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Review: ‘Scream VI’ is a Fresh Stab at an Iconic Slasher Horror Franchise

March 8, 2023Ben MK

Much like the killers in the movies, the slasher genre refuses to die. Despite the law of diminishing box office returns, the moviegoing public's affinity for stories about murder-crazed maniacs has continued to hold strong — a simple fact that has helped the Scream films endure through nearly three decades and four sequels. Now, with Scream VI, the brainchild of horror icon Wes Craven is back for yet another chapter. And for the first time ever in its history, the series is leaving Woodsboro behind, trading in its small town roots for murder and mayhem set against the backdrop of the big city.

It's been one year since the grisly events of 2022's Scream, and despite moving to New York City to watch over her college-freshman sister Tara (Jenna Ortega), Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera) can't seem to shake the feeling that something sinister has been following them. The daughter of original Woodsboro killer Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), Sam has spent the last 12 months trying to move past the trauma of seeing her friends murdered and having to put an end to one of their murderers — her own boyfriend, Richie (Jack Quaid) — herself. But when a gruesome new series of Ghostface-inspired murders strikes the Big Apple, Sam and Tara find themselves caught in the middle of another brutal, homicidal rampage. Can they, fellow survivors Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding), and new friends Anika (Devyn Nekoda), Quinn (Liana Liberato) and Ethan (Jack Champion) outsmart and unmask this latest copycat killer before they themsleves become the next victims?

Also returning for this sixth installment is franchise veteran Courteney Cox, who once again reprises her role as hard-nosed reporter Gale Weathers, as well as Hayden Panettiere, whom viewers might remember for her Scream 4 character, Kirby Reed. This time, however, Kirby is tired of being the victim and has since joined the FBI. And so when word of the new Ghostface killings begins to spread, Kirby books the first flight she could to NYC, where she intends to put her familiarity with the case to good use. Along with an NYPD Detective named Bailey (Dermot Mulroney), who also happens to be Quinn's dad, Kirby is dead set on solving the murders and apprehending her suspect. But, of course, not even law enforcement or members of the press are safe from the bloodthirsty wrath of Ghostface. More importantly, though, could one of them actually be the killer?

With everyone a potential suspect, directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett have their work cut out for them. Fortunately, the duo — who also helmed the series' previous entry — have already established the majority of the narrative groundwork, which affords them and screenwriters James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick ample room to let loose with the carnage and take Scream VI to places the franchise has never gone before. From the opening scene, which bends the series' own rules, to the gorier-than-ever on-screen deaths, which are sure to shock even the most seasoned Scream fans, what follows sets a new high water mark for the franchise. And with no shortage of self-aware and self-referential humor, even Ryan Reynolds' Deadpool would be proud.

It's no small feat, but even without star Neve Campbell this time around, the result still manages to retain much of what made the original so special, thanks to the actors' chemistry, the genre in-jokes, and the trademark scares. Suffice to say, this won't be the last time Ghostface menaces filmgoers. After all, slasher movies have always been less about who's behind the mask and more about what that mask represents. And for Scream VI, what Ghostface represents is an established IP — and that's something Hollywood won't let go to its grave quietly.

Scream VI releases March 10th, 2023 from Paramount Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for strong bloody violence and language throughout, and brief drug use. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 3 min.

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