Scream VI movie review: this gory sequel offers top quality fan service

 (Film handout)
(Film handout)

Bloody hell. Number 6 in the post-modern horror Scream series is gory... as well as hot-under-the-arms tense and properly funny.

And there’s more good news, if you’re the kind of conflicted fan who loves surprises but can’t resist reading “leaks”. Whether by accident or design, last month’s leak got crucial facts wrong about phone-addicted killer, Ghostface. Turns out directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett know how to keep a secret and ignorance (vis-à-vis the final stabathon/shoot out) really is bliss.

Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett were in charge of the last instalment, Scream, a so-so reboot that introduced us to two California-based half-sisters: over-protective, hallucination-prone Sam (Melissa Barrera), and unflappable cynic, Tara (Jenna Ortega). 20 year old Ortega, now a superstar thanks to the Netflix show Wednesday, is the one to watch. If these actresses were musical instruments, she’d be a grand piano and Barrera would be a kazoo. But the latter has, at least, improved.

So the siblings have relocated to New York, where Tara and twins Mindy and Chad (Jasmin Savoy Brown and Mason Gooding), are attending college. They’ve acquired roomies: Quinn (Liana Liberato) and Ethan (Jack Champion). And there’s a cute guy (Josh Segarra’s Danny) hovering. When Ghostface starts slashing, the police (Dermot Mulroney’s Bailey) and the FBI (Hayden Panettiere’s Kirby, last seen in Scream IV) get involved. And journalist Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) swings into town.

Who’s behind the mask? One thing’s for sure, it’s not Sidney Prescott, a legacy character dropped from the line-up because, allegedly, actress Neve Campbell asked for too much money. Sidney is/was a compelling presence, but the movie works fine without her. Creed III didn’t need Stallone. Scream VI doesn’t need Campbell. There’s a change in the air. Few stars, these days, are bigger than the IP.

 (Film handout)
(Film handout)

That said, it’s satisfying that Cox (who’s been in every chapter) has more than a cameo part. Even if one of Gale’s lines could be construed as throwing shade on Sidney, that fits with Gale’s spiky character and her last word on her and Sidney’s friendship is incredibly touching.

A shout-out, too, for Mindy’s T-shirts (like the ones worn by Zendaya in the Spider-Man trilogy, these clothes offer small print worth reading), while Samara Weaving is hilarious and utterly convincing as a self-conscious, quietly pathetic film studies professor.

Admittedly, Scream VI is never quite as scary as the 1996 original and things do get silly. As in a billion other movies, the Big Apple setting is mostly just an excuse for subway high jinx. No attempt is made to explain why, at a crucial juncture in the plot, our beleaguered heroes don’t just hail a nice, safe taxi.

Viewers who know the series inside and outside may also be disappointed by the recycling of twists from Scream II, while viewers new to the franchise are likely to find the whole thing incomprehensible.

Still, this is top quality fan service. Stuffed with juicy parts for women, plus breezy cultural takes on everything from fake news and found families to zeigots and Gen Z sadism, chapter VI is modern without seeming to try. Should cast and crew carry on Screaming? Most definitely. It would be a crime for them to stop now.

In cinemas