"In the moment, it was terrifying," says Scream 6 co-director Tyler Gillett of returning to the horror franchise so soon after last year's Scream. "You always want to have this moment where you sigh, the sigh of relief, this exhale after the process of making something. And I think that that we didn't have that in between these movies actually really helped Scream 6 have the feel that it has, because the pace of the movie and the pace of making it are really similar."
Scream 6 ups the ante from Scream 5 in every way, going bigger, bolder, and bloodier than 2022's 'requel' revival of the beloved slasher series. The action relocates to New York City, and, from the movie's heart-stopping opening sequence onwards, the film rarely lets up as Ghostface hacks his way through the Big Apple, targeting new and returning characters alike.
"It was just go go go," Gillett continues. "And, honestly, I think a lot of it was – what the movie is, it's a very intuitive movie for us, because there wasn't a lot of time to second guess things. There wasn't a lot of time to over-develop things. If it felt right, we did it. And it feels that, it feels rough and gritty and fast because of that."
According to co-director Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, the DNA for the thrilling rollercoaster ride that is Scream 6 began on the page. "It was in the script. Guy [Busick] and Jamie [Vanderbilt] wrote a high octane, relentless movie. We read that script and were like, 'Oh, my God, let's go'," he says. "If this was Scream 5, let's go over here for Scream 6. Let's make it as different as we can, while still having all the stuff that you want from a Scream movie. And I think one of the other things that was really exciting about this, is that we could really spend time with these characters and get to know them and get to explore those relationships."
At the heart of the movie is the self-styled "Core Four," composed of Melissa Barrera's Sam Carpenter, Jenna Ortega's Tara Carpenter, Jasmin Savoy Brown's Mindy Meeks-Martin, and Mason Gooding's Chad Meeks-Martin. The group are all survivors of the gruesome events of Scream 5, which gives them a particularly unique bond. But, as you might expect, each member of the group is dealing with the trauma very differently. While Sam struggles to process what happened in the fivequel, her younger sister Tara is just trying to move on – though that might not be the healthiest of choices.
"I think it's completely understandable," says Ortega of the way Tara is dealing with the past. "Part of what I love about this film is all of the different takes and the way that everybody handles Ghostface. I think naturally, humans, they like to suppress their emotion and maybe not necessarily make all of their struggles known. If there's any sort of insecurity, I think it's very, very common, and very, very natural, to let everything bubble up on the side and allow it to seep its way into your personal life, whether you like it or not. Someone like Tara, anyone who's afraid of confrontation or isn't ready to deal with something – rightfully so – they'll be able to see themselves in her."
Tara spent much of Scream 5 out of action, after she almost fell victim to Ghostface's blade in the opening scene. That meant the sixth movie gave Ortega a new opportunity to develop her character. "It was fun for me to play too, because I've never done that before," she adds. "And I think that also establishing on a character that I didn't get to create much of a personality for in the fifth one, I think it was nice to be able to elaborate on her and make her more [multi] dimensional as well."
When we catch up with Tara's older sister Sam, she's in therapy after the attacks – which were orchestrated by her boyfriend, Jack Quaid's Richie Kirsch – and is horrified to discover a new Ghostface is in town. Throughout the film, we see Sam grappling with her own inner darkness; after all, she is the daughter of Billy Loomis, one of the original killers of the franchise. "I love that it starts with her in therapy, so you know immediately that she's working towards bettering herself and fighting this thing that came out in the last movie," says Barrera. "And I love that we get to see a more vulnerable side of her in this movie, that we get to see her feel a little bit more helpless, and not just like the tough woman that we met in the last one. And I just love that we get to see more shades to her because that's what makes us human."
Much of Sam's trauma manifests in over-protecting Tara, though, as events progress, Tara turns just as protective of her big sister. "She has her relationship with Tara. That's such a beautiful role reversal that happens when she's the one that's trying to protect her sister, but in the end, it's her sister that comes through for her and fights to protect her, too."
As for the rest of the Core Four, their off-screen dynamic mirrored their on-screen friendship. "The four of us walked in more comfortable, more secure," says Brown, who plays Mindy. "The first time I was quite scared. It was also the beginning of COVID, and there weren't vaccines yet. But this time, me, Mason, Melissa, and Jenna, we all got together the first night we were all in town, we had dinner, and we said let's make sure we make this a really inviting, welcoming set for everyone new."
"Let's also make sure we haze them really hard," she adds, which Gooding immediately picks up on, joking: "And I think that the new cast members felt both welcome and incredibly isolated at the same time, which was good to make them feel on edge for a horror slasher film. They don't know who to trust, if we're actually friends, or if we're going to stab them in the back. But we're all friends."
"And they did great work in the movie and it's thanks to us," finishes Brown, with Gooding laughing: "That's exactly what I was implying."
Past and present
One of those franchise newcomers is Dermot Mulroney, who plays Detective Bailey, a police officer investigating the fresh attacks.
"So lucky, really, just the bottom line, so lucky to get this call," says Mulroney of joining the franchise. "I'm lucky even that there's a new cop in the franchise that fits my age and placement. So, gosh, all of those elements came together before they even sent me the script."
Naturally, there was a lot of secrecy surrounding the project. "When they sent me the script, it was in pieces, so that I didn't even know what was happening, the whodunnit, the mystery," continues Mulroney, who also admits to having only seen the original Scream movie at the time.
"Once I took the part, which I did immediately of course, I had my work cut out for me to see the middle four Scream movies, so that I was up to speed to play Detective Bailey," he says.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Scream movie without some legacy characters returning, too. Not only is Courteney Cox back as Gale Weathers, but Hayden Panettiere returns as Kirby Reed, the fan-favorite character presumed dead after the events of Scream 4, but revealed to be alive through a Scream 5 Easter egg.
"I felt more personal pressure than I did pressure to play Kirby, because I love Kirby," says Panettiere of her return, and the switch from newbie to legacy character. "I've always loved Kirby, I've found myself in Kirby. The fans have been so, so – they rooted for me and [are] so loyal. And I wanted to make sure that I made them proud and satisfied them, and it was really for them. So I hope they're happy in the end."
Kirby has a lot in common with the Core Four, being a survivor of Ghostface herself. For Brown, working alongside Panettiere was a learning experience. "I think anytime you have the opportunity to work with someone who's been doing this a lot longer than you is really exciting, because you can hear their stories and their perspective and Hayden was no exception," she says. "We grew up watching her and she came to set with stories and a history that we've only seen on TV."
Plus, Panettiere found the experience was very similar to filming Wes Craven's Scream 4. "It really was," she says when asked if she thought the director's legacy was continued and protected in Scream 6. "And that's what I was hoping for. COVID was not our friend. That made it very difficult. But it was still the same family, camaraderie, having each other's backs, laughter on set. It's an amazing family, and we're all on the text thread every day that keeps going forever."
The future of the franchise
In true requel style, the legacy characters take a backseat in Scream 6. Ghostface's killing spree instead revolves around the Carpenter sisters; Neve Campbell's Sidney Prescott is entirely absent, with Sam and Tara firmly taking center stage – so consider that baton passed.
"It's cool," says Barrera of being in such a central role, with Ortega adding: "It's an honor, definitely."
"And it's cool that we get to do it together," says Barrera. Ortega agrees. "This is my girl. Melissa is one of my favorite people I've ever met in my entire life." The duo clasp hands. "Actual sister," Ortega continues. "So it works."
For the directors' part, they're keen to see the franchise live on, whether they're directing a follow-up or not. "We'd love to. We love Scream, we'd love to just keep doing it," says Bettinelli-Olpin of continuing in the franchise.
"We're here for it in any way, too," chimes in Gillett. "Working on it, [or] as fans buying movie tickets. We're so happy the franchise is back. We love these movies so much."
Scream 6 is in UK cinemas from March 8 and US theaters from March 10.
You can see what else is on the way with our guide to all the other upcoming major movie release dates.