Disclaimer: The following article contains plot spoilers for Scream VI, including the reveal of the identity and motive of Ghostface.
The future is bright for the Scream franchise, as Scream VI achieved its largest opening weekend of the entire film series. The Scream films have always been full of meta commentary, primarily focused on the slasher subgenre of horror.
This time around, Scream VI attempts to poke fun at the very nature of the franchises and IP-driven that have begun to increasingly saturate and strangle Hollywood. Though the execution of that satire is mixed, what Scream VIdoes successfully offer is a fresh and familiar take on Scream 2.
If Scream 5 (or ‘5cream’ as it’s known to some) was the requel to bring Scream fans back to Woodsborough and heavily revisit the events of Scream (1996), Scream VI is the follow-up that builds on the momentum of its predecessor in the same way that Scream 2 did for Scream (1996).
Departing from Woodsborough
Scream 2 saw protagonist Sidney Prescott leaving Woodsboro High to make a fresh start at Windsor College. In Scream VI, Tara, Mindy, and Chad are the ones attending university in NYC while Sam has come along to look after Tara and start over.
The past never truly stays dead in the Scream universe as the compounding trauma and cycle of violence cascades from one film to the next. The kills are bigger and more creative this time around, as a chance of scenery allows for new ways for Ghostface(s) to stalk their victims.
In Scream 2, the opening kill took place in a movie theatre, while the high-octane finale of Scream VI also takes place in a movie theatre. The relocation of the Scream series to New York City for the first time ever has reinvigorated the ongoing story using classic imagery of the city. Ghostface is now stalking victims on the New York subway, in a dark alleyway, or even through a bodega.
Blossoming Romance Afoot
Sidney Prescott and Sam Carpenter have paralleled journeys of trying to find love in their respective sequels, Scream 2 and Scream VI, but being understandably suspicious of these new love interests. With an ongoing ‘rule’ of the Scream series being that people should always look at the love interest, it’s understandable that the audience would be weary of their new beaus, Derek and Danny. Neither one of them are revealed to be the Ghostface of the sophomore outings, though I remain weary of some of the things Danny said and how they might lead to some shocking revelations about him in Scream 7.
In general, romance is abundant in Scream VI. On top of Sam hooking up with her neighbour Danny, Mindy has a new girlfriend named Anika, Tara and Chad become a romantic couple, Gale has a new boyfriend, and Quinn is shown to be no stranger to enjoying the company of men (“sex-positive!” as she refers to it).
The chemistry and heart and generally large quantity of these romantic subplots is important to countering the brutality of the kills. Additionally, it deepens the audience’s understanding of and attachment to the main ensemble of characters. These people don’t feel like mere cannon fodder waiting to be picked off. They feel like human beings whom you want to see survive long enough for the end credits to roll.
Scream 2 followed what would become the main pattern of the Scream films of there being two Ghostface killers. One of them was Mrs. Loomis, Billy Loomis’ mother who wanted to get revenge for the death of Billy in the first film.
I was one of the viewers who watched Scream VI for the first time and deduced before the big reveal that Ghostface was comprised of family members wanting to avenge Richie for what happened in Scream 5. Regardless of my ability to determine the killer ahead of time, the motive was still a welcome one, as it further tied the film to Scream 2.
Despite this parallel, Scream VI still manages to bring something new to the series with the reveal that there are not two, but three Ghostface killers. Though it was simple enough to figure out that Detective Bailey and his daughter Quinn were working together as Ghostface, I did not account for Ethan, the other brother.
My Avatar: The Way of Water adoration made me unable to see Jack Champion through anything but rose-coloured glasses. With this being the first time Ghostface has been three killers, with a motive that runs parallel to Scream 2, it begs the question as to whether Scream 7 will bring a return to just one Ghostface killer.
The “Rule 3” Problem
If there is one gripe that was nagging my brain after watching Scream VI, it is undoubtedly the matter of Rule 3. Each Scream film sees a horror/film nerd offering up a set of rules that are important for the characters in their efforts to survive, and also to explain to the audience what to keep an eye out for in the story. This time, Mindy’s ‘Rule 3’ is a point of contention in its execution.
“Rule 3: No one is safe. Legacy characters? Cannon fodder at this point. Usually brought back only to be killed off in some cheap bid for nostalgia. It’s not looking too good for Gale and Kirby. Uh, and that’s not even the worst part. The worst part is franchises are just continuing episodic instalments designed to boost an IP, which means main characters are completely expendable now.”
“Any of us could go at any time, especially Sam and Tara.”
Dewey was a character that was supposed to die more than once in the original Scream films. However, Wes Craven liked David Arquette to such an extent that his ‘deaths’ were always undone by the end of the movie to an almost comical degree. When directing team Radio Silence took over the helm in Scream 5, Dewey became a casualty of their new, brutal take on Ghostface.
The emotional impact of Dewey’s death is a major stand-out of not only this new chapter of Scream, but the entire Scream series. It also served as an important reminder to the audience that regardless of our affection for certain characters, no one is safe.
Scream VI however, undermined much of that dramatic tension built in its predecessor. Both of the legacy characters (Gale and Kirby) and the Core Four (Sam, Tara, Mindy, Chad) through some truly brutal attacks in which they receive numerous injuries that would kill anyone else in any other movie. Yet somehow by the end of the film, the only characters to die are every single person who made their debut in Scream VI.
Despite Wes Craven’s propensity for saving Dewey, he still knew the value of killing off people whom the audience would want or expect to survive. Drew Barrymore proposed that she be the opening kill of the first film, and he went with it. Scream 2 killed off the beloved Randy Meeks.
Too many brushes with death and no follow-through on it leads to plot armour and diminished stakes. With this many films in the series, Ghostface will no longer feel like a threat if the main characters always survive those attacks. With Scream VI having the largest opening weekend to date of any of the Scream films, another sequel seems inevitable. Hopefully, that film will ground the story once more, with a follow-through on one or more death of our main characters.
For more of my thoughts on Scream VI, watch my video review here!