Scream If You Know What You’re Doing March 10 (CREDIT: Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group)

Starring: Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Courteney Cox, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mason Gooding, Hayden Panettiere, Dermot Mulroney, Devyn Nekoda, Liana Liberato, Jack Champion, Josh Segarra, Samara Weaving, Tony Revolori, Henry Czerny, Roger L. Jackson

Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

Running Time: 123 Minutes

Rating: R for Sharp Weapons and Blunt Profanity

Release Date: March 10, 2023 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: The Ghostface Killer is a virus that simply refuses to die. After 2022’s Scream rebooted the mayhem in Woodsboro with as much wit and fury as ever, the survivors are finally heading out of California and all the way across the country to New York City. Tara (Jenna Ortega), Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown), and Chad (Mason Gooding) are in college, while Tara’s big sis Sam (Melissa Barrera) has also settled down in the city to keep an eye on everyone. Yes, horror faithful, it’s true, the new kids have finally inherited the franchise. After taking a scaled-back role in the last outing, Sidney Prescott is finally nowhere to be seen (which is perhaps creatively justifiable, but has more to do with Neve Campbell’s financial dissatisfaction with what she was offered). But there are a couple of legacy characters on hand, with Gail Weathers (Courteney Cox) as indefatigable as ever, and Scream 4 breakout Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) re-emerging as a battle-hardened FBI agent. And those youngsters are going to need all the help they can get, because this might just be the most brutal Ghostface yet.

What Made an Impression?: Scream has always been the most successful self-aware horror franchise, and with the fifth edition, it expanded its scope to reboots and toxic film culture at large. So where does that leave Scream VI to possibly go from here? The short answer: it’s the “sequel to the requel,” which could very well mean a remake of sorts of the first sequel. And like Scream 2, VI has the college setting and the potential for a revenge scheme. Other than that, the plot isn’t exactly repeated, but there’s only so much room to navigate if this series wants to proclaim anything that it hasn’t yet declared.

So with those restrictions in place, VI lives or dies by the strength of its kills and mystery. Regarding the former, it’s stunningly braven. The Ghostface murderers have never been shy about wantonly stabbing their way through the entire run time, but it hits a little differently in a setting as crowded as NYC. When a killer chases Tara and Sam into a bodega and proceeds to mutilate everyone in there, I’m mostly wondering how there aren’t immediately thousands of witnesses. Also, there’s a shotgun behind the counter, which I hope isn’t true of the bodegas I frequent, but now I’m a little concerned. On the other hand, a Ghostface attack on the subway hasn’t changed my mind about that mode of transport – it remains a hellhole that I’ll continue to proudly frequent as often as possible.

And in terms of the mystery, the same cardinal rule still applies: literally anyone could be one of the killers! Sure, the heroes from the previous films are probably exempt from suspicion, although Sam’s backstory as the daughter of O.G. Ghostface Billy Loomis at least teases the possibility that that may not be the case. But other than that, suspicion really is cast on everyone, and I continue to be amazed at this series’ knack for keeping us on our toes. As suspects are eliminated or present seemingly airtight alibis, we’re all left wondering who is possibly left to be the culprit. Without giving anything away, the ultimate reveal is thrilling, stylish, and delightfully choreographed.

But while we’re on the subject of spoilers, I’m happy to give away the fact that Josh Segarra, here introduced as a potential love interest for Sam, is just as much of a sweetie pie as he is on the Comedy Central sitcom The Other Two. (And in the interest of avoiding spoilers, I’ll reiterate that that may or may not have nothing or anything to do with whether or not he could be Ghostface.)

So where does Scream go from here? The floor has thus far proved to be incredibly durable, but can it endure indefinitely? The absence of Sidney is sorely felt, and the dialogue isn’t always as sharp as it’s been in the past, but there’s still plenty to love here. I’m reminded a bit of the Fast and Furious franchise, as Scream is showing off a knack for expansiveness and rebooting beloved characters as needed, although without any room (thus far) for resurrections or redemptions. So maybe Campbell could return some day. Maybe Ghostface will eventually go to space. Maybe there’ll be an avenging protector Ghostface who protects everyone from all the evil Ghostfaces. Whatever direction it goes, I’m pretty sure something interesting will happen.

Scream VI is Recommended If You Like: Taking a chance on a new direction while still maintaining a connection to the past

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Unmaskings