‘Scream 6’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

The Scream franchise is possibly the greatest horror franchise of all time because it is consistent. Even though all the Scream films have the same structure, it has always been about the experience with Ghostface throughout the film rather than the final reveal. That being said, Scream 6 goes back to the roots of what made the Scream franchise so entertaining to watch in the first place. The journey we go on with the “Core 4”; Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barerra), Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega), Chad Meeks-Martin (Mason Gooding) and Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown) is a wild ride from beginning to end. The gang moves from Woodsboro to New York City, where they think they will be safe so Tara can take her shot at a normal life. However, social media has painted Samantha Carpenter so badly that she can’t escape her past. 

Scream 6 captured the same essence as the original film because there was a strong balance between brutal kills and funny dialogue. Co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett presented the tough, gritty streets of New York City in Ghostface. They needed to show a darker side of Ghostface to parallel Sam Carpenter’s journey in this film. When we see our “Core 4” again, Sam is cycling through therapists to try and work through the thoughts in her head, Tara is in university making some poor choices, and the twins are trying to protect both of them. In a way, they created their own family just like Sidney, Gale, and Dewey did. The “Core 4” are new to this way of life and learned to lean on each other in this instalment. Co-writers James Vanderbilt, Guy Busick and Kevin Williamson focused more on Sam’s journey with Tara than having the pressure of writing something for the legacy characters.

The Scream franchise relies on references and tropes to shape the current instalment they’re working on. In Scream 6, they do just that by referencing previous Scream films in the franchise and the stepping stones to the grand reveal were perfect. It made for some very funny moments and great banter between returning characters like Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) and the new characters in the franchise. The journey may have been suspenseful, well-written and cheeky, but the third act didn’t stick the landing. The reveal felt predictable, and the explanation overstayed its welcome. However, the strength lies in Barrera and Ortega’s performances as they’ve grown as sisters. The ending creates a strong arc for Sam Carpenter, which opens a door of possibilities for the writers to flip the script on the franchise. Even though it didn’t deliver on the reveal, the third act affects Sam and makes it all worth it. 

Scream 6 has inventive kills, hilarious dialogue, and a strong build-up. This is one of the most entertaining Scream films since the original. The opening sets the tone for the rest of the film as it establishes the nature of New York City and the present-day social climate. This franchise has always made fun of those serious about the horror genre and films in general. It’s a step in the right direction after the transitional film that was Scream 5 to introduce a new set of characters. This instalment proves that Sam and Tara can stand on their own without any legacy characters involved. Even though the ending doesn’t stick the landing, the takeaway is that the characters feel more like family. This story is geared more towards Sam and Tara Carpenter and the realization that they will never be able to live a normal life because their past will always come back to haunt them. 

‘M3GAN’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

A new year means new movies, but January doesn’t always have the best track record. When horror movies are released this early in the year, they seem to have it rough. They’re not always great, but they’re still watchable. M3GAN, directed by Gerard Johnstone, is all the campy fun you would want from a slasher film, but it lacks in the kills. Megan is a “toy” that was created to pair with young children and be their long-term best friend. Constructing something so personal and intimate ultimately comes with a price. The “toy” is responsive to the child’s emotions, can get overprotective, and eventually have a mind of its own. Megan becomes a force to be reckoned with in this film because she learns from everyone around her. 

The first half of this film handled grief and trauma quite well. Young Cady (Violet McGraw) loses her parents in a car accident, and she has to learn to live without them. Her aunt Gemma (Allison Williams) becomes her guardian, and she doesn’t know how to change her lifestyle to fit Cady’s. It was hard for Gemma to pull away from her work because she was focused on building a robot that would be the ultimate toy (and best friend) for young girls. While processing Cady’s trauma, Gemma dives head first into constructing this AI robot for her niece to help her grieving process. She didn’t want her to be consumed by losing her parents, and M3GAN would help her move forward. Gemma didn’t expect the deep, emotional connection Cady would have with M3GAN. 

As the film goes on, M3GAN adapts to her surroundings, and she becomes closer to Cady. She understands what she wants and how to help her through anything. The more intimate they become, the more overprotective M3GAN gets. Anything said against Cady would irritate her, and this is where she starts to change. Johnstone’s direction for M3GAN all came down to the subtlety of her glances and how she would pick up on conversations. That is what made the character intriguing. The way Johnstone would lead up to the kills worked well, but it didn’t feel as creepy as it should have. It could be because the humour and anticipation were more interesting than the kill. The combination of young Amie Donald physically playing M3GAN while Jenna Davis voiced the character was impressive. They did make a unique character with a strong story, which should be the main takeaway here. 

M3GAN had a strong start because of how Gemma and M3GAN were helping Cady with her grief. Having the villain gain sympathy from the audience first was a smart move. Almost everyone is afraid of technology and what it’s capable of. That plays in the back of the viewer’s mind while watching this. Even if M3GAN is sweet to Cady and protective, something has to go wrong because she doesn’t have the full spectrum of human emotion. The film works better when it taps into the psychology of AI and how it works for/against humans through Cady. The main issue is that the “good parts” were already shown in the trailer. It does take away from watching those scenes in the context of the film, making it less surprising. There were some fun moments, and it was enjoyable for the most part, but it felt a bit bland toward the end. 

‘Orphan: First Kill’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

When the original Orphan was first released many people rallied behind the performance of Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman). She gave such a chilling and believable performance that the first film has become a must-see horror film every October. If you are a horror fan, you know her name and that is why many people will watch Orphan: First Kill to understand her backstory a bit more. Her presence on screen alone will send chills down your spine, but watching her interact with others is where she becomes even more fascinating to watch. Fuhrman does fantastic work in both films and is the main reason this prequel works. 

After escaping from a psychiatric facility in Estonia, Esther travels to America by impersonating the missing daughter of a wealthy family. Yet, an unexpected twist arises that pits her against a mother who will protect her family at any cost. From the start of the film director William Brent Bell sets the tone and brings the audience back to a different era. The lens is all foggy as if it were a dream in Esther’s mind and the viewer gets to watch her descent into madness. At the time, Esther was in her cell and she knew how to draw people in, which is one of her many talents. Then, of course, she went in for the most brutal kill imaginable. It was fun to watch because you see this young girl who appears to be so sweet and innocent engage in such violent situations. 

What worked forthis movie was the pacing and the timing of the twist in the middle of the film. Once Esther gets adopted there needed to be something more to carry the movie out to the end. And set up her future storyline. Esther’s adopted family Tricia (Julia Stiles), Gunner (Matthew Finlan), and Allen (Rossif Sutherland) all welcome her back with open arms but notice that something is different. The twist is possible the best part of the movie and Julia Stiles is very strong in this. Her chemistry with Fuhrman carries the second half of this film and the third act has some great sequences. The lighting and sound design throughout the movie created a different atmosphere in each room, especially where Esther felt the safest. 

Orphan: First Kill is another sequel that will leave you pleasantly surprised because of how detailed Esther’s story is. It has been years since the first one was released, so it is only natural to bring it back with a good enough backstory for her. If it’s even possible Fuhrman shined even more in this prequel because she had to develop a different side to her and it added so much depth to the original movie. The cast is great and there are some graphic kills in the movie that will make you clutch your stomach because of how much contact Esther makes with some objects. It’s a fun horror prequel that will make you want to watch the original right after.

‘Scream’ (2022) Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

To many of us Scream directed by Wes Craven means the world to us. The reason why it does is because it was our first horror movie ever. To be introduced to the slasher genre through Scream is probably the best way to dip your toe into horror. It is the perfect starter film to get anyone into the genre. Not only does the first Scream have great kills and an awesome cast, but it also has a strong story that is self aware of the film they’re making. Using all of the horror tropes, while crafting a slasher in itself is difficult to do and that’s why no one has even come close to what they did in the first instalment. There comes a time where the franchise goes too far in the horror genre and Scream (2022) did not make a requel that does justice to any of the characters.

Without getting into the actual events of the film, the story is about two sisters reuniting after one of them was attacked by a new Ghostface. The younger sister, Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) was attacked in her home as the conventional opening kill, but she survived. Her estranged older sister Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barerra) returns to Woodsboro with some secrets of her own. All of Tara’s friends are connected to the history of Woodsboro in some way and naturally; one of them is the killer. We all know the rules, and so did her friends, but it got a bit too preachy when Dewey Riley (David Arquette) steps in to help them solve the case. The first four instalments were self-aware, but still managed to form an interesting narrative that wasn’t predictable. This fifth instalment took the metafiction writing to a whole other level that made this feel more like Scary Movie than Scream.

In a way this film does go back to the roots of the franchise (quite literally) and doesn’t really add much for the new characters. Trying to form a new cast by linking all of them to a legacy character or one of the friends that went to Woodsboro High is very much a stretch. It’s also lazy writing to go back to something that had already been done in a better way 25 years ago. This story just wasn’t strong enough to push any of these characters forward without the legacy characters going with them for the next two instalments. It’s like this film was more of a tribute to the 1996 version than a film that can restart the franchise with these new characters. The first act seemed promising because they tried something different but then that third act just fell apart as they directly mimicked what happened in 1996.

Scream (2022) was one of my most anticipated movies this year and I left the theatre feeling extremely underwhelmed. I did not connect with anyone other than Tara, and unfortunately, Jenna Ortega is technically not the final girl, Melissa Barerra is. For me, Barerra fell flat and she doesn’t seem like she’s capable of leading a franchise without Ortega by her side. The one takeaway is that co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett brought a modernized look to the franchise, which really worked. The kills were also more brutal than they’ve ever been, which I really appreciated heading into a franchise revamp, since they are competing with other slashers that are amping up the look of the kills. It’s definitely a love letter for Wes and that’s perfectly fine, but what they did with this story just didn’t work for me at all.

‘Halloween Kills’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

The slasher subgenre of horror can be fun and horrific at the same time. That is the beauty in finding the balance of suspenseful kills, brutal violence, and sarcastic comments from characters within the world. The importance of building suspense and creating an atmosphere for the viewer is what makes slasher films fun to watch. When it’s a new, original piece, the story can be straightforward and have decent kills. But after four decades, the story is important, the lore becomes integral to push a well-known villain into the next instalment. That is where Halloween Kills suffers the most.

David Gordon Green picks up right where we left off in 2018. Halloween Kills is a direct continuation of that Halloween night, which is hard to believe because of the time frame within the first film. Exactly how long can this night be? As we get back into the groove of that night, Green abruptly cuts back to that same night in 1978. The way the flashbacks were integrated did not work for this film at all because it is just repeated information. We already know everything about Michael Myers, so why do we need to rehash it? What is the point of course correcting a franchise that has had three remakes and a one-off film?

Halloween Kills 2021 Michael Myers Figure | Figures.com
Courtesy of Universal

This was one of the weakest openings in the ‘Halloween’ franchise. From the opening title sequence something already felt off. After the fantastic generational family story for the Strode’s that was presented in Halloween (2018), this sequel seemed to switch gears into a different tone entirely. They strayed so far from the family connectivity and turned it into a social commentary about mob mentality. Which wasn’t executed in the way it should have been, in order for this middle instalment to hold any weight in the Myers-Strode extravaganza.

On this particular Halloween night, Michael Myers escapes the flames of the Strode dungeon, thanks to heroic firefighters, who had no idea that they were walking into the Strode house. Myers is now unhinged and ready to kill anyone standing in his way. Cut to, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), who is injured and taken to the hospital, where she sleeps for the first half of the movie because of her surgery. In the meantime, we have the children of the 1978 babysitters club, drinking at a dive bar. Good old Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) tells everyone about his encounter with the Boogeyman. As if, after eleven films, no one knows what Michael Myers is capable of.

Everything We Know About Halloween Kills << Rotten Tomatoes – Movie and TV  News
Courtesy of Universal

The townspeople find out that Michael is on the loose and they take matters into their own hands. Two of the Strode women, Karen (Judy Greer) and Allyson (Andi Matichak) joined other survivors to form a vigilante mob to hunt down Michael. The focus shifted from the Strode women to this giant mob, who apparently, had no idea what Michael looked like. What was also incredibly frustrating, apart from the poor execution of the victims attempting to kill him, no one listened to Laurie. How do you keep referencing her, as the one person who knows Michael best, and just disregard everything that she says?

Halloween Kills is one of the most disappointing movies of the year. It does show a completely different side of Halloween night. Unfortunately, the secondary characters were brought in, just to be killed off, and it felt like lazy writing with a messy execution. This movie was incredibly frustrating to sit through because the kills were awesome, but the story was painfully boring and lacking any form of suspense. When the audience is laughing and rooting for the killer, instead of being at the edge of their seat, something definitely went wrong.