Instead the big reveal is that rather than one Ghostface, or even two, there are three. Also as a shock, their motive feels like something out of 4chan’s grotesque fever dreams: They’re the family of Ritchie (Jack Quaid’s psycho killer from the last movie) and they want revenge on Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera) for killing their precious boy—and they started it by spreading QAnon lies about her.
It got me. Expectations were subverted and it led to a pretty gratifying applause line when Ortega kills Ritchie’s young brother and hisses, “Now fucking die a virgin.” It’s a bigger spectacle than the ending of the last several Scream movies. But I’m not convinced it’s better.
The twist of the last movie where Ritchie and Amber (Mikey Madison) killed all these people because they wanted to rewrite the plot of their favorite franchise had a delicious, thinly veiled commentary about toxic fandom in a post-The Last Jedi world. The film before that, Scream 4, also worked as a cutting satire about influencer culture before that was a phrase, with Jill Roberts (played by Julia Roberts’ niece, Emma Roberts) doing it all to amass social media clout and play the victim. Prophetic.
Scream 6 returns a bit to the ‘90s Scream sequels’ more soapy plot lines. Once again, the last movie’s killer came from a nutter family that is carrying on his good work. It’s out of left field, almost unpredictable, and crazy enough to allow Sam to don her father’s costume and voice box. Finally, Ghostface gets to be the good guy. It’s subversive but could it be pushing the story to its breaking point?
The delicate magic of Scream movies is that they’re always self-analyzing and critiquing their own choices, aware the series is walking a knife’s edge between clever and smug, funny and self-parody. The last installment written by the first film’s mastermind, Kevin Williamson, was Scream 4, and that film even began by imagining how the movies-within-the-movies, the Stab franchise, descended into meta-masturbation by the time of Stab 7.
Six movies in, the actual Scream movies have avoided that fate. For now. New blood creatives Radio Silence even gave the series back its edge, with the set pieces of Scream 5 and especially 6 being the first genuinely tense ones since the second movie. But perhaps they’ve done their job too well for me. I don’t want to see the “Core Four” butchered anymore than Dewey and Gale. That of course could be the root of great horror, but Scream has gone there as well. Twice. Recall that before Dewey’s bittersweet death in Scream 5, Randy Meeks was also “core four” in Scream 2.