Whore complex: she does not curse, dresses modestly, and seems to have an ‘innocence’ to her. When we meet Sam, she is popping a pill and has a conversation with her boyfriend that states their sexually-open relationship; we are told that she used to be a wild child and a drug user. Sidney is the ‘reluctant hero’ archetype; Sam is the sexually-liberated passionate yet aggressive woman who will do anything to protect her family. It makes sense for their characters that Sam is much more quick to stab someone because of what she has been through. Sam really is that girl whose not afraid to pull a knife on someone if they have disrespected her, and for that, she is different than Sidney. 

Though my opinion of Scream VI was nuanced, I had an entertaining enjoyable time in the theater and would recommend to everyone who has seen all or most of the past films to see this. I was also excited because this is the first American horror movie where all four leads are POC and they all survive at the end! Any time where POC do not die in a horror movie, I will be seated and watching! 

Final rating: 7/10! An entertaining theater experience that brings a completely new take to the franchise, unlike any other Scream film. Go in with little expectations and enjoy the madness!