Scream VI

Scream VI: Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett. With Courteney Cox, Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jasmin Savoy Brown.

The kids are back, and so is the masked murderer chasing them. In Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett's (a.k.a. Radio Silence) new chapter in the "Scream" franchise, the last generation of Woodsboro survivors move to New York City, away from the suburban shadow of Ghostface. Unfortunately, their peace is short-lived. After all, this is "Scream VI." 

Scream VI

The film opens with the murder of a film professor, and as the body count quickly increases, Samantha Carpenter (Melissa Barrera), her sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) and twins Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding) prepare to make their escape, but they're not fast enough for this new Ghostface. Joined by returning characters Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere), as well as a host of newcomers including Anika (Devyn Nekoda), Josh (Danny Brackett), Ethan (Jack Champion), Quinn (Liana Liberato) and Detective Bailey (Dermot Mulroney), the four new members of the "core" group will have to face the killer(s) once more, this time in the heart of the Big Apple. 

As far as "Scream" sequels go, we've seen worse, but the wear and tear of the years can be felt on Ghostface's mask. The script is acceptable but superficial, raising interesting ideas without ever delving into them. 

Scream VI film 

The film touches on trauma and how the characters deal with it early on, but those concerns evaporate almost immediately when the nightly news reports the first murders. Aside from the horror nerd gags, such as costumes from other horror films in the background and references to horror filmmakers and podcasts, "Scream VI" has little to say about horror fandom itself - which, in the case of this film, becomes extremely toxic and deadly. 

Scream VI - Official Trailer

While Wes Craven's first "Scream" was the first in the series to poke fun at the tropes of the genre, the later installments have doubled down on the meta explanation of the rules of the horror film without much of a purpose. Now they're almost for comedic effect, an "if you know, you know" reference to get the audience to nod and laugh in recognition, and not really for cutting edge meta-commentary. I dare say it has been done to death.

Guy Busick and James Vanderbilt's script runs out of steam, but between the first murder and the film's final confrontation, there are a number of suspenseful scenes where Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett prove that the series still has life. 

In one standout moment, Ghostface follows the group to where Sam, Tara and Quinn live. He takes out a few, but one trio manages to barricade themselves in a room and, with the help of a loving neighbor and a ladder, now have a chance to get to safety. The tension is perfectly executed, the kind of sequence that makes you hold your breath to see if the poor souls will make it out. 

Another moment occurs when one of the main characters is confronted by Ghostface, watching her on a crowded train, and is unable to defend herself. The feeling of being targeted in plain sight is indeed chilling and haunting.

Scream VI Review

However, one name sorely missing from this cast is Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), a regular in the franchise. Cambell has stated that she did not receive a sufficient financial offer for her return, and in a film that worships its own history, the absence of this important piece of the series feels like a misstep.

In Campbell's absence, Cox is more prominent, finally getting a call from Ghostface and fighting the killer again. But the biggest star of this new incarnation of the "Scream" movies remains Jenna Ortega, whose smudged mascara and scathing lines give electricity to every scene she appears in. 

This time around, she has a few good opportunities to punch and kick, which is a change from the last film, where she spent most of the time being hurt. 

The most disappointing appearance is New York City itself, which has the distinction of being perhaps the least convincing version of NYC this side of Vancouver. With Montreal masquerading as New York City, it's hard to look past alleys that don't exist or made-up stops that stand in for other well-known locations, such as Blackmore College instead of Brooklyn College at the end of the 2 and 5 lines. 

While the filmmakers use certain aspects of the city, such as a confrontation in a bodega with Ghostface, and apartments facing each other for a little "Rear Window"-style suspense scene, other parts seem detached from the city, with no sense of skyline or location, which disorients the New Yorker in me. Even people who don't know New York might notice that some important landmarks, present in other films, are missing.

As far as sequels go, "Scream VI" is a strange, self-referential beast, a snake that eats its own tail and has nothing left. What will it take to give it new blood and move forward? For now, we have a horror film that tickles the nostalgia bone, a horror film with a few good scares and lines that make you laugh more than scream, and yes, a snippet of "Red Right Hand" by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. 

I don't blame those looking for the simple pleasures of an old-fashioned slasher; I was just hoping for a little more meat to go with the film's buckets of blood.

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