Scream VI

Scream VI

2023, R, 2023 min. Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett. Starring Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mason Gooding, Courteney Cox, Dermot Mulroney, Hayden Panettiere, Jack Champion, Josh Segarra, Liana Liberato, Devyn Nekoda, Henry Czerny, Samara Weaving.

REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., March 10, 2023

It’s still a family affair in Scream VI, the sequel to last year’s numeral-free Scream. That requel that revived the dormant smart-and-scary franchise originated by director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson with new blood, so to speak. Having survived the latest massacre by a knife-wielding maniac wearing an Edvard Munch-inspired disguise in that fifth (albeit unnumbered) installment, half-sisters and final girls Sam (Barrera) and Tara Carpenter (Ortega) have relocated to New York City. The latter is now enrolled as a freshman at fictional Blackmore University, along with two other plucky fellow survivors from Woodsboro High, the Meeks-Martin twins (Brown and Gooding). Soon enough, New Yorkers are being gutted over the course of an extended Halloween celebration in which costumed Ghostfaces roam everywhere, a savvy setting of urban menace that heightens the principal characters’ justified paranoia. If the Gotham-set sequel in the Friday the 13th series, the multiple-shark-jumping Jason Takes Manhattan, taught us anything, it’s that when it comes to masked serial killers in the Big City, you can run, but you can’t hide.

Scream VI dutifully embraces the familiar, like that ominous ring of a phone preceding each attack, and once more makes room for acerbic legacy character Gale Weathers (Cox), the unscrupulous reporter who’s appeared in each of the Scream films. (Hayden Panettiere also reprises her role from Scream 4, having improbably graduated from teenaged stabbing victim to FBI agent.)

In pushing the series in a more preposterous and less deconstructive direction, screenwriters James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick (who penned the previous film) shrewdly give the narrative permission to tilt crazy by incorporating yet another self-referential genre tutorial into the mix, this time one about the progressive exaggerations in horror film franchises. The bigger-is-better satiation of supposedly amped-up audience expectations in Scream VI, however, sometimes misreads your tolerance, particularly in its extended half-winking reveal of the identity of the killer (or is it killers?) and the motive for continuing a lethal tradition 3,000 miles away from where it all began. Even more so, the over-the-top savagery of the violence in Scream VI borders on brutal, though the improbable survival rate of many of the victims repeatedly stabbed with homicidal gusto make the movie’s blood and guts oddly sanguine.

Still, compared to other franchises that have resurrected their seemingly indestructible purveyors of murderous mayhem long after they should have remained dead and buried (Halloween Ends, anyone?), this latest entry in the ongoing saga of Ghostface demonstrates its premise remains viable, though admittedly showing a few signs of calcification. The parting image of the signature mask’s melting visage here surely foretells there’s more to come. But at this rate, when it comes to answering that perennial question of what’s your favorite scary movie, the response will increasingly be one long ago entitled without any numerical designation.

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Scream VI, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mason Gooding, Courteney Cox, Dermot Mulroney, Hayden Panettiere, Jack Champion, Josh Segarra, Liana Liberato, Devyn Nekoda, Henry Czerny, Samara Weaving

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