More than 25 years after the first film and without the late great maestro of horror Wes Craven at its helm, it would be easy to say that the “Scream” franchise should be left alone.
But when filmmaking duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (“Ready or Not”) stepped in and picked up the slack with last year’s “requel,” both of which carried on the legacy of its four predecessors while emphasizing a new generation, they showed there was still potential in satirical, twist-filled horror films.
The 2022 film, confusingly titled “Scream” despite being the fifth, may not have been a highlight of the series (the best is still the original 1996 film, along with “Scream 2” from 1997 and 2011’s belatedly well-received “Scream 4” competing for second place) but had its bright spots with its Ghostface sequences, the return of David Arquette and the avant-garde casting of Jenna Ortega.
Now, just a year later, the series is returning to a numbered format with “Scream VI,” finding its footing with the younger cast as it continues to move away from legacy characters (only Courteney Cox returns from the five previous entries).
This time, the series is transported to New York, a decision that, in the sequel’s story, is reminiscent of the much-maligned (but, honestly, still entertaining) “Friday the 13th: Jason Takes Manhattan.” The comparison, however, ends there – the new setting being a breath of fresh air for the “Scream” films, which were mostly set in Woodsboro (except for the second and third installments).
Following last year’s film, half-sisters Samantha (Melissa Barrera) and Tara Carpenter (Ortega) and twins Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown) move to town to attend the university, where they find themselves as targets of a new Ghostface.
Newcomers include core group friends Ethan Landry (Jack Champion), Quinn Bailey (Liana Liberato), and Anika Kayoko (Devyn Nekoda), as well as Quinn’s father, Detective Bailey (Dermot Mulroney). Tony Revolori, Josh Segarra and Samara Weaving are also part of the cast.
While Ortega’s performance was a highlight of the 2022 film, here the ensemble finds more balance – Savoy Brown, for his part, delivers a spirited performance filled with entertaining meta monologues, with lead Barrera even enhancing her character (minus the ham-fisted visions of Skeet Ulrich as Billy Loomis) – while Cox finds herself at home instead of Gale Weathers, not just feeling like a story obligation like in the last film .
In addition to Cox’s return as a journalist and tabloid writer, Hayden Panettiere is reprising the role of Kirby Reed from the 2011 film, with a fun twist on the character after a long hiatus.
The absence of the franchise’s main protagonist Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott will likely be a sore point for longtime fans of the series, though it’s a loss that ultimately isn’t felt in the film’s grand scheme. quickly explained in dialogue and ultimately unrelated to the story at hand.
Set in the run-up to Halloween, “Scream VI” uses the city to its advantage, taking place in crowded city streets, trains and bodegas, filled with masked trick-or-treaters and Ghostface lookalikes. It features some of Ghostface’s most intense, menacing, and gory action to date, though it’s not without its moments of levity.
Like previous “Scream” films, the sixth installment celebrates its legacy and horror fandom (characters share opinions on “underrated” horror sequels like “Psycho II” and “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter “, as well as the trendy movie-going social media platform Letterboxd), while commenting on his own existence as part of a franchise. The film goes until Savoy Brown’s character admits to being in a “sequel to a sequel”, which even resembles the college setting of 1997’s “Scream 2”. This means, as she mentions in the film, a higher budget with higher stakes.
But more than two and a half decades after the first film, it’s important that “Scream VI” manages to find new ways to subvert the expectations of the thriller formula. And that’s the case.
The climax – don’t worry, no spoilers here – is admittedly a weak point, at least in the sense that the reveals continue to build on the convoluted connectivity between movies and characters. Notably, though, that has always been the case with the series, made easier to absorb by the highly referential commentary on the horror genre that it has continued to do so well.
But while 2022’s “Scream” was a solid reintroduction of Ghostface to longtime fans and a new demographic that left room for improvement, “Scream VI” is the revitalization the franchise needed to stay alive today. ‘coming.
“Scream VI” hits theaters on Friday, March 10.