Many of the horror franchises that thrived during the days of VHS tapes and long lines at the box office have found it hard to keep up in the age of one million streaming channels. Scream, however, is the one franchise with enough self-awareness to do it right.
The newest installment, Scream 6 (often stylized as Scream VI), hits US theaters on March 10th. This new chapter follows the characters we were introduced to last year (including Wednesday’s Jenna Ortega, Yellowjacket’s Jasmin Savoy Brown, and up-and-coming Mexican-American actress Melissa Barrera), as they explore college life in a new city. But they quickly realize that no matter how far they run, they can’t outrun their homicidal tormentor, Ghostface. Scream 6 is already on its way to breaking records. In just one day of its release, it already has a higher audience rated score than its 2022 predecessor, Scream 5 (which was released simply under the title Scream).
"The scariest Scream yet." Get #ScreamVI tickets now and see why critics are dying over it! NOW PLAYING in theatres everywhere. https://t.co/8wq978XvMT pic.twitter.com/oUmx6rVJiX— Scream (@ScreamMovies) March 10, 2023
The Scream franchise has been a mainstay in pop culture for decades now. The first Scream movie was released in 1996, and became the highest-grossing slasher movie of all time until it was surpassed by 2018’s Halloween. The movies follow a group of friends who are terrorized by a deranged and elusive killer. Dressed in a black robe and ghoulish mask, the killer is known only as Ghostface. In each installment, Ghostface is often obsessed with horror movies, which only fuels the tongue-in-cheek meta-referential irony that films have become known for. Drew Barrymore, Rose McGowan, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Emma Roberts, and Lucy Hale are some of the more notable stars that have become Ghostface bait. The original Scream starred Courtney Cox, David Arquette, and Neve Campbell, all three of whom have returned for every installment but one: Scream 6
In Scream 6’s opening scene—the scene which has become the hallmark of every Scream movie—is the most unexpected and subversive opening since the iconic double-fake out in Scream 4. The movie only gets better from there though; the emotional beats flow seamlessly into terror-filled chase scenes and gut-wrenching gore. Jenna Ortega’s performance as Tara Carpenter is effective and moving, and the sisterly relationship between her and Barrera’s character is powerfully relatable.
A fresh opening is not the only way the franchise remains surprising—Scream 6 is feminist in more ways than one. The lead cast is almost entirely comprised of women, mostly women of color. It’s also proudly queer. Savoy’s character, Mindy Meeks-Martin has a sapphic love interest. (Last name sounds familiar? She’s fictional horror film nerd Randy Meeks’ niece, another homage to the original film). Her character is also wears several LGBTQIA+ activist shirts throughout the film, including one that says “Strong Femme Lead.” For a majority of the second act, she’s seen wearing a shirt that reads “Lavender Menace,” a subtle shoutout to the radical lesbian activist group of the 1970s. And despite all the conversations about trying to outsmart Ghostface, the film still passes the Bechel test. Scream 5 even made our list last year for the 9 Hot Pieces of Feminist Media.
Despite the new twists and new characters, there are plenty of reasons for hardcore Scream fans to rush to the box office. There are quite a few familiar faces returning, including household name, Courtney Cox, returning to reprise her role as the infamous Gale Weathers. Sadly, Neve Campell did not return to play the main role of Ghostface’s original target, Sydney Prescott, due to payment conflicts.
Don’t be disappointed though; another legacy character returns, seemingly back from the dead, to take her place—and no, I’m not going to reveal who that is; you’ll have to watch. Luckily for us, these reintroductions aren’t forced, and the reappearance of some old “friends” (Like Skeet Ulrich’s Billy Loomis) feels a lot more natural than they have in previous installments.
The long-awaited trailer revealed that the movie would be filled with memorabilia from the “original” Woodsborough murders (ie. the events that were depicted in the original Scream movie), and in the satirical in-universe fictional movie based on final girl Sydney Prescott’s experience, Stab. Wanting to identify all the easter eggs and nods to the previous movies is enough to have you running back to the ticket booth.
Although each one is more shocking than the last, the Scream movies have always been admired not just for their horror, but also their self-referential approach. And now, 30 years since its start, the Scream franchise continues to be both modern and subversive, With nods to the original films, badass women, and well-executed tension builds, Scream 6 is ushering in a new legacy of Scream Queens. And this is one 2023 film that won’t be left on the chopping block.
Top Image: Screengrab from "Scream 6 Trailer," Paramount Pictures
Faith Green is a writer based in New York City. She is also a personal stylist at New York City's Last Goth Store, Gothic Renaissance. She has 2 cats and not enough plants.