There’s more than one way to clean a knife after piercing a victim’s skin in the Scream flicks. The filmmakers appear determined to give this series nine lives or more as the sixth installment finds new terrorizers to fill the Ghostface mask. Let’s quickly go through the strange name game as 2022’s Scream was really Scream V. Termed as a requel, Urban Dictionary considers that a “sequel to a movie that functions somewhere between a sequel, a reboot, and a remake”. Unfortunately Scream (’22 version) didn’t function that well at all. With directors Matt Bettinelli and Tyler Gillett taking over directorial duties from the late Wes Craven, they showed lots of appreciation for the original from 1996. Like the other follow-ups, it couldn’t compare to the fresh satiric edge that part 1 had. In fact, despite a well-executed slashing or two, I’d rank it fifth of the lot.
Now I’d rank it sixth because Scream VI is a minor improvement. It picks up a year after the events of the fifth. We’re not in Woodsboro anymore as Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera), daughter of the OG Ghostface Billy Loomis, has relocated to the Big Apple. She’s there mostly to keep watch over little sister Tara (Jenna Ortega), now a college freshman along with sister and brother Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding). They call themselves the Core 4 since they managed to survive the havoc wreaked by Sam’s ex-bf Richie in the last go-round.
The dwindling legacy characters returning are Gail Weathers (Courtney Cox), the reporter who’s always looking for a way to make a buck from the mayhem. There’s also Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere), who played an integral role in Scream 4. She was the best friend to the eventual Ghostface in that one. And while part four was one of the better sequels, I would understand if you forgot her character. Now Kirby is an FBI agent who shows up to help (which obviously makes her a quick suspect). I wonder if her appearance might be due to Sidney (Neve Campbell) not being present. Word is they didn’t want to show her the money to appear.
While the predecessor often paid homage to Scream ’96 (released the same month when Mason Gooding’s dad Cuba was screaming “Show me the money!” to Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire), this has its winks to Scream 2 from 1997 by being set in the higher ed world. Some of the brutal sequences are well-constructed. The opening with Samara Weaving as a college professor on a blind date is a clever way to start.
Part of the fun in the Scream pics is figuring out the slayers and it’s usually more than one. There’s a few to consider with Sam’s neighbor and secret lover (Josh Segarra), the detective father (Dermot Mulroney) of her roommate Quinn (Liana Liberato), and Chad’s roommate Ethan (Jack Champion). And who knows? Maybe Papa Billy’s demonic genes are infecting Sam.
As we’ve seen before in this franchise, there’s a scene where a character explains that the “rules have changed!”. And nothing is as it seems. The NYC locale change is welcome (Ghostface brandishing a shotgun in a bodega is fresh new territory). Scream VI gets by for a while in the new setting and with its furious piercings. Sadly it is not faster. The 122 minute runtime is a series record and when we reach the third act, the rules haven’t changed much with the unmasking reveals. That portion is the biggest letdown. There’s only so many ways to inject life into these deaths, but they’ll find ways as long as we continue to show them the money.
**1/2 (out of four)