If you’re a hit horror franchise looking to relocate, there’s just one rule to follow: don’t pick New York. Many a bloodthirsty murderer has tried for a better life in The Big Apple – see Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, Escape Room 2: Tournament of Champions – but very few have managed to kill it at the box office. Scream VI, the follow-up to 2022’s ‘requel’ Scream, hopes to end that grizzly run.
We pick up shortly after the events of the previous film. Sisters Sam (Melissa Barrera) and Tara (Jenna Ortega) Carpenter are now living together in Manhattan – and attempting to deal with the trauma of masked maniac Ghostface’s recent rampage in different ways. Sam is seeing a therapist, while Tara is getting wasted at freshers’ parties. Neither approach is working well. Soon the siblings are screaming at each other in the street after Sam arrives out of the blue at one of Tara’s mixers to check up on her. Usefully, their old enemy is waiting around the corner to help prompt a quick make-up. Cue another madcap dash between crime scenes as the Carpenters and their survivor buddies team up to try and foil Ghostface once and for all.
Sound familiar? That’s because it is. Scream movies usually follow the same, tried-and-tested format, but directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett should get credit for an attempt to reinvent their villain. This Ghostface is gnarlier and more aggressive than before. They use a gun for the first time (in costume), as well as the iconic knife. And, perhaps most shockingly, their identity is revealed in the opening scene. That turns out to be a bit of a red herring, but it still makes for an exciting, jaw-on-the-floor moment.
Elsewhere, there’s plenty of room for comfy nostalgia. Scream VI hit the headlines last year when original star Neve Campbell (who’d been in every single instalment) announced that she wouldn’t be coming back for another go because she wasn’t offered enough money. Her absence is explained away with one line in the new film, but another alumna is reintroduced at the same time. Fans will remember Hayden Panettiere’s Kirby Reed as the sole teenage survivor of 2011’s Scream 4 (and as an underrated character). Now she’s a grown-up, rule-breaking cop who’s ready to sort out some unfinished business. Courtney Cox is also back as Gale Weathers, the vulture-like news reporter, and it’s fun watching her and Kirby snipe at each other over the bones of old feuds.
For the most part though, Scream VI is still the Sam and Tara show. Jenna Ortega has blown up since the last movie (thanks, Wednesday) and you might expect opportunistic producers to have stuck her front and centre. This hasn’t happened. Instead, the two sisters do everything as a pair – whether that’s crawling over broken glass through a bodega shootout or double-punching Gale in the chops for stepping out of line. When they’re kicking ass together, nailing silly lines like “you fuck with my family, you die”, the movie is at its best.
Scream VI isn’t perfect: the constant meta references (past killers, the ‘rules’ of the franchise) felt inventive in last year’s reboot, but here grow tiresome. There’s also a confusing subplot around Sam’s suppressed desire to emulate her dad (Billy Loomis, the original Ghostface), who appears in hallucinations telling her to murder people. Throw in the usual exposition sessions, which keep the viewer up to date on the plot but make it feel like a Gen Z Poirot, and it could all start to get on your nerves. Luckily, such is the sheer, bloody joy of the thing that you’ll be too preoccupied to notice. Maybe more horror baddies should move to New York?
- Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
- Starring: Jenna Ortega, Melissa Barrera, Courtney Cox
- Release date: March 8 (in cinemas)