‘Scream VI’ embraces a museum quality to scares

Dennis Hudson
Dennis Hudson

It’s difficult to remember who was killed in previous “Scream” outings. Thankfully, there’s a museum of sorts that pays tribute to past Ghostface victims.

Located in New York (in a disintegrating theater, no less), it’s a reminder that the franchise has been going on for what seems like forever.

In “Scream VI,” sisters Sam (Melissa Barrera) and Tara (Jenna Ortega) are students at Blackmore University, a school that leans into film studies (and slasher movies). Before they even get to the midterm, a student offs his teacher and makes plans to do in the sisters and their friends. Unfortunately, someone else has a similar idea.

The cat-and-mouse chase takes the action out of claustrophobic apartments and into the streets and subway. It also conveniently takes place at Halloween when multiple Ghostfaces can appear randomly. A killer among us? Good luck.

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Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, “Scream VI” brings back Hayden Panettiere and Courteney Cox who give credibility to some of that museum stuff. They’re hot on the killer’s trail, too, and have their own close encounters. Cox gets a great race around an apartment (with more glass walls than you’d want) and Panettiere has to work the theater/museum. They bring a bit of the Craven magic and keep the audience guessing.

Unfortunately, “Scream VI” goes on too long for its own good. By the time everyone gathers in that theater (spoiler alert), we’re just ready for someone to get ghosted.

The directors were right to take this out of Woodsboro and give it a new setting. They were also right to introduce new rules of the game and hold fast to legacy characters. Neve Campbell isn’t in this edition, but that doesn’t matter. She’s part of that Ghostface exhibit and doesn’t need to trade quips with Cox.

Cox, in fact, gets to represent those “legacy” characters and make good on the school’s teachings.

Because there are so many students lurking, it’s hard to winnow the suspects. Some get the hook early on. But it’s still a crapshoot to figure out who might be failing film studies.

Ortega and Barrera go through their usual paces and – get this – teach us a lesson about letting go.

Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett take too much time to get to the finish line. They lose their way somewhere between the refrigerator and the concession stand.

The meta approach to horror films, however, gives “Scream VI” an edge over other franchises that have been running more than two decades. It still falls into usual traps (the phone concept has to go) but it doesn’t require a thesis on recurring tropes to understand.

Because they’re in New York, it might have been nice to pay a visit to Drew Barrymore, who also has “Scream” on her resume. That doesn’t happen but it doesn’t mean it couldn’t be the impetus for “Scream VII.”

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Dennis Hudson
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