Scream VI premieres this weekend in theaters. After the surprisingly well made fifth movie, it seemed that no one but Wes Craven could helm the franchise that rejuvenated the slasher genre in the mid-1990s for better or for worse. And early reviews for the sixth one are very favorable. Craven, along with screenwriter Kevin Williamson, brought some three-dimensional characters and dark humor to the genre that had been missing from the numerous movies that lined the horror shelves at Blockbuster Video.
Craven passed away in 2015. But Craven and Williamson reunited after the disastrous Cursed to bring back the trio from Woodsboro, Calif. who had to deal with the Ghostface Killer three times before. But in the winter of 2000, Scream 3 was released as the concluding trilogy (ahem!) to the franchise. And some people might have thought that is was about time.
Following the surprise hit of the first one, the sequel was very anticipated that many young actors in Hollywood (Jada Pinkett Smith, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Timothy Olyphant, Jerry O’Connell) were clawing to be included even if it meant only a few scenes before their characters are killed. But something happened shortly after the first movie was released. It seemed that the market was going to be saturated again. No kidding, I was in college the year Scream 2 was released. A few moths prior, I Know What You Did Last Summer was released and half the people in my dorm thought it was the sequel to Scream. With Williamson as the writer, it was the only connection.
And soon after Scream 2, there was Urban Legend, Disturbing Behavior, The Curve and The Skulls. Even the Halloween genre was revived with Halloween H20. The horror genre or as it was often called the Dead Teenager Genre had been rejuvenated with the WB crowd. It didn’t help matters that on April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. and went on a shooting rampage the likes of which America hadn’t seen before. (And sadly, it’s only gotten worse.)
So, movies featuring teens killing each other like in the first two movies weren’t so popular. The first Scream faced some scrutiny during pre-production following the infamous Polly Klaas murder. And Williamson’s idea for a third sequel wouldn’t go further. Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard) who had been one of the killers in the first movie was supposed to have survived his injuries and in prison. He was orchestrating the killings from his prison cell and the killer was supposed to be a student at Woodsboro High School where the third Stab movie was being filmed in the town.
Well, obviously, you can understand why Miramax who released the franchise under the now defunct Dimension Films banner wanted some changes. And if Harvey Weinstein says something is too bad to be released, you know it’s bad. Also, Miramax and Dimension were both owned by Disney at the time, so no way were they going to allow this story to proceed. Incidentally, Williamson would take the unused concept of someone orchestrating everything from prison and use it in his TV series The Following.
By 1999, Williamson, who had struggled as an actor for years, was now in full demand. His TV show Dawson’s Creek was a hit. He had directed a movie Teaching Mrs. Tingle. (The title was changed from “Killing” to “Teaching” post-Columbine.) So, he was busy on several movie and TV shows. Harvey and his brother, Bob (who reportedly had more control at Dimension), hired Ehren Krueger to write a screenplay based on the outline that Williamson had written. There was also some availability issues with Neve Campbell that I will address later.
The movie takes place mostly in the Los Angeles area years after the events of the second Scream but it’s not revealed how long. Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber) has become a daytime talk-show host capitalizing on his history being accused of murdering Maureen Prescott (Lynn McRee) as well as helping her daughter, Sidney (Campbell) and journalist Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) stop the killers at Windsor College. Of course, Cotton is using it to his advantage as the movie opens, he’s talking on a cell phone to an agent, manager or lawyer, when he gets another call while stuck in traffic.
The caller on the other line is a woman’s voice who recognizes his and sounds flirtatious. Cotton quickly cuts off the other phone call so he can flirt with the caller, whose voice changes from feminine to a raspy male’s voice. It’s the voice of Ghostface (voice of Roger L. Jackson) who tells Cotton he’s at the condo Cotton shares with his girlfriend, Christine (Kelly Rutherford). Cotton rushes home but Ghostface is using an electronic voice box to mimic Cotton’s voice confusing Christine so he can kill both of them. But before he kills Cotton, Ghostface says he should’ve been told of the whereabouts of Sidney.
Sidney is hiding in an undisclosed rural California mountains, more or less seclueded on property she doesn’t seem to leave as her father delivers her groceries. Sidney who was studying theatre has been able to become a crisis counselor for an abused women’s hotline she can work remotely from her house. She doesn’t even tell anyone her real name.
Back in L.A. Gale is giving a lecture where she is is criticized for her ethics only to be approached by Det. Mark Kincaid (Patrick Dempsey). He tells her that Cotton has been murder but the killer left what looks like a celebrity head shot at the crime scene. Gale tells Kincaid the photo is of Maureen when she was younger.
On the Hollywood set of Stab 3, there is concern over the death of Cotton who was scheduled to make a cameo in the movie. Dewey Riley (David Arquette) is working as the technical advisor following his break-up with Gale. He also lives in a camper on the property of pampered actress Jennifer Jolie (Parker Posey) who’s set to play Gale in the movie. John Milton (Lance Henriksen) is a veteran horror movie producer who is handling the franchise and has tapped a young director, Roman Bridger (Scott Foley), to helm the project as a director.
However, the movie has already hit some problems as Tori Spelling and David Schwimmer didn’t return to play Sidney and Dewey, respectively. Tom Prinze (Matt Keeslar), a young actor, has been hired to play Dewey and a young actress, Angelina Tyler (Emily Mortimer), has been picked from thousands of applicants to play Sidney. Yet, the movie is shut down when actress Sarah Darling (Jenny McCarthy) is killed in the production office after stopping by to meet with Roman. Yet, Roman tells authorities he didn’t know of a meeting.
At Jennifer’s house in the hills, the killer lurks around and kills Jennifer’s bodyguard, Steven Stone (Patrick Warburton) and then cuts the power. But not before Stone finds Gale snooping around outside. She shows Dewey the photo Kincaid showed her and he notices a similarity in the background with a photo of Jennifer. It’s revealed that Maureen was once an actress in her youth. However, the killer manages to leak the natural gas through the house killing Tom when he strikes his lighter to read a fax that came through.
Sidney is also having nightmares of Maureen and receives a call from Ghostafce mimicking her mother’s voice and when she realizes the call is on her landline, it’s evident the killer knows where she lives. So, she drives to L.A. to help Kincaid. There’s a little tension between her, Dewey and Gale. Dewey says the Woodsboro Police Department was broken into after hours a year earlier and he thinks they were looking for the file on the Maureen Prescott murder, which Dewey removed. He discovers that Maureen left Woodsboro after high school and must have moved to L.A. before returning about two years later.
Martha Meeks (Heather Matarazzo), the younger sister of Randy (Jamie Kennedy) appears on the studio lot with a VHS tape Randy left. He recorded it briefly before his murder at Windsor in which he told Sidney, Dewey and Gale that if they find themselves dealing with some past events, this is the concluding chapter of a trilogy and gives them some rules to follow that the killer is going to be more powerful this time.
Gale with Jennifer tagging along discovers in the studio’s archives that Maureen was an actress in the 1970s appearing in cheap low-budget horror movies that Milton produced. When Gale, Dewey and Jennifer go to question Milton at his office, he lets it slip that during the 1970s that producers and directors often had their way with young actresses. He doesn’t come out and say it but it’s implied Maureen was sexually assaulted at a party at Milton’s house causing her to give up on Hollywood and return home.
The fact that Harvey Weinstein is currently in prison probably the rest of his life for doing the same thing to multiple women is eerie. Did Craven know what was being said about him at the time? Surely, he must’ve squirmed a little when he either read the script or saw it in the movie. Krueger was taken off the project and was attached to work on Reindeer Games as the Bob Weinstein brought in Laeta Kalogridis to do some script doctoring as there were constant changes. Was it her who added this or possibly Carrie Fisher, who was also brought in as a script doctor? Rose McGowan, who had appeared in the first Scream, would be one of many people who would accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault.
Eventually, the killer surfaces at Milton’s house where a birthday party is for Roman with Jennifer, Angelina and actor Tyson Fox (Deon Richmond). Eventually, it’s revealed after they’re all killed that Roman was the killer. He was also the illegitimate son of Maureen, who gave him up for adoption before returning to Woodsboro. It’s implied Maureen got pregnant following a sexual assault possibly even by Milton. However, when Roman tracked her down years later, she rejected him wanting to leave all that in the past. So, he managed to work with Stu and Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) to kill Maureen and frame Cotton who she was having an affair with.
However, Roman says he never anticipated that Billy and Stu would do what they did with the other murders. However, some fan theories have suspected Roman was actually in Woodsboro as they point to certain things such as Ghostface being seen at a supermarket at the same time Billy and Stu are busting Randy’s chops at the video store. Other people have criticized bringing Roman in as Sidney’s half-brother. I think with a lot of sequels, you should have a better connection between the movies than just rehashing the events of the previous movie.
But the twist in Scream 2 was that Billy Loomis’ mother (Laurie Metcalf) was helping Mickey (Olyphant) all along. All movies are connected more than other slasher movies sequels in which they just introduce new characters. It gives the movie more of an edge. And it brings some life to Maureen who was only seen in photographs in the first two movies. Incidentally, McRee was a model when she was younger and they used photos she had taken for the younger Maureen photos.
Ironically, the question over violence in movies which was discussed in Scream 2 is addressed even further here. While the movie is just as violent as the previous movies, I think they let things slide when it’s someone in their late 20s, 30s or older. Craven reported he still had issues with the ratings board. Even though Milton may be referenced to Harvey Weinstein, he was more supposed to represent Roger Corman, who cameos as a studio executive.
Studio executives at Miramax and Dimension wanted the movie to focus more on the satirical aspect, which might explain why Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith) appear as tourists on the studio lot. This also means that the View Askewniverse and the Scream universe co-exist. (And possibly they’re connected to the MCU since Stan Lee is shown in Captain Marvel preparing for his role in Mallrats.) Reportedly Campbell could only be on set for three or four weeks as she was due to begin scheduling the sixth and last season of Party of Five. This meant the script had to be written to give the other characters more screentime so they could space Campbell’s scenes out more.
Fisher also appears as Bianca Burnette, a former actress working in ther archives office. There’s a metajoke about how she looks like Carrie Fisher and Bianca was up for Princess Leia to but she didn’t sleep with George Lucas. While it’s a joke, it’s also foreshadowing. Dempsey was also brought back in during post-production to film additional scenes as it was discovered his character just leaves the movie and doesn’t reappear. It also makes Kincaid a possible suspect. Reshoots were made in January 2000 before the movie was set to premiere on Feb. 3, 2000.
And when it did hit the theaters, critics weren’t so nice as they were with the previous two. Produced on a budget of $40 million, it still went on to make $161.8 million worldwide while only receiving mixed reviews. Yet, following the MeToo movement and the criminal charges against Harvey Weinstein, Patrick Lussier, the movie’s editor who often collaborated with Craven was asked about the parallels. “Wes (Craven), I think, was very interested in that character as not necessarily the villain—he certainly is a villain—but as a catalyst for the villain’s motivation,” he told Slate Magazine in 2019.
Emma Fraser, writing for SyFy Wire said that Maureen is often slut shammed and victim blamed but said the movie didn’t explore these themes further. She stated it “could have been a fascinating look at the crimes of this industry and the relationship horror has with sex.” But it was a different time. If a filmmaker did try to look at that angle, I’m certain critics would say it’s too much. Horror movies have always been a reflection of the times. At the time, more people were worried about violence in movies. Now, there more concerned about representation in movies.
Even though there are now six movies, I kinda look at the first batch as the original trilogy while the fourth, fifth and sixth are another trilogy kinda like Star Wars. The first three movies tied everything together and offered a good conclusion. Will Scream VI offer another conclusion especially following controversy over Campbell not returning. Time will tell?
What do you think? Please comment.