What is left of the old Woodsboro gang is back together, but this time leaving their horrific memories of battling the masked evil of Ghostface in return for college and a new life in New York City. They should have known better.
In this sixth edition of the franchise Kevin Williamson (who returns as executive producer) created in 1996, Scream VI is a direct continuation of the highly successful 2022 reboot of the series, or “requel” as the characters fondly refer to it. It features the return of the “core four” survivors of that recent Ghostface assault in which, ironically for a horror franchise, most of the victims were the white characters, now leaving a diverse quartet including sisters Samantha Carpenter (Melissa Barrera), the illegitimate daughter of original Ghostface Billy Loomis, and her half-sister Tara (Jenna Ortega, Wednesday), along with their twins and their BFFs Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding) to hit college in the Big Apple and leave the trauma behind.
No such luck for this group who must carry on with carnage just like they never left home. No rest for the weary. Joining them along the way we do have the inevitable and welcome appearance of some of the surviving legacy characters including TV news reporter-turned-tell-all author Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox, who has now appeared in all six Scream-a-thons) and FBI agent Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere, who previously turned up in Scream 4). The list of originals from a quarter century ago is dwindling, especially since Neve Campbell declined to return this time and her Sidney Prescott was written out with a throw-away one-liner about moving on with her kids.
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The heavy lifting is again handled ably by Scream’s next-gen Sam and Tara, the former spending time with her therapist (Henry Czerny) who is a bit shocked by what he hears about her violent past, and the latter just wanting to live a normal life and find comfort with boys even as older sis tries to rein her in. Into their world of this “core four” come a set of new characters including goofy virgin Ethan Landry (Jack Champion of Avatar: The Way of Water); Quinn Bailey (Liana Liberato), who is the new roommate for Sam and Tara; another friend Anika (Devyn Nekoda); and handsome hunk in the building across the street Danny Brackett (Josh Segarra), the new love interest for Samantha. Coming in to investigate the latest spate of Ghostface murders is Quinn’s dad Detective Wayne Bailey (Dermot Mulroney), who tries to piece all the puzzles of these characters together as they navigate the big city, but find the same-old same-old when it comes to facing arch nemesis Ghostface who looks a little more weathered this time, as well he (or she) should since producers have decided to really increase not just the number of violent stabbings, but also the variety and intensity of them, even employing assault rifles for his use in one memorable sequence.
What makes the series continue to work though is the nifty whodunit aspect of these films. Like The Masked Singer, audiences seem to crave the inevitable unveiling of who it is behind the mask(s), and though not terribly credible, the culprits here provide a couple of surprises. There is also some unapologetic cheeky humor, especially as writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick again go wild with openly revealing all the tropes and expectations of the horror genre, again repeating the bit from the 2022 film with another hilarious monologue delivered with conviction by Brown’s Mindy.
There are also all kinds of Hitchcock references if you want to pay close attention, with posters on the walls of a room that include Psycho and Vertigo, a Rear Window homage in the way we are introduced to Segarra’s character, and an opening scene at a restaurant bar as an attractive blonde is on the phone with her online date match who lures her instead into a dark alley and a gruesome murder. Played by Samara Weaving, the character is only briefly with us before being done in, à la Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane in Psycho. Weaving’s character is not-so-subtly named Laura Crane.
Returning directors Mat Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett keep the action moving at a swift pace as the bodies pile up and the blood flows. The well-chosen cast helps a lot. Considering the constant stream of film references, it also seems only appropriate that the big climax takes place in a long-abandoned movie palace, ideal for the considerable Grand Guignol goings-on there.
Fans will have fun with this one since the 2022 reinvention of the series was smartly hatched and this quick follow-up delivers nicely on its own, quite a bit bigger and more ambitious than the last, one of Mindy’s golden rules for sequels and requels.
Producers are William Sherak, Vanderbilt and Paul Neinstein. A Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group presentation, it opens wide in theaters Friday.
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