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

“What’s your favorite scary movie?” Uh-oh.

If hearing that menacing modified voice on the other end of a landline (!) sends shivers down your spine, you may be pleasantly surprised by this “Scream,” for it delivers on the franchise’s terror and laughs.

Especially the opening scene, which skillfully amplifies the suspense, only with a couple different twists. The new home-alone heroine Tara (Jenna Ortega, of “Yes Day”) says she likes “elevated horror,” such as the 21st century game-changers “The Babadook,” “It Follows” and “Hereditary.” Touche!

But the iconic “Scream” world is among the highest-rated and most popular B-movies, those dubbed “slasher” because of the high body count, and they do not wander out of that lane here.

Round 5 is excessively stabby – those squeamish about pools of blood are warned – and the deft editing by Michel Aller puts the thrill in thriller. Why Wes Craven’s innovative original stood out in 1996 is because it flipped the formula with a wink and a smile but didn’t skimp on the scares.

|Twenty-five years after the original killing spree in Woodsboro, a new killer begins a series of murders, and first-target and ‘final girl’ Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to help find out why that creepy Ghostface mask is back.

So is the distinct malevolent voice of Roger L. Jackson. Fasten your seatbelts, and we’re off on a nostalgic wild ride, waiting to see if the new team has the right stuff. That’s the thing with series – fans are very invested and vocal, and these filmmakers know this – and run with it, mock it, and set up their own path with the serial-killer curse in the sleepy small-town of Woodsboro.

Hotshot co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, who made the cheeky “Ready or Not” in 2020 and are part of a film collective called Radio Silence, are obviously fond of Craven, who died in 2015. Astute fans of scary movie tropes, they are inspired enough to craft a quick-witted reboot-sequel hybrid.

At once fresh and familiar, the ‘requel’ doesn’t reinvent the slasher horror genre in the way Craven did, but its playful poking fun at how self-aware it is helps smooth over its shortcomings.

Emulating the old tricks and jolts, this thriller has clever reveals, very gory and gruesome murders, snarky humor, and well-orchestrated tension.

Without a number, this fifth bold and brazen installment may be the most brutal, funniest, and is even more meta than “The Matrix: Resurrections.”

Its cynical commentary on internet fandom and social media outrage over major franchise missteps slyly riffs on David Gordon Green’s rekindled “Halloween” and Rian Johnson’s “The Last Jedi” chapter of the new “Star Wars” trilogy.

Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett succeed in how self-aware this is, as do the screenwriters Guy Resick (also of “Ready or Not”) and James Vanderbilt, who wrote “Zodiac,” “White House Down” and the two Andrew Garfield “Spider-Man” movies.

However, getting the surviving original characters back together – Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) and Dewey Riley (David Arquette) – seems to be an opportunity squandered.

They’ve been an enduring trio since 1996, including sequels in 1997, 2000 and 2011, so they lend a legitimacy to the new one.

Ex-sheriff Dewey is a bigger part of the story this time – and while a welcome sight, he’s a sad shell of his former self. The quirky Arquette plays the retired and reclusive lawman both for laughs and pathos. But the trio’s much-too-brief insertion as supporting players doesn’t do them, or their legacy, justice.

As in the previous four, the main roster is filled with screen-savvy young talent who engage as best they can, given the structure limitations. Nevertheless, we should care more about the two sisters at the center — Tara is the younger sister to Samantha, capably portrayed by Melissa Barrera (Vanessa in “In the Heights”) as somewhat of a mess.

She’s been carrying a big secret around with her, so she acted up in high school, tarnished her reputation, and skedaddled out of town. It must be an in-joke that she moved to Modesto, not exactly ‘bright lights, big city,” and works at a bowling alley.

When she gets a call that her estranged sister’s been attacked, Sam rushes home with her boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid) in tow. He’s never seen a “Stab” movie – the faux franchise based on what happened in Woodsboro that was filming in the first sequel. For the record, “Stab” is up to seven movies referenced here.

Richie gets up to speed quickly. As Sam reconnects to her past, the screenwriters introduce us to the new characters that have links to the old gang. Twins Mindy ( Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding) are the niece and nephew of victim Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy) and Amber (Mikey Madison) lives in the former home of killer Billy Loomis’ accomplice Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard)

Kevin Williamson, who created the original characters that launched many a career, was back for the second and fourth films, and is a current executive producer. He had a knack for capturing youth behavior and culture – and that hallmark continues, even with more jaded kids. His stamp is evident. After all, he went on to create “Dawson’s Creek” in 1998, which ran for six seasons (Does anyone else think the offspring of Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid looks like Pacey?) – and develop “The Vampire Diaries” in 2009, which ran for eight seasons.

The teen party scenes, a staple, propel the funhouse jumps. A character goes into the basement alone! A character says he’ll be right back! The kids generally pay for ridiculous decisions.

And we all know what happens when characters open doors, cabinets, and refrigerators. In one of the best scenes, Wes Hicks (Dylan Minnette), son of Sheriff Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton, another returnee), filmmakers ingeniously stretch it out as he prepares for dinner.

One of my hesitations about embracing these tales fully is that I never totally buy into the whodunit. I like how they get there, but I’m usually let down by the identity and motivations of the murderers. There are many dots to connect and sometimes they don’t.

Will this movie set sequels in motion? Time will tell, but we need to care about the new characters as much as we did the core group

One must remember what the horror movie landscape was like in the 1990s to appreciate how groundbreaking “Scream” was – a lackluster crop of stale Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and Freddy Krueger sequels. But after “Scream” rejuvenated the genre, M. Night Shamylan introduced “The Sixth Sense” in 1998 and “The Blair Witch Project” kicked off the found-footage subgenre in 1999.

Jack Quaid as Richie

Lessons will hopefully be learned about annoyance over cash-grab sequels that they make a point about so well.

“Scream” is a 2022 horror thriller that is fifth in the series. Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, it stars Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega and Jack Quaid. Rated R for strong bloody violence, language throughout and some sexual references, its runtime is 1 hour, 54 minutes. It opens only in theaters on Jan. 14. Lynn’s Grade: B.