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
A sentimental journey for anyone who spent any part of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s renting movies at video stores, “The Last Blockbuster” will put a smile on your face, just like the talking heads who react over a clamshell case by breaking into big grins. It is like a muscle memory, sharing that pop culture experience — and it’s fun and sad at the same time.

This documentary, directed by Taylor Morden and written by Zeke Kamm, is focused on the last remaining Blockbuster Video, located in Bend, Oregon. But then it turns into a blast from the past.

The world has moved on, but this movie reminds us of everything we associated with the home entertainment boom after Video Cassette Recorders, aka VCRs, became a mainstay in American households around 1982. The ritual of selecting movies with your children or date or friends, and then returning them in the dropbox, is chronicled here.

The first Blockbuster Video opened in Dallas in 1985, and video rentals had largely been small mom-and-pop operations until then. Now, there is just one place in the whole world where you can go to recall the past — a functioning Blockbuster in Bend, Oregon. It is all there, in the blue and yellow corporate color scheme. People are coming from around the globe, all giddy, to walk down memory lane.

The genial manager, Sandi Harding, is known as the “Blockbuster Mom.” Her family works there, so do friends, and she is responsible for many a teenager in town’s first job. She provides quality customer service as she carries on the torch. Filmmakers capture “a day in the life” as she goes about her routine. She has received international fame by being the subject of global media coverage, and estimates she has done 500 interviews.

Famous folks talk about their part-time jobs when they were in school – including actors Adam Brody and Paul Scheer – while other comedians and actors share anecdotes, including Brian Posehn, Doug Benson, Ione Skye, Eric Close and Jamie Kennedy.

Director Kevin Smith, who broke through with his 1994 indie movie “Clerks”– about guys who worked in a video store, waxes nostalgic about the video phenomenon. He wonders if video stores may return as a niche market like record stores have.

In its heyday, Blockbuster had 9,000 stores and 60,000 employees, but technology moved on, and today, there is just one, after one nearby in Oregon shuttered, two in Alaska shut down in 2018 and a location in Perth, Australia, closed two years ago.

Bend is about 170 miles east of Portland. The store used to be Pacific Video, and the owners, Ken and Debbie Tisher, are interviewed. Because it is a franchise, and they have customers, they keep the doors open.

After a series of corporate missteps – did you know Blockbuster could have purchased Netflix when it was a mail-order DVD operation? – that are detailed by the business guys, and changes in habits and the evolving marketplace, its days were numbered.

Remember “No late fees”? What were they thinking? They lost a lot of money. Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010 and all the corporate-owned stores shut down in 2014.

Morden, who lives in Bend, began covering the store in 2017, wanting to preserve its history, as did writer Kamm.

Even in 86 minutes, the filmmakers are repetitive, and outside of people’s reminiscences and Harding’s story, there isn’t much substance.

But allow the wave of nostalgia to give you a warm glow, as the filmmakers have captured a bygone era that we now realize we miss.

Of course, Blockbuster isn’t the only corporate outfit that closed its video rental business – Family Video, the last bastion, is headed that way after the pandemic forced closing all its remaining stores (even in St. Louis, where Kevin Smith – yes, that Kevin Smith – donated money to help keep the Gravois Road one in south city afloat).

It’s certainly ironic that the company that is blamed for Blockbuster’s demise, the streaming service Netflix, added the 2020 documentary, which was on the festival circuit, to its roster March 15, and its popularity has exploded.

Recent news accounts report that the store is getting mail orders for T-shirts, stickers and face masks (all made by Bend businesses), and renewed interest.

It’s nice to see a well-intentioned film strike a chord about the community-building of neighborhood stores. And recalling how you’d discover a hidden gem because of the clerk’s recommendation – and us film critics alerting you to must-see movies.

Pop culture won’t forget our shared involvement, and like the store in Oregon, this movie conveys our collective memories, which is priceless.

Kevin Smith

“The Last Blockbuster” is a 2020 documentary directed by Taylor Morden. It stars Sandi Harding, her family, Kevin Smith, Eric Close, Doug Benson, Ione Skye, Adam Brody, Jamie Kennedy, Briah Posehn, and more. It is not rated and runs 1 hour, 26 minutes long. Lynn’s Grade: B+. It began streaming on Netflix March 15.