Friday, May 19, 2023

Worth Mentioning - F This Franchise

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning. 

A modern slasher and an '80s haunting.

SCREAM VI (2023)

The 2022 Scream revival, the fifth entry in the film franchise, was such a success, it resulted in the quickest sequel turn-around since Scream 2 reached theatres just twelve months after the first movie. This time we got Scream VI just fourteen months after the previous Scream. Just like Scream 2, this one follows the survivors of the previous film to college – and just like Friday the 13,th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, it moves the slasher action to New York City. A lot of fans like to refer to Scream VI as “Ghostface Takes Manhattan” because of that, and directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (who took over from the late Wes Craven as the directors on this franchise with the previous movie) knew their horror well enough to anticipate that and drop in a moment where Jason Takes Manhattan is glimpsed on a character’s TV.

Scripted by Scream (2022) writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, Scream VI focuses on the “next generation” of Scream characters that were introduced in their previous movie. There’s Samantha Carpenter (Melissa Barrera), the daughter of original Scream killer Billy Loomis; Sam’s half-sister Tara (Jenna Ortega); and the twin niece and nephew of original Scream character and Scream 2 victim Randy, Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding). A group that will begin referring to themselves as the Core Four over the course of this story. Friends who were bonded even more deeply through their shared near death experiences, Tara, Mindy, and Chad decided to move to New York together for college... and Sam has tagged along to keep an eye on her sister.

Soon enough – the opening sequence, in fact, as expected – new Ghostface killings are happening around the Core Four. Legacy character Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), who has been in all of the movies, is dragged into the mayhem all over again, and Scream 4 character Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) also makes her return, now an FBI agent. Franchise heroine Sidney Prescott, played by Neve Campbell in the previous five movies, was also part of Vanderbilt and Busick’s initial script, but Campbell opted out when she felt she wasn’t being offered the amount of money she was worth. I’m actually fine with Sidney being left out, because the idea that she’s going to keep going up against Ghostface masked killers again and again throughout her life is beyond the point of absurdity now. She has earned a happy ending, a fact that Sam and Gale agree on within the movie. I’d be happy to never see Sidney have to fight another Ghostface.

Despite that, I can’t say the new batch of characters mean anything to me. Even after watching them for two movies, I still don’t care about Sam, Tara, Mindy, or Chad. And I really don’t care about the people placed around them in this movie: college roommates Quinn (Liana Liberato) and Ethan (Jack Champion), Mindy’s girlfriend Anika (Devyn Nekoda), none of them really make an impression. Sam’s love interest Danny (Josh Segarra) is a bit more interesting. Henry Czerny plays one of the most ridiculous cinematic therapists I’ve ever seen. And Dermot Mulroney is fun to watch as NYPD Detective Bailey simply because it’s Dermot Mulroney.

People get slashed up. Modern genre icon Samara Weaving makes an appearance. There are some nice chase and death sequences. Scream VI is an entirely serviceable Scream sequel... which really starts to strain logic as it wraps up.

I love slasher movies. I enjoy the Scream franchise. But elements of this franchise are really starting to feel tired to me, especially the whole “whodunnit” aspect involving the identity of Ghostface. Each movie has at least one new Ghostface, usually a team of new Ghostfaces. The first five movies featured nine different killers, and that number gets another boost with this new movie. My favorite thing Scream VI does is imply that we’re dealing with a different kind of Ghostface this time. A more dangerous, tougher Ghostface who can’t be knocked down as easily as their predecessors usually were. A Ghostface who gives no Fs and will even wade into a bodega full of other customers to go after their intended victims. Who will slash bystanders, take away a store owner’s shotgun and start blasting away with it. I’m ready for an intimidating Ghostface that might stick around for more than one movie just so we don’t have to go through the whodunnit motions all over again in the next sequel. The whole motive revelation thing is tired. But I understand that the whodunnit guessing game is also part of the appeal of this franchise, so I don’t expect to see a lasting Ghostface any time soon.

So Scream VI is ultimately just more of the same, which is what slasher fans tend to want, and it’s an okay version of the same.


Journalist John Baxter (Tony Roberts) is a skeptic, so he seems to have the perfect job: he exposes fraudulent mediums and the like for Reveal magazine. The film begins with him busting a couple of con artists who are operating out of the infamous Amityville house – and it takes its sweet time with this sequence and the title sequence, using up the first 10 minutes of the film’s 93 minute running time. Baxter is such a skeptic that when the home’s owner (played by John Harkins) complains that no one other than con artists want anything to do with the place, he decides to take it off the guy’s hands. He’s going through a divorce, so he needs a place to stay anyway. And once he moves in, his teen daughter Susan (Lori Loughlin) decides the room with those famous windows should be her room anytime she visits.

When strange things start to occur in and around the place, Baxter still takes a while to accept what’s going on. But when the house flat-out kills the former owner, his Reveal associate Melanie (Candy Clark) starts to get suspicious – and scared. Melanie is really the best character in the movie, and she deserves a lot better than what she gets. But those evil spirits just won’t leave her alone.

Susan, her more edgy friend Lisa (Meg Ryan), and a couple other friends hold their own seance in the house, but are able to brush off any uneasy feelings after and go for a boat ride in the river behind the place. This leads into the creepiest scene in the movie, when Baxter’s ex Nancy (Tess Harper) stops by and sees a soaking wet Susan walking around in the house, not responding to her. How can Susan be in the house when we just saw her head out on the boat? As it turns out, she has just drowned in the river and this soaking wet version of her in the house is either her spirit or the house faking the image of her spirit.

Down in the basement of the house, there’s a hole in the floor that’s either an old well or the gateway to Hell – and since this is an Amityville movie, you can probably guess which of those two options is the correct answer. There’s a reason why this movie is sometimes referred to as Amityville 3: The Demon... although the fire-breathing demon that rises from beneath the basement only has seconds of screen time. Amityville 3-D was a fitting title for the theatrical release, since the film was presented in three dimensions and sent a variety of things off the screen and into the faces of audience members. There’s those pesky Amityville flies, lunging corpses, that aforementioned demon... A mounted swordfish even goes flying toward the camera!

Amityville 3-D is a serviceable and forgettable haunted house movie. It’s nothing special, but it has a good moment here and there.

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