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.
Julie Rivers (Melissa Barrera) is expecting her second child along with her husband Daniel (Guy Burnet). Julie is nervous as she lost her first child and the couple have moved into a big old house to start their family. An accidental fall places Julie on strict bed rest and while she convalesces, she begins to see and hear strange things. One of those things is the spirit of a little boy she believes is her dead son Andrew come to warn her about impending malevolent intent towards her unborn daughter. Is she going stir crazy or are there actually supernatural forces conspiring against her baby?
Haunting horror is written and directed by Lori Evans Taylor. While basically a very routine and cliché haunting flick, it has some effectively spooky moments, and the material is elevated by strong work by Scream‘s Melissa Barrera as Julie. Presenting the material seriously also helps it dramatically. As in many movies like this, no one believes Julie is seeing ghosts and it makes her isolated and alone. She is also forced to investigate the house’s past and that of its former occupants, leading to a disturbing but expected reveal. Barrera has us liking Julie and believing she is not bonkers…or is she? The conclusion is a bit over-the-top after what is a mostly subtle build-up and Taylor does provide some solid chills and uses the old house setting very effectively. The movie also covers some serious themes such as loss, mourning and letting go, as Julie’s predicament brings back painful memories of losing her son at childbirth. Currently streaming on Tubi despite what the movie poster says!
Latest sequel finds Woodsboro once again the target of someone wearing the Ghostface mask. This time it’s Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega), who is allowed to live only to lure estranged sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) back to Woodsboro. Why is Ghostface so interested in Sam? Could a dark secret trailing back to the original Woodsboro murders have something to do with it? Sam and her friends have an edge though, as Dewey (David Arquette), Gail (Courteney Cox) and Sydney (Neve Campbell) have vowed to stop Ghostface once and for all!
Self-labeled “requel” is directed by the team of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (Ready or Not) from a script by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick. It’s more “meh” than meta as this fifth installment is showing that the Scream formula is running out of gas and this one in particular adds little new to revitalize the franchise. Even Sydney herself claims this Ghostface is the most derivative yet and she’s ironically not wrong. Our three veteran characters all seem visibly tired of this schtick, though the new cast members do try hard, especially Barrera and Ortega. The attempts to give fan service to the original film works only about half the time, though there are some impactful deaths of series characters. There are also some solid kills, a few suspenseful sequences, and some clever dialogue, but even Ghostface lacks a strong threat and the whole film simply felt like it was going through the motions. Even the film’s reveal lacked a strong impact and the reasons for this happening a fifth time seemed very convoluted. Worst of all, It’s actually a bit dull in spots. Something a slasher should never be.
The veterans are fine, but you get the feeling they are also going through the motions and are not really invested in having to do this yet again. Campbell, Cox and Arquette just don’t breathe the life into the characters that they did in the past installments and are actually overshadowed by some of the newcomers. Speaking of which, Melissa Barrera makes for a very strong lead as Sam, the focus of the newest Ghostface’s attention. She’s strong-willed and makes a solid final girl. Also solid is Jenna Ortega (The Babysitter: Killer Queen), who has been a familiar face in horror lately, and she does good work as Sam’s younger sister Tara. Ortega is sympathetic, but also shows some toughness in her encounters with Ghostface. Dylan Minnette (GooseBumps) is likable as the son of now Sheriff Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton) and Jack Quaid does a fine job as Sam’s boyfriend Richie. Rounding out the attractive young cast are Mikey Madison as Amber, Jasmin Savoy Brown and Mason Gooding (Booksmart) as siblings Mindy and Chad and Sonia Ammar as Chad’s girlfriend Liv. A likable cast who deserved a stronger script and better movie.
Overall, this new Scream neither refreshes the franchise for a new generation nor gives it a strong finish— though if it ended here—which it probably won’t—it would be a fitting enough, though weak, send-off. It has some good kills, a few clever touches, and a solid young cast, but otherwise only seems to illustrate that this franchise is running out of gas. The veteran actors seem tired of it all and the script could have done more than put this installment through familiar paces. Entertaining to a degree, but also too slow and routine in spots to let it slide on some of it faults.