Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett Screenwriter: James Vanderbilt, Guy Busick Cast: Melissa Barrera, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Jack Champion, Henry Czerny, Mason Gooding, Liana Liberato, Dermot Mulroney, Devyn Nekoda, Jenna Ortega, Tony Revolori, Josh Segarra, Samara Weaving, Hayden Panettiere, Courteney Cox Distributor: Paramount Pictures Running Time: 123 min. MPAA: R

The sixth Scream movie comes a little over a year after the fifth Scream film. While such a rushed sequel could falter, this entry manages to topple the fifth picture for not being bound strictly by legacy sequel logic. It also manages to be more twisty and mysterious, better recognizing the genre while not specifically being about it. I got a good feeling that within the first ten minutes of the film, the new Ghostface guts the last film’s slasher concept of completing horror movies and remarks, “Who gives a fuck about movies!”

The new characters of Scream 5 get to shine even brighter here as more defined characters. Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera) is trying therapy to handle the recent murders and come to terms with her dad being the first Ghostface killer, Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich). It’s not going well for her. On the other side of the spectrum, her sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) is trying to move from the events and live an everyday college life. Even though they’ve moved to New York City, the gang’s still here. This includes the horror nerd Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and the charming dude Chad (Mason Gooding). They call themselves the Core Four, and they’re adorable.

A new Ghostface killer in New York City explicitly targets Sam. The killer (or killers?) has a ruthless vendetta against her, and it goes beyond being a big fan of the Stab movies inspired by the legacy of murders. This story has more surprises, as noted by Mindy, who deduces that this specific tale is an anything-goes franchise entry. Mindy says anybody could be the killer, and nobody has plot armor. But, like all Scream movies, Mindy’s guidance is not surefire, and it isn’t long before the bloody kills start mounting, and the surprises keep coming.

Present in the film are several older actors returning to chew up more scenery. Courteney Cox gets way more fun stuff to do as the acclaimed reporter Gale gets up close and clever with Ghostface. Hayden Panettiere returns from Scream 4 to play a witty FBI agent with some axes to grind with the saga of Ghostface. There are also some fun performances from the additions of Samara Weaving, Dermot Mulroney, and Henry Czerny.

Shifting the Ghostface murders to New York City is a brilliant change in location. There’s way more excitement and kills from this new atmosphere. Such highlights include a luxury apartment and a creepy Ghostface museum where the killer strikes. The many kills are viciously brutal and shocking in their staging. Ghostface won’t just give a quick stab to the chest or back. The killer will gut stomachs, pierce eyeballs, and stab every limb. At one point, Ghostface goes on the offensive in a convenience store and wields a shotgun.

The tension bubbles beautifully in Scream VI, keeping the audience engaged with the violence guessing the killers. The picture avoids the previous film’s pitfalls by being less of a commentary on the state of horror movies and more about the sins of the past. There’s a mild dose of questioning violence and vengeance, which plays neatly into the ultimate reveal of the killer. Something greater thematically comes about while a less predictable twist subverts Mindy’s theories. While it feels like there’s more to explore with this concept, especially the legacy of Sam and her family, it all comes together rather well here.

Scream VI is a refreshing dose of a slasher strong enough to succeed on its own two feet rather than the easy crutch of meta-commentary. It still plays around with its tropes, addresses the cliches directly, and even does the annoying music swell when the legacy actors make their profound entrance into the picture. While not as hilarious in poking fun at the conventions, this is a Scream entry that never bores or settles on its slasher satire. Unlike Jason Vorhees, Ghostface can definitely take Manhattan.

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