Rating: 5 out of 5.

Proving yet again that it remains the most consistent franchise ever made, Radio Silence delivers another instant classic to sit alongside Wes Craven’s masterpieces with the intense, horrifying, ridiculously fun Scream VI! With the beautiful love letter to the original having been firmly established in the previous movie, part VI forges ahead to an all-new destination while building on the core group we grew to love during our time in Woodsboro. Newcomers may not find the same level of connection to the proceedings, but this series continues thriving thanks to its immaculate care for the characters. Scripting duties again fall to James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick—they understand why fans have become obsessed with all things Ghostface, and are sure to sprinkle in brutal slayings, intense chase sequences, deeply funny moments, and crowd-pleasing highs. Moving the action from Woodsboro to New York City was no fluke. While the bulk was shot in Montreal, New York City has never felt more dangerous. Make no mistake: Scream VI is the film that 1989’s Jason Takes Manhattan wishes it was.

Before proceeding any further, acknowledging that my favorite final girl, Sidney Prescott, sadly does not return for this entry is a depressing but necessary truth. Neve Campbell did not accept what she was offered to step back into the shoes of Sidney once more. Though the actress has not ruled out a return for potential future sequels, I have to admit that not seeing her here made me very sad. Courteney Cox’s Gale Weathers now holds a horror record for being the first woman to play the same character at least six consecutive times in history. Instead of an honor being shared between the two women, Cox alone holds the title. Some debated before release if Scream could really work at all without its leading lady—was Halloween ever really as good without Laurie Strode? Thankfully, tribute is paid to Sidney in dialogue that doubles down on her happy ending in the previous movie.

With that small caveat out of the way, forging ahead into the “meat” of this gnarly sequel is rather easy. By now, expecting something fresh from a sequence in a series that revolutionized and normalized an opening kill happening at the top of every entry seems a moot point. And yet, similar to Scream 4’s shocking triple-opener, Scream VI has something decidedly different in store. Starlet Samara Weaving (Ready or Not, Netflix’s underrated slashers The Babysitter and The Babysitter: Killer Queen) plays Laura, a film studies professor at Blackmore University who just wants to have a fun date night out. In just this opener alone, Scream subverts expectations, twisting and tweaking what most will view as “meta.” By the time the title credits slash onto the screen, our new, much more aggressive iteration of Ghostface—sporting a weathered, cracked mask—boldly declares, “who gives a fuck about movies?” There is certainly no Stab-nut behind the mask, so who could it be?

Like any good whodunnit, this is the question I constantly felt myself asking over and over again. As Randy insisted in both Scream and Scream 2, “everybody’s a suspect,” and indeed there were moments when I suspected nearly every major character. Randy’s niece and nephew, the twins Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown, Sound of Violence, Yellowjackets) and Chad (Mason Gooding, Love, Victor, Fall), certainly do not want to succumb to the same grisly fate as their late uncle. Both have relocated to the big apple for Blackmore University, joined by an exploratory Tara (Jenna Ortega, Wednesday, X) and her obsessive older sister, Sam (Melissa Barrera, In the Heights, All the World is Sleeping). In turn, all four have become close friends bonded by the shared trauma they experienced during the Woodsboro reboot massacre. Over the last six months, they have reconfigured their friendships, and Chad dubs the group “the Core Four” despite their reluctant protesting.

Sam has been going to therapy, under fire from the media and crazy conspiracy nuts convinced that her ex-boyfriend, Richie, and his accomplice Amber, were both innocent. With the general public viewing Sam as a social pariah who got away with murder, she understandably wants to keep her relationship with the cutie down the hall, Danny (Josh Segarra, Orange is the New Black, AJ and the Queen), a total secret. Meanwhile, Tara is off going to frat parties and trying to hook up with random guys, refusing to come to terms with the horrific events of the last film. Sam smothers her a bit in an overprotective way—certainly understandable, given the sheer number of wounds and injuries Tara suffered. As the first set of killings come to light, plastered all over the news, Sam’s license has been discovered at the scene of the crime that seems to implicate her as the prime suspect.

Before long, Sam gets her first threatening call courtesy of a brand-new Ghostface, using Richie’s caller ID, no less. “I’m going to punish you,” this new Ghostface promises both Sam and Tara. Seconds later, they chase the sisters into a convenience store, where Scream VI plays out the first of several New York City set pieces in an extravagant, deeply unsettling manner. How can any of them hide from Ghostface in a city of millions? To make matters worse, there are a wide variety of suspects, both old and new. Gale comes back into the fray to report on the newest wave of killings, and her lies about not writing a book about Amber and Richie’s massacre prove too much for Sam or Tara to forgive. The return of a ruthless, cutthroat Gale recalls her ferocity in 1997’s Scream 2. A warmness has invaded her cold exterior in the wake of Dewey’s death. Also returning is fan favorite Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere, Heroes, Until Dawn), who has become an FBI agent in the years since she was left for dead by maniac Jill Roberts in 2011’s Scream 4

New blood peppered throughout serve as both body count fodder and a strong new pool of potential suspects, just as Mindy calls out in this film’s monologue about “the rules.” This is no normal sequel, but part of an ongoing franchise, so new rules mean almost nothing is out of the question. In addition to Danny, other fresh faces include Giallo-obssessed student Jason (Tony Revolori, Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Grand Budapest Hotel); Ethan (Jack Champion, Avatar: The Way of Water, Insurgent), self-professed virgin, roommate, and one-half of Chad’s “dynamic duo”; Mindy’s adorable girlfriend, Anika (Devyn Nekoda, Sneakerella, Utopia Falls); Sam and Tara’s sex-positive roommate, Quinn (Liana Liberato, Light as a Feather, The Beach House); and Detective Bailey (Dermot Mulroney, Shameless, My Best Friend’s Wedding), Quinn’s father and the person assigned to Sam’s case.

More than any entry before it, Scream VI brings impressive scope and jaw-dropping visuals to match. A harrowing ladder escape, a memorable subway segment, and the aforementioned bodega scene fundamentally change the dynamics of how we typically find Ghostface interacting with their victims. The same blood-curdling urgency and stylistic flourishes are present, just in a totally altered context. Kills too feel particularly nasty this time out. Wes Craven, the aptly-named “master of suspense,” would doubtless be overjoyed at the final product.

As per usual, Ghostface remains a big part of why this series is so beloved. A near-Halloween setting results in Ghostface costumes aplenty. Roger L. Jackson returns to voice this chilling character yet again—who can possibly match the unnerving, creepy quality of his voice? The answer is firmly no one. This film fires on all cylinders during intense chase sequences and intense brawls, yet thankfully the phone calls that have colored the series since the beginning remain intact. When the killer finally rings Gale for a “long overdue” interview over the phone, there is tangible history there that adds all the more to the intensity of the sequence. Plastered all over every advertisement, their showdown is indeed one of the film’s best. Any fan of the series at large will be freaking out in their seats as they root for Gale’s survival.

Taking things one step further from 2022’s Scream, Scream VI pays tribute to nearly everything that came before. Familiar needle drops like “Red Right Hand” and “Dewey’s Theme” return, utilized in loving ways, but the real star of the show here comes in the form of a giant shrine paying tribute to every minute aspect and kill of the franchise. Nine Ghostface costumes are set up at the centerpiece of this murder theater, which is also adorned with Stab memorabilia, character costumes, sketches, banners, and so much more. At one point, Kirby refers to the killer purposely dropping “real life franchise easter eggs,” at the scene of every crime—seeing the actual shrine is like any Scream fan’s greatest joy. The more time we spend here, the more items I began to notice. Eventual killer reveals, monologues, and motives rank among the finer that Scream has to offer. What is more brilliant than a final act set at a literal wake for a character named Wes than one which celebrates the minutia of the entire Scream legacy?

Still going strong more than twenty-five years after its inception, Kevin Williamson’s Scream continues to impress. Scream VI builds up the “Core Four” as it focuses on brutal bursts of violence and carving out a notably modern, edgy take on the requel sequel. Mason Gooding’s Chad emerges as the heart of the picture, whilst Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega tightly weave their sisterly bond to greater heights. The return of Kirby Reed may be one for the record books, and Courteney Cox’s chase scene is equally great to her quiet pursuit through the soundstage in Scream 2. Join the celebration of the Scream legacy as it takes to the mean streets of New York City in this impressive modern slasher. Be sure to stick around after the credits for a bit of fun! With any luck, Radio Silence and the entire crew can return again soon for more Ghostface fun by way of a seventh entry in this iconic franchise.

Board the subway ride to terror when Scream VI debuts exclusively in theaters on Friday, March 10th. 

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