"F*ck this franchise," a character states in Scream VI immediately after being knifed repeatedly in the stomach (they survive, of course).
A meta dig at the fans who took issue with the last movie, or have we entered the self-loathing phase of the long-running slasher series? Either way, I'm inclined to agree.
Almost three decades after Wes Craven's masterful original, this latest Scream movie leaps over the slyly self-aware line to become a full-on parody of itself, to the point that it really does begin to play out more like an instalment in the Scary Movie franchise.
The story picks up with the survivors of the last movie, Sam (Melissa Barrera), Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown), Chad (Mason Gooding), and Tara (Jenna Ortega), in college after relocating to New York City in an attempt to put their horrific ordeal behind them. When the Ghostface killings start up again, they enlist the help of Scream 4's Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere), who is now an FBI Agent, and franchise OG Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) to find out who has donned the mask this time, and why.
Scream VI does, admittedly, get off to a strong start with an opening sequence that puts a clever spin on the usual lone teenager being stalked by the masked killer formula. The NYC setting also makes for a welcome change of scenery, but after the first few slayings, it soon becomes clear that it's going to be business as usual for Ghostface and his not-so-bright victims.
While hardcore fans may be okay with this, when pretty much every opportunity to take a few risks and attempt something new or surprising with the narrative is avoided in favor of the safest option possible, tedium sets in. I don't want to give anything away, so let's just say it's probably best not get your hopes up for any major twists or turns.
Unfortunately, this also extends to what many will consider to be the most important aspect: the kills. There is some inventive gore here and there, and the blood does flow freely, but for the most part, the action consists of Ghostface stabbing people repeatedly... and most of them surviving.
This seems to have become something of a running joke (at least, I hope it's a joke) with this franchise, but it really does make it next to impossible to care what happens to any of the characters when we get so many fake-out deaths. How do these people keep breathing after being practically eviscerated? Sure, some suspension of disbelief is always going to be required for this kind of movie, but at a certain point it just becomes completely ridiculous.
It's also not very funny. The gallows humor and genuine wit of the earlier films is all-but gone, replaced with endless audience-winking and self-referential silliness ("oh no... did I miss the monologue?" Yes, it sucked).
As for the performances, the "core four" are fine (Ortega is, yet again, the standout), but they are all dealing with some truly abysmal dialogue here, and some of the new cast members don't fare so well with it. Dermot Mulroney hams it up (badly) as a cop assigned to the Ghostface case, and I have no idea what Josh Segarra was attempting as Sam's love interest, but it did not work.
As you've probably figured by now, Scream VI was... not for me. But, it must be said, quite a few people at my screening did seem to be enjoying themselves, and as I was leaving, I heard some teenagers use the words "best" and "yet."
The movie will likely find its audience, so directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett know what they're doing - I'll just be very happy for them to do it a million miles away from me in the future.