By Lynn Venhaus

What’s your favorite scary movie? Horror film nerds, this “Scream VI” is for you.

If you have followed the California teenagers through the slasher series since 1996, this sixth chapter — the ‘sequel to the requel,’ keeps the scary meta movie-verse chugging along with all the tricks of the trade.

Shocking killings. Innocent victims. Flipping formula. Characters self-aware of horror movie conventions. Twisting those rules and structures to keep viewers guessing. Subverting expectations. Make it bigger, elevated and raise the body count. Bring it on – and there are still surprises to be seen, along with more blood and gore.

Following the last Ghostface killings in 2022’s “Scream,” the four survivors leave Woodsboro behind and start a fresh chapter in New York City.

No doubt “VI” is set up for co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett to finish their trilogy, with a seventh –and possible final one, but time will tell. This chapter is a satisfying conclusion, if it is, but they also leave the door open. (But please, bring back Neve Campbell!).

Their set pieces are impressive – even for the most jaded moviegoer. An intensive scene involving crowded subway cars filled with Halloween revelers in classic scary masks ramps up the tension as only this franchise can. Touche! And then there is the ‘meta’ shrine to “Scream” and the “Stab” movies based on the real-life murders.

While at 2 hours and 3 minutes, this chapter gets to be a tad tedious as we lurch to the big reveal. But the fact that they keep coming up with fresh ways to surprise us, kudos to how smart and clever not only the directors are, but also screenwriters James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick.

Building on what creator Kevin Williamson started 27 years ago, and horrormeister director Wes Craven did for the first four films, “VI” features a great deal of terror, brutality, and anxiety as it continues the saga with an appealing cast of characters.

Williamson, who wrote the original, sequel and chapter four, was an executive producer of the fifth and this sixth film.Since the beginning, he was able to capture youth behavior and culture so well. Craven died in 2015.

The creative team provides fan service and homage to the “OG” duo. With the growing market for the horror genre, these “More Four” – Bettinelli-Olpin, Gillett, Vanderbilt and Busick, had to up their game, and they have, for the most part, succeeded – they make us care about the “Core Four.”

Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega

The Carpenter sisters have returned to be the revenge targets — Sam (Melissa Barrera) and Tara (Jenna Ortega), along with their hometown pals, twins Mindy and Chad Meeks-Martin (Mason Gooding, Cuba Jr.’s son, and Jasmin Savoy Brown), now that they’ve escaped to New York City. Their uncle was film-geek Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy) and Sam’s dad was the first Ghostface Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich),

Because of their notoriety associated with the brutal serial killings, they are no longer considered poor victims, but social media has fanned the flames that Sam orchestrated the killings herself. Barrera, who evokes sympathy from the get-go, has a fragile psyche and will need to build her strength as she attempts to avoid danger. But she shows her mettle splendidly.

Apparently, someone with intimate details of all the murder and mayhem in Woodsboro wants to wreak havoc into their lives and inflict great harm. Jealousy has been a theme – along with twisted psyches — since the first film in 1996.

That bold launch, featuring Drew Barrymore as the first high profile victim Casey Becker, which introduced Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott, Courtney Cox as tabloid reporter Gale Weathers, and David Arquette as Dewey Riley as a local policeman, became the highest grossing slasher film ever until the David Gordon Green “Halloween” reboot in 2018.

The holiday dress-up aspect of Halloween plays an intriguing factor here as well, after all the “Core Four” are in college and Tara wants to party while Sam is super-protective of her half-sister. They have a complicated relationship, but their bond is as important as their conflicts.

And what’s a “Scream” movie without a party? Both Barrera and Ortega are seasoned pros and capably carry the convincing horror movie tropes along. They work well with the twins, as they all are attending Blackmore College.

The new cast members include Chad’s nerdy roommate Ethan, played well by Jack Champion, most recently seen in the “Avatar” sequel, and the sisters’ trampy roomie Quinn (Liana Liberato), whose dad is a NYPD detective (Dermot Mulroney).

The directors made the horror film “Ready or Not” in 2020, and two of its stars, Samara Weaving and Henry Czerny, figure significantly here.

Cox returns as a legacy character. Last seen in “Scream 4,” Hayden Panettiere reprises Kirby Reed, now an FBI agent. The women aren’t used a lot, but they are effective.

Roger L. Jackson, who has supplied the creepy altered voice of Ghostface, which sends shivers down spines, is up for round 5.

To me, the disclosure of the killer isn’t ever as strong as one would like, and here is no exception.

Yet, in this latest chapter, the Easter Eggs are plentiful, the nostalgia factor duly noted and the snarky humor still lands.

“Scream VI” is a 2023 horror film directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. It stars Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mason Gooding, Hayden Panettiere, Courtney Cox, Dermot Mulroney, Tony Revolori and Samara Weaving. It is rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout, and brief drug use and the run time is 2 hours and 3 minutes. It opened in theaters March 10. Lynn’s Grade: B

A Ghostface on the subway on Halloween

By Lynn Venhaus

Looks 10, story 3. Regardless of its visual splendor from state-of-the-art effects, “Avatar: The Way of Water” is a bloated, confusing mess of a story.

Cinematographer extraordinaire Russell Christopher, who did “Titanic” and “Ant-Man,” and a team of hundreds of animators. motion-capture artists and graphics wizards make this sci-fi world fantastical, but a pedestrian plot can’t muster enough excitement to sit through 192 minutes of a curiously uninvolving scenario.

In a fierce battle to protect their home, the Na’vi must face a familiar threat on the extrasolar moon Pandora. Big bad military = evil territorial bullies, noble blue people = at one with nature.

With some nods to his previous mega-hits “Titanic,” “Aliens” and “The Terminator” franchise, director James Cameron has built a stunning panorama of flora, fauna, and water, lots of water. He’s also showing off in 3D and high-definition rate.

For all his excess, the man knows how to corral a team to create magic. However, his self-indulgences hamper smooth sailing in storytelling. He could have trimmed the film by half, and it would be far more engrossing with less repetition. (Four editors!).

A tribal plot involving family and loss offers nothing new – and five people came up with this unremarkable story that seems to have recycled some familiar “Lion King” beats (Come on! “Circle of Life”? Really?).

The monotonous video-game like screenplay, by Cameron and the husband-and-wife team of Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, whose work includes “Jurassic World” and the “Planet of the Apes” reboots, has this smug self-important air, and lacks even a smidgeon of wit.

Even superhero movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have some chuckles, and I’ve seen cartoons that are far more entertaining. Why so serious?

While we weren’t exactly waiting for a sequel to the highest grossing film of all time, it’s been a long time in coming – 11 years. Since 2009, technology has created even more worlds of wonder, and real-world problems of climate change and political colonialism have been added for relevance.

“King of the World” Cameron has planned three more sequels, with principal photography already completed for “Avatar 3,” which may happen in 2024, and others expected in 2026 and 2028. Whether it will be a global phenomenon like the first remains to be seen, but if they are as insipid and interminable as this one, don’t bother.

With the wow factor, this sequel seems headed to only earn Academy Awards nominations in the technical fields. The original won Oscars for art direction, cinematography, and visual effects out of nine nominations. The intricate makeup and hair work is also award worthy.

If you can’t remember much of the first one, here’s the condensed version: It’s the 22nd century and humans are colonizing Pandora, a moon in the Alpha Centauri star system, because they want to mine unobtanium, a valuable mineral. That threatens a local tribe’s existence – the Na’vi is a humanoid species.

Here, an avatar is a genetically engineered Na’vi body operated from a human brain in a remote location, which interacts with the natives.  

Is this making your head hurt? Second one recaps how protagonist Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) fell in love with a Na’vi woman Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), and converted to that culture. They went on to live a blissful sparkly life and have four children – two boys and two girls.

Because he crossed the line, from being one of the military ‘sky people’ to a sympathetic outsider, his former Marine commander, Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), seeks revenge, but the motivation is murky. With a target on his back, Sully has endangered the Na’vi, and the Metkayina clan leader, Tonowari (Cliff Curtis), is not too happy about this turn of events. And neither is his snarling pregnant wife, Ronal (Kate Winslet). (Before you think, Kate Winslet is in this? It’s merely a voice-over).

Yet, an army of mighty warriors are ready to double-down, riding on some primordial-looking sea creatures. Only Quaritch has brought a force that look like the Na’vi. Good luck figuring out who are the good and bad guys, for it’s not always clear.

Clan leader Tonowari

The kids get in all sorts of scrapes, but telling them apart is tough, too, especially the two sons—Neteyam (Jamie Flatters) and Lo’ak (Britain Dalton). Kiri is the offspring of Sigourney Weaver, and they are her guardian. The youngest daughter named Tuk is designed to be the cute little charmer (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss). And then there is Miles, aka Spider (Jack Champion), a human who was left behind, and is like an adopted son.

Lots o’ macho posturing, women fretting, outsiders vs. natural-born, and kids being scolded for putting themselves in harm’s way. For three hours and 12 minutes, no intermission.

It is only epic is scope, not in any captivating way, for the imagination seems to have stopped at the art direction. Pretty pictures of ethereal thingamajigs floating in the water, and creatures plugging into energy sources that light them up for some reason are dazzling, so are the skies full of stars, and wavy tendrils that wrap themselves around various shapes, with different results.

Things blow up in spectacular fashion and gigantic whale-shark-looking hybrids, feared for their viciousness and sheer magnitude, wreak major havoc. The battle scenes, with Down Under-accented enemies, are well-executed – wait, did I just see New Zealand comic treasure Jemaine Clement?

With the avatars and Na’vi appearing so similar in looks and expressions, performances fail to register. The characters are one-note without much depth. Outstanding actress Edie Falco is wasted as a general and I’m not sure who ace character actress CCH Pounder plays.

New age-y dialogue is cringe-worthy, sounds like something from blacklight posters in the ‘70s. “The way of water connects all things. Before your birth, and after your death,” one son says. Whatever that means.

For all its posturing as an event film, “Avatar: The Way of Water” is unnecessary. It’s a gussied-up mash-up of ahead-of-his-time genius Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” and “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” And I would like four hours of my life back.

Kiri, under water

“Avatar: The Way of Water” is a 2022 action fantasy film directed by James Cameron and starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Sigourney Weaver, Cliff Curtis, Kate Winslet, CCH Pounder, Jack Champion, Britain Dalton, and Jamie Flatters. It is rated PG-13 for sequences of strong violence and intense action, partial nudity and some strong language and runtime is 192 minutes. It opens in theaters Dec. 16. Lynn’s Grade: C-.