Ghostface in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group's "Scream VI." 

Ghostface in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group's "Scream VI."  Credit: Paramount Pictures/Philippe Bossé

PLOT The small-town survivors of a serial killer move to the big city.

CAST Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Dermot Mulroney

RATED R (strong bloody violence)


WHERE Area theaters

BOTTOM LINE The franchise’s latest entry walks a knife-edge between fresh and formulaic.

In “Scream VI,” the traumatized teens of Woodsboro, that quaint but blood-spattered town in California, leave to start a new life in the Big Apple. If these kids can make it Woodsboro — which just might have the higher per capita murder rate — they can make it anywhere! Alas, the masked killer known as Ghostface has followed them and seems to be lurking in every brick-lined alley and subway car.

Call it “Scream Goes to Manhattan” — or more accurately Montreal, where the movie was filmed. (No wonder those alleys look so tidy.) Fans of this decades-old horror franchise don’t show up for authenticity and realism, of course. The movies’ appeal lies in the self-referential humor, attractive actors playing relatable characters and, of course, buckets upon buckets of blood. On all those fronts, “Scream VI” delivers.

The story picks up with Ghostface survivor Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera), still struggling to accept that she’s the daughter of yet a previous Ghostface (the original one; it’s complicated). Sam moved to New York to hover over her younger sister, Tara (Jenna Ortega, “Wednesday”), who is attending college and partying hard; their old friends Chad and Mindy (twin siblings, played by Mason Gooding and Jasmin Savoy Brown) happen to be fellow students. Together they call themselves the “Core Four,” a circle of trust that can’t be broken (they hope).

The Ghostface costume — black cloak, mournful mask, lengthy knife — has been picked up again, but by whom? Maybe it’s a new acquaintance, the shy economics student Ethan (Jack Champion). Maybe it’s Det. Bailey of the NYPD, played by a gruff Dermot Mulroney. It could even be one of two returning characters, dogged reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) or newly minted FBI agent Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere).

“Scream VI” feels slightly less fresh than its predecessor, partly because we just saw that one in January of last year. The self-aware humor, the references to other horror flicks, the long explanatory speeches a la “Scooby-Doo” — it’s all a little familiar. “We’re in a franchise,” Mindy announces, as if that’s news. Returning directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett seem less inspired than last time, but returning writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick still have a knack for red herrings, subliminal hints and fake-outs.

What’s next after New York? Maybe London or Hawaii? “Ghostface Goes to Japan?” Thanks to this just-good-enough entry, the franchise could go anywhere — and it certainly isn’t going away.

Top Stories

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months