Neve Campbell-less sequel has previous installment survivors Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) and her sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) leaving Woodsboro and heading to the Big Apple with fellow survivors Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown). A year after the last installment’s events and right in time for Halloween, bodies start falling again and a familiar voice begins making those fateful phone calls. Along with Gail Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere), who is now an FBI agent, they try to stop Ghostface one and for all.
Latest installment in this enduring slasher franchise is again directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett from a script by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick. This is a brutal and vicious installment and actually works very well without Sydney Prescott’s involvement. The torch seems to rest fine in the hands of Tara and Sam, as does the refreshing change to the streets and subways of New York City. Setting it on Halloween is also a plus as now there are masked figures, especially Ghostface masks, everywhere. The kills are intense and nasty and this, along with a more 80s portrayal of NYC, with grimy streets, crowded subways and dark alleys, gives the film an even gritter edge. It’s an improvement over the so-so 2022 requel and does freshen up the franchise a bit even if the final act reveals aren’t quite as jaw dropping as we’d hoped. The violence is well rendered as always and is very intense although one feels that the trope of our heroes getting the upper hand on Ghostface then running away before finishing him off is getting really tiresome…understandably the movie would only be about a half hour long then if they did. At least Olpin and Gillett do have some fun with series expectations and relax the tiresome meta nonsense for a more straightforward slasher.
The cast is good here. Cox and Panettiere work well with the newer cast members, Panettiere especially with slipping back into the role of Kirby after 12 years. Her character’s explanation of why she became an FBI agent makes sense. Melissa Barrera again makes for a very strong lead as Sam, now dealing with the effects of the previous year’s attack and the savage internet fallout which paints Sam as the real villain. Rising star Jenna Ortega (X, Wednesday) gets far more to do here and is already a veteran in parts like this. Jasmin Savoy Brown is again fun as horror movie fan Mindy and Mason Gooding (Booksmart) is solid as Chad. Newcomers include Dermot Mulroney as Det. Bailey, Liana Liberato as his daughter and Tara and Sam’s roommate Quinn and Jack Champion as Chad’s roommate Ethan.
Overall, Scream VI doesn’t reinvent the franchise wheel but does freshen it up a bit with a new location, focusing more on the newer cast members and having a little fun with the franchise template. It’s also gritter and nastier than the last flick and delivers some brutal and intense scenes. The reveal could have had a bit more impact, but all in all Scream VI rates as one of the better sequels and shows the franchise still has some life in it yet.
Shudder Exclusive opens with something being released from the ocean floor near a beachfront community, something that soon gets into the water supply and air. At the same time, young couple Randall (Noah Le Gros from Depraved) and Emily (Liana Liberato) arrive at Randall’s family beach house to sort out some relationship issues. When they arrive, they find friends of Randall’s father staying there as well, couple Mitch (Jake Weber) and Jane (Maryann Nagel). The older couple is the least of their worries, as whatever is seeping out of the ocean floor begins affecting and infecting the local lifeforms, including both couples.
The film is basically Lovecraft’s TheColour Out of Space set at the beach, instead of a rural farmhouse, as written and directed by Jeffrey A. Brown. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it is unsettling and spooky as people begin to get sick and change. The fear of infection element is always present and extremely relevant in these COVID 19 times. It’s Liana (2013’s Haunt, not the Shudder flick from last year) Liberato’s likable heroine Emily, though, that really makes this work for us, despite the familiarity with Richard Stanley’s The Color Out of Space Lovecraft adaptation released this past January. Emily is smart and understands what’s going on, somewhat, which makes it all the more frightening as she tries to survive it. It’s a now familiar story, but done very well, especially since Brown creeps us out in broad daylight and in such a picturesque North Truro, Massachusetts settings. The make-up and visual FX are solidly rendered and they are used sparingly enough to be effective when they are presented. Worth a watch. Streaming now on Shudder.
The latest Shudder Original, The Beach House from writer/director Jeffrey A. Brown, is on the horizon and we have our first look at a trailer and poster. The synopsis for the film from Shudder is as follows…
Escaping to a family’s beach house to reconnect, Emily and Randall find their off-season trip interrupted by Mitch and Jane Turner, an older couple acquainted with Randall’s estranged father. Unexpected bonds form as the couples let loose and enjoy the isolation, but it all takes an ominous turn as increasingly strange environmental phenomena begin to warp their peaceful evening. As the effects of an infection become evident, Emily struggles to make sense of the contagion before it’s too late.
The film stars Liana Liberato, Noah Le Gros (Depraved), Jake Weber (Dawn of the Dead 2004, Wendigo) and Maryanne Nagel and will be available for streaming on the horror fan favorite network on 7/9/2020!
(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)
Haunt is a very routine haunted house thriller but, it did hold my interest and was effective enough to be entertaining. The story has teen Evan Asher (Harrison Gilbertson) and his family moving into a house where there were four unfortunate deaths…which is NEVER a good idea. Soon after, Evan starts to see evidence of paranormal activity…SEE! When troubled teen neighbor Sam (Liana Liberato) convinces Evan to investigate, things at the Asher house take a turn for the supernatural worse as an angry spirit makes it’s presence known. Did this spirit cause the deaths of members of the former occupants, the Morello family years earlier?…or is there a far darker secret this specter wants to reveal?
On the positive side, Haunt is competently directed by Mac Carter from Andrew Barrer’s script. While Carter doesn’t really generate much in the way of true scares and tension, the film does have atmosphere and the numerous jump scares do work more often than not. The film looks good as shot by Adam Marsden and the young leads are likable and have a nice chemistry together so, it makes their relationship work. The film may be routine and predictable at times but, I will admit I was not expecting the climax to play out as it did and the big reveal was effective. On the downside, Barrer’s script is very familiar and the fact that the Ashers move in having full knowledge of the Morello deaths was a bit hard to swallow. Even though Evan’s parents (Ione Sky and Brian Wimmer) seem like non-believers when it comes to the paranormal, they seem to let a lot of weird stuff slide, too. The plot point that the littlest Asher, Anita (Ella Harris) appears to be communicating with the Morella’s youngest daughter (Maggie Scott) is just dropped and goes nowhere after a few instances. The subplot of Sam having a drunk and abusive father also never really has any real impact on the story as it never leads to anything or really has too much baring on things, other than to get Sam over at Evan’s for prolonged periods of time. The big reveal also poses as many questions as it answers but, I won’t ruin any surprises by discussing details.
Haunt is a mixed bag but, I was entertained and it did have some effective elements and a surprise or two. It may not be anything new or groundbreaking but, also wasn’t outright bad or badly made either. It’s a mildly entertaining chiller that will pass the time effectively enough but, will quickly be forgotten. Also stars Jacki Weaver as the last surviving member of the Morello family and a creepy one at that.