Friday, March 10, 2023

Taking Another Stab: SCREAM VI

Scream VI works on two levels, as befits an entry in this series of slasher meta-commentaries. The first is as a bloody mystery, a cast slashed to gory bits one by one as a way of ruling out suspects until a grand splattery finale reveals all. The second is slyer, as a movie about characters who are really tired of being in this series. When Jenna Ortega, a survivor from the last one, turns to her sister (Melissa Barrera), a fellow carryover from 5, to fatalistically ask when, or if, she can simply be a normal person again, I felt that exhausted sadness. She’s over it. Later, a victim bleeding profusely from the abdomen will turn to look practically straight down the camera and mutter, “fuck this franchise.” Oh, not this one, per se. In the world of the Screams, their real slaughters have been regularly turned into the series-within-the-series of Stab movies. Its a neat ouroboros, sometimes too neatly fan-flattering, here turned into something like a lament. The movie’s world is ever more full of costumes and posters, having thoroughly commodified the traumas our characters drag around with them. Talk about intrusive thoughts. Their whole world is intrusive, and this movie is sharp enough to realize, in our modern moment, the internet facilitates that. It hasn’t just made pop culture fandoms louder; it’s made true crime and conspiracy theories part of them, and a form of social currency among the know-nothings who flatter themselves amateur truth-tellers. It’s its own brand of hell those caught in the center of tragedy can’t escape.

Here’s a movie about survivors threatened once again by the Ghostface Killer, this time in New York City, with yet another villain’s elaborate plot to draw blood from the old familiar tropes. They’re menaced by the ghost of sequels present. It’s tense and twisty and violent and funny, and well-paced, balanced, and framed. It stands comfortably with the best of the series, albeit without the late Wes Craven’s human touch balancing mean-spirited cleverness with genuine feelings for its victims. Still, this one’s very best moments—of tender connection, of honest emotion, of sisterly bonding or genuine first-blushes of romance—hook into a similar place. Returning directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett and screenwriters James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick redeem the worst routine dissatisfying notes of their previous attempt at sequalizing the once-dormant franchise by using this effort to turn their newer characters from stock repeats into something closer to understandable individuals. (Even the legacy characters who appear (namely Courtney Cox and Hayden Panettiere) and the fresh faces (Dermot Mulroney, Liana Liberato, and Jack Champion) step into something closer to believable focus akin to the series’ Craven efforts.) The movie runs them back through the machinery of its punishing plot, and wrings enjoyment out of it, even as it sees the whole slasher cycle as a curse its characters are doomed to relive every few years until the box office appetite for these cools off again.

No comments:

Post a Comment