GHOSTFACE is back……again! And this time there is no Sydney Prescott to stop him….

So, onto Scream VI Yes, you read that right! Scream VI.

By now a sixth film in a horror franchise is either bypassing cinema and heading straight for a home release, or they are sending the bogeyman into space, thankfully we are spared the sight of Ghostface running amok on a space station and its to the huge credit to all involved that the fanbase are still excited for its return on the big screen.

By the time they returned for the sixth time, Michael had discovered a new tattoo on his wrist and joined a cult, Jason was having his last Friday and being dragged to damnation by Freddy, while Kruger himself was facing his final nightmare in a not so glorious 3D attempt and yet this is a huge spoiler here, both films lied as both icons were back in further sequels only a few years later.

Here, the great news for slasher fans is that we haven’t got the title of The Final Scream, instead this murderous new game takes its cue from Jason Takes Manhattan (yes, fans will spot the film being shown on a TV Screen in one particular scene) as the franchise takes GHOSTFACE out of Woodsboro and into the big city. It’s a whole new chapter, even more so with the shocking news that this will be the first SCREAM film not to have its lead character Sydney Prescott facing her nemesis, with Neve Campbell turning down the chance to return once more.

Do we miss her? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves yet and like all the films before, the opening sequence sets the mood perfectly to what comes next. It’s the typical standard blueprint set out all those years back when Drew Barrymore picked up that ringing phone and was asked “What’s your favourite Scary Movie?”. Get this bit wrong – looking at you Scream 3– and you are already fighting against the fanbase and I sat there in hope that this will improve on the last instalment. Yes; I know SCREAM 2022 has fans, but the more I watch it, the more I feel it’s the worst introduction of all, a tired set-piece that offers nothing new to a fan who have stayed loyal for over 30 years to the rampage.

Returning director’s Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett know this, being fans themselves and while it felt that they had their hands tied in the previous film, trying to do a legacy sequel, keeping fans of old onside with love letters to the previous films while trying to grab a new generation onboard for the ride, here from the off it feels like the shackles are untied and they are ready to run wild.

Nothing much changes in terms of the structure, a phone rings, our first victim answers, but then they tweak it and it becomes quite possibly my favourite beginning since SCREAM 2. Yes, it’s very, very clever – not like the film within the film set-piece of the fourth film, but they actually do something very original in terms of where it goes and…I LOVED IT…..That one lingering shot had me thinking “They not going to do that are they?” and when they did, I realised from that moment on SCREAM VI had me in uncharted waters for the first time since the second film and yes, it continues in that trend throughout.

A year has passed since the events of 2022 and while Sam (Melissa Barrera), struggles from the experience and needs counselling, her sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) is trying to live life to the full and move on from their encounter with Ghostface in Woodsboro. Living in the big city with fellow survivors Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown),and Chad (Mason Gooding), it’s not long before that opening murder reaches the news and the group realise that a new person has donned that iconic mask and gown and wants to finish the bloodbath that the previous Ghostface started. Why? Sorry, no spoilers here!

Like always there is a gang of fresh faces in which we all examine and wonder if they could be the killer, Mindy’s girlfriend Annika (Devyn Nekoda), Sam’s roommate Quinn (Liana Liberato), friend Ethan (Jack Campion) and the hot guy who lives across the street Josh (Danny Segarra) trust me, you’ll suspect them all and the script knows this and wonderfully plays with it throughout. Of course it won’t be a SCREAM film without Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) who without her original trusted duo by her side, now relies on help from NYPD Detective Bailey (Dermot Mulroney) and the eagerly awaited return of fan favourite Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) last seen with a knife in her stomach and apparently dead!

The more GHOSTFACE swings that knife (and this time a gun), the film accelerates to some pulse pounding set-pieces that were badly missing in SCREAM 2022. From that opening, to a climb across a ladder to one of the best confrontations Gale has had with this masked fiend (and she finally gets a phone call) to a sparkling subway sequence, SCREAM VI is bang on form, a reminder of when this franchise gets it right, it’s one of the best slasher’s around. It’s not all perfect by any means! When the film dips its toes back into reminder’s of the past with scenes that echo past glories, it causes more of a sigh than a smile and this being the sixth film, I don’t think I want to see a Randy type character making yet another speech on how to survive this encounter – it’s been done, please move on! Also the film is vicious and bloody, but this was a trend started by Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson themselves with SCREAM IV, and while the modern fan will lap it up, I can see the older fan who loved the camp horror and humour of the original two, shaking their head as intestines are proudly shown in all its full bloody glory.

But those are minor quibbles, as damn, I totally loved this! I went in with low expectations and left with a huge beaming smile and felt like I did when I left that cinema after watching the original way back in 1996. All SCREAM films live and die by “their reveal” and, since Scream 3, I’ve sort of guessed or had a theory on who was behind it, but to the utmost credit, I and many around me in the darkened cinema were still guessing just as the killer or killers were unmasked and there were gasps from the back, which I loved and instantly I thought “well played guys!”.

Did we miss Sydney? Not once and apart from a few brief bits of dialogue as a reminder, I probably would have got to the end without even thinking about her as both Barrera and Ortega carry the film throughout as this is not Sydney’s story anymore and for this particular outing it brings the freshness it so badly needed after the diverse SCREAM 2022.

Having been a staunch defender of the fourth film, I can honestly say SCREAM VI is superior, which makes it now my favourite since the original two. It’s an addition that puts fans through a ride that at times has you wondering “what is going to happen next?” and “Whose next to die?” It’s leaner, gory and exhilarating, a Ghostface that we the fans can be utterly proud of and it’s only fitting that if someone asks me what the film is like without spoilers, I’ll reply with a huge beaming smile on my face, two thumbs up and a word taken from one line of dialogue in this film that has already become one of my favourite moments in all SCREAM films…..