Scream VI begins with a familiar refrain: a phone ringing. It then continues a familiar refrain, rehashing the same plot points, characterisation, and exact conversations from the previous five instalments. The original Wes Craven film was a genuine masterpiece, repositioning the lumbering slasher movie as a smart, self-referential pop-culture touchstone that would spawn a thousand imitators.
But over the course of four sequels, the franchise stopped being a comment on horror movies as a whole, and started being a comment only on itself. Everything in Scream VI – the sequel to Scream, which was the sequel to Scream IV – is a reference to a reference to a reference, a photocopy of a photocopy that becomes slightly less legible each time.
It begins, of course, with the murder of a pretty young woman – this time a professor of film studies who specialises in the “outsider art” of slasher movies. She’s lured into an alley and stab, stab, stab, yada, yada, yada. But there’s a twist… the killer immediately pulls off his mask. He’s a film nerd recreating the work of the last film nerd who was recreating the work of… You get the idea.
An entire bag of snakes eating their own tails. This killer doesn’t last long – there are plenty of murderous teens carrying on the legacy of the first Ghostface killer from all the way back in 1996. The previous instalment established a new group of young survivors – the “core four” – although as we’re explicitly told, several times, any one of them could be the killer, and absolutely everybody is expendable.
We’re well into franchise territory here, after all. Not returning is Neve Campbell, the original damsel in distress, following a dispute over pay. This leaves Courtney Cox’s Gale Weathers as the primary member of the original line-up, and it remains a nostalgic thrill to see her back on screen.
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett both return to the director’s chairs, and they’re well versed enough in the rules of this universe to put together a perfectly serviceable Scream movie. It’s funny where it should be funny, tense where it should be tense, and it rattles along at a speed that never leaves you enough time to wonder if it’s really worth watching all this for a sixth time.
In fairness, nobody really expected Nightmare on Elm Street 6 (Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare) or Friday the 13th 6 (Jason Lives) to be any good – and why should this be any different? It’s a testament to the cultural impact of the first film that there’s still demand for more, and this Diet Coke version of Scream still hits the spot, albeit only briefly.
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