I scream, you scream, we all scream for Scream! Photo courtesy of SlashFilm.
MASON KUPIAINEN | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
After five onscreen murder sprees, apparently, no one in the world of the “Scream” franchise learned to ban the sale of Ghostface costumes. Or, at least stop making in-universe films that inspire others to dawn the mask.
“Scream VI” slashed into theaters on March 10, serving as a sequel to the fifth film in the series, which rebooted the series for a new generation.
Long-running slasher franchises tend to fall off the wagon after countless sequels, or in some cases, purely after one film. Popular franchises such as Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street rarely were able to make competent sequels as they struggled to make excuses for the story to continue. Despite the odds stacked against it, “Scream VI” was able to show that the franchise still had some tricks up its sleeve.
Before the film’s release, controversy surrounded the absence of the franchise’s scream queen, Neve Campbell. Her character, Sidney Prescott, has been a fan favorite in the series, with many dubbing her as the “best final girl” in a horror film. Having been present in the previous five installments, the actress turned down the offer to reprise her role over pay disputes. The actress felt the value she brought to the franchise was unequal to the offer she was presented.
Even without its iconic star, the film was able to still impress at the box office. Although other iconic slasher films saw declines in the box office with each subsequent film, such as the recent “Halloween” trilogy seeing each sequel gross less than the previous film, “Scream VI” showed there is still a hunger for this franchise, breaking the record for the series’ best opening weekend box office. The newest installment grossed $44 million dollars in its opening weekend, breaking the record held by the previous “Scream 3,” which scared up $34.7 million dollars in 2000. To put into perspective how significant that number is, “Scream 4” opened to $18 million in 2011, while 2022’s “Scream” opened to $30 million.
Stabbing into the Big Apple
“Scream VI” follows the Carpenter sisters a year after surviving the fifth series of Ghostface murders as they struggle to move on with their lives. Tara moves to New York to begin a fresh start at college while Sam follows her to the big city to watch over her. However, an unprecedented killer dons the Ghostface mask and cloak to begin a new series of murders. Characters such as Chad and Mindy Martin, survivors from the recent set of films, as well as veterans of the franchise Gale Weathers and Kirby Reed return in the blood-soaked sequel.
Senior creative media and entertainment major Luke Johnson explained what he was looking forward to most out of this sixth installment.
“I’m excited to see what new techniques they might use in subverting audience expectations,” Johnson said. “When you’re releasing the sixth film in a franchise, the audience is pretty well versed with the content, so you’re really going to have to do something new that not only captivates old audiences but also can bring in a new, fresh audience.”
After churning out five films, many slasher franchises typically fall into the trap of feeling repetitive. Luckily for the filmmakers behind “Scream VI,” the change in locations from the small-town feel of Woodsburrow to New York allowed them to play around with the scenery and create unique, tension-filled sequences. The “Scream” franchise is built around being self-aware of itself and horror cliches, which allow for the filmmakers to constantly evolve and keep the franchise fresh. As seen in the trailers for “Scream VI,” one sequence involves the characters trapped in an apartment, forced to connect a ladder from their window to an adjacent one. Sequences like these that take advantage of the New York City setting allow for a new creative perspective for the franchise.
The rules for a successful franchise
All of the “Scream” films introduce the “rules” for surviving the specific type of film they are in. For example, the original film introduces the rules to surviving a horror film, the sequel explains the rules of sequels, and “Scream 3” plays with the rules of trilogies. “Scream VI” follows the rules laid out in “Scream 2” by having a sequel with more blood, gore and elaborate kills. However, these shouldn’t be necessary for continuing the story. Thrilling action sequences and innovative kills do not automatically lead to a great film but should add a level of excitement to a movie. Great characters and a compelling story still need to be present. Audiences should feel that a sequel is still building off of an established story.
Joseph Colavito, a professor in the English department, explained the fundamentals for a thriving franchise.
“If you want to have a successful franchise, you have to show growth,” Colavito said. “You’re banking on the fact that because these [characters] are survivors, they’re going to have to work differently. A successful franchise should have at least one character who has PTSD, and that is a big part of the way they operate.”
Unlike many other slasher sequels, “Scream VI” does explore the process of the main characters Sam and Tara tackling grief and trauma after surviving the traumatic events of the previous film. Sam finds a therapist while Tara begins to make risky choices to drown the pain and fear she is feeling. Showing these characters in a vulnerable state helps to convey that almost being killed by Ghostface did leave more than just scars on their bodies. It shows that the characters are developing and not staying in a stagnant phase.
Big city, bigger budge
2022’s “Scream” had a reported budget of around $24 million while the sixth film’s budget went up to $35 million. This increased budget can be seen in the film through its wide scope and locations. Moving out of the small town of Woodsboro and into the endless streets of New York already made the film feel bigger, but the cinematography helped to establish the film’s heightened experience.
As mentioned earlier, an action sequence involves the characters crawling over a ladder to escape the killer. The various camera angles in this scene allowed the viewers to grasp the dangerous stunt the characters were performing, which helped to give audiences a nausea-inducing thrill.
The action sequences in “Scream VI” also extend for a longer duration of time and are more intricate than those of its predecessors. Comparing them to the fifth entry, the action sequences were very standard and brief. They involved the characters staying in one location and having Ghostface purely stabbing his victims. “Scream VI” heightens the experience by having these action sequences carry over into various locations, extending for longer periods of time and allowing Ghostface to use various objects to kill his victims.
Critics of the “Scream” franchise focus on the lack of originality in the sequels. The first film broke many rules of the horror genre in a way that made the film feel fresh and unique, which many say its sequels were unable to continue. It followed the tropes the series set up in the original film and began to feel as if the filmmakers were unable to inject more creativity into the films.
The creativity of the original film was a driving point for Johnson’s love of the movie.
“It was different from other [films] that I watched,” Johnson said. “It was smart, clever and pretty much toyed with the ideas of the horror genre, subverting expectations. Always having a twist ending was never necessarily what you thought it would be in a normal horror film or slasher film.”
However, “Scream VI” demonstrated that there are still some surprises that can be had with certain aspects of a Scream film. The opening sequence to “Scream VI” was able to mark one of the franchise’s best openings by taking risks previous entries hadn’t done before.
The prospect of having originality infused in the film only lasted for so long. Since the first two acts were able to make a unique feeling “Scream” film, the third act falls back onto the standard “Scream” formula. Viewers have found themselves disappointed with how the filmmakers decided to explain this new round of murder sprees. The movie plays it safe with a familiar explanation when it had the opportunity to take a more incentive route. The movie also suffers from characters surviving an unrealistic amount of stabs, as the characters brush them off as mere paper cuts.
Michael Aronson, faculty teaching fellow with the College of Communication, explained the success of slashers.
“There’s always going to be room for the quick and easy slasher films,” Aronson said. “[Audiences are] always going to be rolling [out] for the quick and easy horror films of any kind.”
Despite having an underwhelming ending, “Scream VI” still provides audiences with the thrills they are seeking. It expands upon the characters established in the fifth film, solidifying them as a new generation worthy of picking up the mantle of the original beloved characters. All the while, the movie provides enough uniqueness in the film to make the franchise feel fresh while incorporating traditional elements that still make it feel like a “Scream” film.
“Scream VI” was released on March 10 and is currently playing in theaters everywhere.