The first Scream film without Neve Campbell (because of a pay dispute) moves location from Woodsboro to New York City (filmed in Canada) and once again plays with the rules in surprisingly fun ways.

Fragile masculinity and toxic fandom continues to be up on the chopping block and is handled with laugh out loud hilarity and brutal kills but to say much more would be to give the blood-splattered game away.

As Samara Weaving’s associate professor of Film Studies comments in the opening scene of the film, the slasher is a great reflection of modern times. As her character waits for a man she’s met on a dating app in a bar, anticipation and confusion slip in. Will he be what he purports to be? In the digital age what or who can we truly trust and is it really warping our brains?

The four survivors from the ‘requel’ sisters, Sam (Melissa Barrera) and Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega), and twins Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) who at one point sports a ‘Lavender Menace’ top, and Chad (Mason Gooding) now live in New York. Tara who is studying at university is refusing to let tragedy define her and searching for autonomy while Sam is keeping a close, even suffocating eye on her. Courtney Cox reappears as Gale Weathers, who now inhabits an Upper West Side apartment after making big bucks out of an exploitative true crime novel.

Sneaking suspicion is all part of the charm of the Scream films, and writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick have a ball putting the audience off the scent with red herrings, tongue-in-cheek humour and overly dubious characters. Directors Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin play with the new setting in extremely entertaining, and of course meta ways. A subway sequence on Halloween night is filled with horror icons and makes for edge-of-your-seat viewing.

References to burning down the old-school filmmaking industry chime into #metoo era politics; camcorders and retro popcorn-makers are creatively used as weapons. An elongated description of the dehumanisation of a woman is stomach churning as it is delivered with such relish by one of the characters, and the vilification of victims online feels scarily relevant with the rise of toxic male influencers…

As the world seems to be losing compassion, with hateful rhetoric, misinformation and violence escalating, Scream VI affords its characters and the viewer a barnstorming rampage through an unrelenting barrage of chaos, apathy and bewilderment.

Scream 6 will be in cinemas on 8 March 2023. 

Rachael Harper

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