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.”
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
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.