[Screen It]


(2023) (Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega) (R)

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Horror/Comedy: Past survivors of a serial killer, along with their friends, try to avoid a new killer who's donned the infamous Ghostface mask.

Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera), her half-sister, Tara (Jenna Ortega), horror film aficionado Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown), and her brother Chad (Mason Gooding) are all survivors of a serial killer who donned the infamous Ghostface mask...and just so happened to be Sam's boyfriend at the time.

Now, Sam, whose father was a previous version of the Ghostface killer, is ultra-protective of Tara who's in New York attending college with her roommate Quinn (Liana Liberato) -- whose father is Det. Bailey (Dermot Mulroney) -- and goes to school with Mindy, her girlfriend Anika (Devyn Nekoda), Chad, and his roommate Ethan (Jack Champion).

When new Ghostface killings strike, TV reporter and former survivor Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) shows up on the scene, as does FBI agent Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere), a fellow survivor of such killing sprees. With the new killer ultimately targeting Sam specifically, it's up to her and the rest to protect themselves and figure out who the killer is this time.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10

I still stand by my statement from years ago that the major Hollywood studios, for the most part, have seemingly forgotten how to make truly scary movies. You know, the kind that burrow deep into your psyche and give you goosebumps years or decades later. Instead, we usually get a variety of boogeyman or slasher flicks that substitute gore and cheap jump scenes in place of genuine fright.

Accordingly, I'm all good with filmmakers adding comedy or especially meta elements to the mix to at least make all the formulaic material more palatable. "Scream" back in 1996 certainly did just that, and spawned several sequels that continued the trend but with diminishing results.

In 2022, that franchise got the reboot treatment -- with related meta elements regarding just that -- but the only scary thing to me was that I didn't recall a thing about the new "Scream," let alone actually seeing it. Thankfully, the explanation was that on the day of our press screening, our home condensate pump went out, meaning once it filled up, our heat turned off. Being January with sub-freezing temperatures at the time, that was far scarier than anything the unofficial "Scream V" could deliver, and I certainly didn't find any meta pleasure with having to babysit that pump 24/7 until the replacement arrived.

All of which means I have no reference to what immediately leads up to what should be named "Scream II" (perhaps with "Redux" thrown in for good measure) but instead has returned to its cinematic Roman numeral lineage and hits theaters as "Scream VI." A little research got me up to speed, however, and I can only imagine fans of this franchise will enjoy it wrapping around itself by mixing in former characters with the newer cast.

Besides the kills -- at least for those who get their jollies from such slasher mayhem (to each their own, I guess, but if I'm going for visceral on-screen mayhem, the original "Final Destination" is hard to beat) -- the entertainment value comes from trying to guess the whodunit identity of the killer (or killers should some sort of tag-team effort be utilized).

Of course, in its deepest meta moments, the film -- directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett from a script by James Vanderbilt & Guy Busick -- goes headfirst into addressing that matter, with returning character Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) being the expert and explaining to the rest who amongst them could likely be the perp. A survivor from the last flick, she's joined by her brother Chad (Mason Gooding) along with siblings Sam (Melissa Barrera) and Tara (Jenna Ortega) who discover that someone's picked up the Ghostface mantle and started carving up people.

With Sam being the ultimate target, the question then is whether the other members of the "Core 4" -- Tara, Mindy, or Chad -- could possibly be the culprit (after all, in the past her father and then-boyfriend assumed that role). Or could it be Chad's roommate, Ethan (Jack Champion), or maybe Tara's, Quinn (Liana Liberato), whose cop father (Dermot Mulroney) might also be the surprise twist? Or maybe it's Mindy's girlfriend, Anika (Devyn Nekoda), or blast from the past characters TV reporter Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), or maybe Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) who survived installment numero quatro and now, conveniently, is an FBI agent working the case.

I have to say I'm not a diehard fan of the franchise and thus wasn't eagerly awaiting the snarky and self-aware mayhem like some might be. And it didn't really do much for me in the early moments. But I'll admit that I eventually warmed up to the film and all that it offers. Yes, the meta material still works (but obviously no longer feels novel), and the slasher stuff is, well, likewise rote. But combined with the guessing game of figuring out the perp kept me interested enough to give "Scream VI" its own 6 out of 10 rating.

Posted March 10, 2023

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