‘Scream VI’ Review: Ghostface Returns in New York-Set Slasher Sequel

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s second “Scream” film is a huge step up — and proof that there’s life in this slasher franchise after Wes Craven.

If there’s one thing we should take away from ‘Scream VI’, it’s that this meta horror series is officially franchise Now.

Of course, the idea that it hasn’t yet would certainly be news to Paramount executives. Any series that lasts long enough to spawn six movies is a franchise in the truest sense of the word. But up until this point, the Wes Craven-created property has done its best to differentiate itself from the slasher franchises it loves so passionately.

“Friday the 13th.” and A Nightmare on Elm Street and their ilk are the poster children for quantitative filmmaking. They exist in worlds where continuity doesn’t exist, supporting characters come and go without missing a beat, and the bad guy can never be killed for good. There’s never been a serious attempt to wrap up the overarching narrative—and you know there never will be—because the franchise is bigger than any one actor or director. These films will continue to be released until the heat death of the universe, and loyal fans will continue to see them because of the sunk costs and the opportunity for an audacious filmmaker to turn a cheaply made sequel into a diamond in the rough (looking at you). , “Jason X”).

There’s no denying that the “Scream” movies come awfully close to fitting that description, but they’ve always managed to straddle the line without actually going over it. So far, each sequel has used a self-referential framework to justify its own existence: “Scream 2” mocked horror sequels, “Scream 3” examined how the trilogy’s endings differed from their predecessors, and “Scream 4” the prevalence of remakes, last year’s And “Scream” made a convoluted attempt to comment on “elevated horror” and reboots bringing back legacy characters. These narrative devices offered a shred of plausible deniability to accusations that the “Scream” series was just an endless assembly line of slasher whodunnits. Anyone who felt like defending the series with semantics could plausibly argue that the changing ecosystem of horror movies necessitated all four sequels.

Not more. While “Scream VI” still has its share of meta humor, it leaves no doubt that this universe is now well-rounded enough to spawn endless sequels that aren’t parodies of industry trends. And the fact that the film shines without Craven (who died in 2015) is a clear sign that the “Scream” series can afford to lose any of its key players if it can be cleverly replaced. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s tenure at the helm of the franchise got off to a rocky start when their 2022 reboot clearly lacked Craven’s wit and visual power. However, in their second “Scream” film, they completely step out of Craven’s shadow, proving that there is plenty of room for new filmmakers to take on the series themselves.

The last “Scream” movie set the franchise on an obvious reset. The self-described “re-quel” brought back fan favorites like Courtney Cox and David Arquette, but focused primarily on introducing a new generation of stars to take on Ghostface. In this film, two horror geeks attempt to film their own remake of the fictional ‘Stab’ films and initiate a new killing spree in Woodsboro. While the killers were eventually caught, survivors like Sam (Melissa Barrera) and Tara (Jenna Ortega), Carpenter, Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) Meeks-Martin were traumatized for life.

“Scream VI” picks up where it left off, following the two brothers to New York after they make the all-too-rational decision to leave the city after the murder. Now they’re trying to adjust to life as college students, but it quickly becomes clear that they can’t just run away from their Ghostface problem. Sam became the subject of a brutal online harassment campaign because a conspiracy theory claimed he was the actual killer in Woodsboro. And Tara tries to break free from her overprotective sister, who won’t let her out of her sight. When a film studies professor is stabbed to death by a guy in a Ghostface mask, they know it’s only a matter of time before the latest movie-obsessed killer comes for them. Their only chance is to find him first.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a “Scream” movie if the characters didn’t use their knowledge of real horror movies to protect themselves. As they begin to narrow down the list of suspects, it dawns on them that they are now living in a full-fledged franchise. This means that many of the old “rules” that the characters used in previous installments are useless. Everyone is on edge when they realize that anyone could die at any moment – ​​romantic leads and fan favorite characters are no longer safe. The only thing left to do is to prepare for a bigger, bloodier confrontation with their new attacker.

“Scream VI” is a clear continuation of what Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett established in “Scream”, but improves on the “re-quel” in almost every way. The university setting allows the young leads to take center stage, freeing up the legacy characters to add color to the film at the right moments. (If it wasn’t already obvious, it’s time to admit that Cox’s Gale Weathers is one of the best human characters the horror genre has ever produced. The idea of ​​a gritty investigative journalist who will do anything to cash in on his proximity to tragedy with each film more believable, and Cox flawlessly alternates between genuine competence and sleazy opportunism.)

And more than anything, she’s really a whore entertaining. The set pieces are bigger, the murderous reveal is more twisty, and the film takes full advantage of the New York setting. (Unlike the abysmal “Jason Takes Manhattan,” which devotes most of its runtime to the boat trip that brought Jason Voorhees to Manhattan and treats his actual time in the city as an epilogue.) While the camerawork sometimes falls short of formalism, Craven has honed it for a lifetime. , this film captivates you with an energy that is clearly made in the 2020s. The entire film is living proof that the franchise has plenty of gas left in the tank — and we should all be excited for the inevitable “Scream VII.”

Without spoiling anything about who survives the latest film, it goes without saying that almost everyone eventually outgrows this franchise. Characters are cut, actors distance themselves from the slasher world in search of bigger roles, and directors like Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett eventually move on to other projects. But if there’s one thing the “Scream” franchise has taught us, it’s that there’s always someone to put on the mask. If they keep making them like “Scream VI,” the future is as bright as it is bloody.

grade: B+

Paramount will release Scream VI in theaters on Friday, March 10th

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