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Movie Review: “Scream VI”

            I’m willing to argue that “Scream” is the greatest slasher movie franchise of all time. Not only is the 1996 original a meta-horror classic, but prior to “Scream VI,” three of the five movies in the series were halfway decent. Can any other slasher property with at least five installments boast that kind of ratio of good to bad? “A Nightmare on Elm Street” got too silly with jokes that didn’t land, “Friday the 13th” was overrated in the first place, and fans got sick of “Halloween” constantly reinventing itself. “Scream” has thus far needed only one clear reboot, and last year’s fifth installment was a rousing success. A mere fourteen months later, we’ve got a sixth chapter, and it… keeps the property out of trouble.

            After a prologue where we follow a film professor (Samara Weaving) and a student (Tony Revolori) and their encounters with the latest incarnation of the terrifyingly-masked killer known as Ghostface, it’s time to catch up with some familiar faces. Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera) has moved to New York City to be with her sister Tara (Jenna Ortega). Yes, I can finally reveal a twist I was keeping under wraps in my review of the last movie: after an impressive performance by Ortega in the opening scene, Tara survived the Ghostface attack, and in fact the whole movie, a rarity for this series. Will Weaving or Revolori be so lucky? Also returning are twins Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) from the fifth movie, Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) from the fourth, and reporter Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), from every single one of these.

            New characters include Tara’s roommate Quinn (Liana Liberato), Quinn’s cop father Wayne (Dermot Mulroney), Sam’s boyfriend Danny (Josh Segarra), Mindy’s girlfriend Anika (Devyn Nakoda), and Chad’s roommate Ethan (Jack Champion). I wasn’t really digging the new characters, but I said that about Chad and Mindy in the last movie, and they’ve since grown on me. Sam and Tara remain compelling as the new faces of the franchise. It was the right decision for the series to shift to them as leads when it did.

            I was looking forward to the heavily-promoted change of setting from small-town California to New York City, where I live. Sadly, the city’s atmosphere only comes into play in two scenes, one in a bodega and one on a subway. I didn’t like the bodega sequence because Ghostface uses a gun, which goes against the rules of the slasher genre. And I didn’t like the subway sequence because it invokes a station and line that I use at least five days a week, but it doesn’t look familiar, so it just draws attention to the fact that the movie wasn’t filmed in New York (it was actually Montreal). But the characters mostly have all the space they need to hide, stalk, and chase, especially in the case of an Easter Egg-filled abandoned movie theater that this Ghostface uses as a home base.

            “Scream VI” is just okay. It isn’t groundbreaking like the original or reinvigorating like last year’s reboot. My jury is still out on whether it has the charm of the second movie. But it isn’t making me wish the franchise would just die like the third or fourth. It was probably a good idea to rush this movie out, so fans wouldn’t have time to get their hopes up for a better movie and then be disappointed. I’m sure there will be a seventh “Scream,” and I will be eagerly anticipating another installment in the greatest slasher movie franchise of all time. But hopefully that one will be a better reminder of why this franchise is so great.

Grade: B-

“Scream VI” is rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout, and brief drug use. Its running time is 122 minutes.