by Rob DiCristino
Spoilers for the Scream franchise ahead.
My long-held official position on the Scream sequels is that there should be no Scream sequels. Wes Craven’s original 1996 horror masterpiece was released at — and, indeed, written entirely as a commentary on — the cusp of a new millennium, the final waning hours of a pre-internet age that couldn’t possibly have imagined just how snarky and postmodern our pop cultural landscape was about to become. Sidney and the rest of screenwriter Kevin Williamson’s motley crew represented a dying breed of Hollywood archetypes, stock slasher teens who had lived long enough to grow frustrated with their own banality and crave new purpose somewhere beyond the fourth wall. Scream’s genius wasn’t just in its self-reflexivity, though; It wasn’t enough to simply point out the tropes and cliches that had made the genre so predictable. No, the genius was in its ability to lure horror hounds into a false sense of security before upending expectations with new twists — and, more importantly, lessons — that not even the most learned experts among them could see coming.
At least returning directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett know that we know that they know that we think we know what to expect this time around, immediately doing everything they can do play with our expectations: Opening Scream VI with a Double Barrymore is a nice touch, as is bringing in Scream 4’s Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettierre), now an FBI agent fixated on Ghostface cases. She joins our Core Four in New York City, where Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) investigates a Ghostface who leaves DNA of previous killers at crime scenes and keeps a shrine of franchise artifacts in a creepy downtown warehouse. As Ghostface #10 gets to work building a reputable body count, Sam and Tara — at odds over their differing strategies for coping with trauma — lead a gang of survivors more world-weary and self-aware than any Scream lineup that came before them. Good thing, too: They’ll need every bit of that savvy to defeat the killer(s?!) running wild in the concrete jungle where dreams are made of.
Scream VI is in theaters now.