Scream VI

When her half-sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) heads to NYC to attend Blackmore College, Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera) follows, determined to protect her whether Tara likes it or not.  Sam is in therapy with Dr. Stone (Henry Czerny), still haunted by the fact that she dispatched the last Ghostface with the enthusiasm of her late father Billy Loomis, the original masked serial killer, a fact that has given rise to conspiracy theories that she was the most recent Ghostface in “Scream VI.”

Laura's Review: B

2022’s confusingly titled “Scream,” the fifth in the series of the 1996 same titled original written by Kevin Williamson (who produces here) and directed by Wes Craven, was little more than a by-the-numbers bore, its only new idea introducing the illegitimate daughter of Billy Loomis. So it is a welcome surprise that the same directors, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett, and writing team of James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, have given a shot in the arm to the old franchise.

Apparently they’ve followed the rules as laid out by Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown), who early on declares that they are no longer in ‘sequel to a requel’ territory, but a franchise, which means that audiences will expect everything to be bigger and subvert expectations.  She and her twin, Chad (Mason Gooding), the other survivors of the previous film, dub themselves ‘the Core Four,’ but admit that in franchise territory, even legacy characters aren’t guaranteed survival.   They’re joined by Mindy’s new squeeze Anika (Devyn Nekoda), Chad’s new roommate Ethan (Jack Champion, “Avatar: The Way of Water”) and Sam and Tara’s sexually adventurous roomie Quinn Bailey (Liana Liberato), the daughter of a NY cop (Dermot Mulroney).  Sam’s also got something secret going on with the ‘cute guy’ (Josh Segarra as Danny) she and Mindy spy in the apartment across the way while things are heating up between Tara and Chad.

They’ll all go on high alert when Ghostface makes a dual appearance in this film’s revamped opening which finds Blackmore associate film studies professor Laura Crane (Samara Weaving, “Ready or Not”) waiting for a blind date at a bar.  Her date texts, embarrassed at being unable to find the trendy restaurant, luring her out into the street, then into an alley, their chitchat revealing that she teaches ‘slashers’ which of course demands the infamous query ‘What’s your favorite scary movie?’  ‘Not that one,’ is the cheeky reply, but wit doesn’t save Laura Crane, whose killer rips off his mask to reveal one of her students, Jason Carvey (Tony Revolori).  But he’s a mere pretender and no match for the ‘real’ Ghostface who poses as his roommate before Jason finds his actual one in pieces in the fridge.

Taking the series out of Woodsboro and into the city where Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) now lives in the luxury provided by her Ghostface book profits was a good idea long in coming, attacks made fresh by new locations like Gale’s glass aerie while the killer is retrofitted with vintage masks.  Ghostface will chase Sam and Tara into a bodega where he’ll wrestle the owner’s shotgun away for a downtown massacre, a nod to today’s continual mass shootings along with those conspiracy theories.  Gale’s investigative reporting leads to an old abandoned theater where a shrine has been made of the previous nine Ghostfaces, their masks left in reverse order at new crime scenes (the rationale as to how all this evidence, which includes the murder weapons, has been gathered isn’t this film’s only stretch).  And while ‘hiding’ a killer in plain sight on Halloween is as old as, well, “Halloween,” “Scream VI” makes it fresh by giving us multiple Ghostfaces sitting and standing in subway cars crowded with the likes of Mike Myers and ominous red balloons.

I’ve always found the revelation of the killers to be these films’ Achilles Heel and “Scream VI’s” are a particularly lame choice (suspects include everyone, including the returning Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere), now with the FBI).   But the killings themselves are far more brutal this time around, each stab of the knife felt, and along with some biting wit and fresh scenarios, that’s enough to make this a thrill ride worth taking.

Paramount Pictures opens "Scream VI" in theaters on 3/10/23.