After the ‘requel’, what does a franchise do next? Relocation aside, the ‘sequel to the requel’ is the vague notion offered by the quick-cooked follow-up to last year’s Scream. Though Scream 6 doesn’t want for slash ’n’ splatter or tense set pieces, its half-baked meta-matter makes for a mid-ranking series entry, closer to a brusquely effective wallop with a brick than a clever killer jab.
Ghostface takes New York (yes, genre precedents are noted) here, where half-sisters Sam (an excellent Melissa Barrera) and Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega, also terrific) struggle to recover from Scream 2022’s movie-murder hoopla. Then the phones ring… Ghostface wants revenge on the Carpenters, but why? And how far might Sam - Billy Loomis’ biological daughter, remember - go to protect her little half-sis?
Beyond tasering jocks in the scrotum, pretty far is the answer. Like loose entrails, themes of masked family inheritances spill out of James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick’s sketchy script, which also strains to integrate franchise legacies. While Scream 4’s Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) receives a welcome reinvention, the explanation for the pop-up return of Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) falls to one throwaway line: ‘It’s what I do.’ Neve Campbell’s absent Sid is missed, true, but perhaps the series should hand the baton or blade on.
Still, at least Gale gets a good run-around with old chinny-chops. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett bring gusto to Ghostface, here presented as a fiercely brazen threat. Why muck about taunting individuals from the shadows when they can attack in public? The already divisive shotgun sequence suits this no-nonsense Ghosty. And scenes involving ladders and subway trains mix grounded takes on the NYC locale (actually Canada) with aggressively suspenseful takes on Scream lore, the knife twisted viciously.
The wrong-footing prologue sets that twisty tone solidly, though Samara Weaving’s film academic hints at more self-aware intrigues than we get elsewhere. Requel insights from scene-stealing genre nerd Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) aside, Scream 6 dampens the series’ self-consciousness, losing some distinguishing wit and flavour in the process. And while the oddly Jurassic Park-ish finale takes up some slack with its fan-pleasing Easter eggs, ferocious kills and likeable leads, the goofy big reveals underwhelm. Ghostface’s mask is looking battered this time. Despite its gory pleasures, Scream 6 never fully figures out how to spruce it up.