This entry contains major spoilers for the whole “Scream VI”.
For the first two-thirds of Scream VI, the film was well on its way to being the best sequel ever. While previous Scream movies took their time building a chaotic final half, this movie hits the ground running, giving us one suspenseful chase sequence after another. It helps that this movie doesn’t have to spend a lot of time introducing us to a whole new cast of characters like ‘Scream 4’ and ‘Scream 5’. We’ve already met Sam (Melissa Barrera), Tara (Jenna Ortega), Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown), and Chad (Mason Gooding), so we care about them when they’re in danger much more than the first time around.
But while the film continues to be a strong addition to the franchise as a whole, it made one major mistake in its final act: the killers turn out to be Detective Bailey (Dermot Mulroney), Quinn (Liana Liberato) and Ethan (Jack Champion). For the first time in the history of the series, there are three Ghostfaces, not just two. Sounds like a fun way to up the ante, right? Evil. The reveal of the three killers was probably the weakest part of the whole movie and the main thing that keeps this movie from being one of the best horror sequels of all time.
To be fair to the twist…
The film deserves credit for laying the groundwork for killers. While Mickey’s reveal in Scream 2 seemed to come out of nowhere, no one can complain that Scream 6 doesn’t instill in our minds the idea that Ethan might be the killer. After all, both Mindy and Chad repeatedly accuse him of being one, and his “I’ve been studying” alibi is dodgy as hell.
Likewise, before Detective Bailey reveals himself, that’s not shocking either. When he tells Sam over the phone that Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) is almost certainly the killer, the fact that the movie doesn’t immediately confirm that Kirby is the killer makes it clear that Bailey must have been lying. Not only that, but his repeated mentions of the unnamed deceased son throughout the film definitely set off alarm bells.
And then there’s Quinn’s faked death. In retrospect, the fact that her death takes place entirely off-screen should have been an obvious clue, not to mention the absurdity of her sitting on the bed not realizing that Ghostface was right behind her, but somehow this one passed me by. Nevertheless, the forgery is deserved and makes sense, just like the other two.
The problem is not with any of the killers individually, but with all of them together.
Bigger doesn’t always mean better
A well-known trope at this point is Reverse Ninja Law or Ninjutsu Protection, which basically means that if a hero has to take on a single ninja, it’s going to be a tough fight. If he has to face a hundred ninja, the power of individual ninja will be weakened enough that the hero will still be able to break through. That’s why in Netflix’s Daredevil, the protagonist spends what feels like an entire episode of season 1 battling ninjas, and then in season 2 battling dozens of them. If any of these season 2 ninjas were as strong as the first one, Daredevil wouldn’t stand a chance.
Well, the same principle applies to any other villain, be it zombies, terminators, vampires, Daleks, and now Ghostfaces. The initial feeling of upping the ante that comes from revealing the three killers is immediately undermined by the inevitable realization that these killers are no harder to kill than the ones before them. In the last movie, Richie and Amber revealed themselves with Sam, Tara, Gale, and Sidney, all still alive and in combat position, and still holding up better than Bailey, Quinn, and Ethan here. The three are completely wiped out, despite only Sam and Tara remaining.
Despite how powerful Ghostface appeared in the first two-thirds of the movie, they’re physically the weakest post-reveal killers we’ve ever had. It’s hard to blame the movie too much because that’s the inevitable downside of bringing three killers into the movie, but that’s exactly why they should never have gone with three killers in the first place.
Competition for screen time
But the biggest problem with three killers isn’t how each individual killer is a little less threatening. No, the main problem is that it’s much harder to impress every character. There’s a reason Scream 4’s Jill so often ranks high on the best Ghostfaces list: she kills her partner early on, so all the attention in the final act is focused on her. The film gives her space to deliver a nearly eight-minute (mostly uninterrupted) monologue that gives us a full, vivid idea of what kind of person Jill is.
Meanwhile, the killer’s climactic monologue in “Scream VI” is split between Ethan, Quinn, and Bailey, meaning all three characters mingle with each other. Ethan and Quinn feel especially interchangeable, to the point that I can’t imagine anyone in the world picking one of them as their favorite Ghostface. Previously, I thought Jack Quaid and Mikey Madison were struggling to make the right impression with their post-reveal performances in Scream 5, but that’s nothing compared to how much Jack Champion and Liana Liberato were wasted here. They both make the most of the lines they get, but the movie just doesn’t have the time to focus on each one they deserve. As a result, two of the three killers in this movie seem to be complete rethinks.
Still an understandable choice
Maybe that’s what the movie is about: we should probably see Quinn and Ethan as interchangeable. They’re just mindless cartoon Bailey kids/minions. They exist primarily so that Sam and Tara can make their own kills before it’s time for them to team up with Bailey at the end. The idea of a whole family of killers is also genuinely interesting, and makes Richie’s actions in “Scream 5” retrospectively seem a bit more realistic. (If This is Richie’s family, no wonder he turned out so bad.)
But for all that revealing the three killers gives us, I don’t think it was worth it. The two-killer scheme was already pushing things, but now that we know that three-killer is always on the table from this point forward, it basically prevents viewers from guessing future mysteries. Scream VI goes too far into audience territory and leaves the door wide open for the next movie to have four or five killers. More than anything else, it seems to fall into the familiar franchise trap of constantly trying to up the ante at the expense of everything else. Instead of making things seem bigger and scarier, this strategy ends up being the other way around.
While the three-killer twist doesn’t ruin the series or anything, it may have strained it a bit. “Scream VI” is still a strong, commendable entry into the series, but hopefully they’ll stick to a maximum of two killers from now on.
Read this next: Horror movies you don’t want to miss in 2023
The post Why Scream 6’s biggest twist is also its weakest appeared first on /Film.