How They Decided Who Lived and Died in the Scream 6 Ending
The Scream 6 ending took some wild turns. We spoke with the creators about how those twists came about.
This article contains massive Scream VI Spoilers.
It’s a funny thing when you stop to think about it. Despite nearly all the Scream movies featuring two killers, we never saw multiple Ghostfaces appear in costume at the same time during the last five movies. The idea was teased a bit in Scream 4, but by and large, every Scream film before 2023 wanted to keep the illusion that there might only be one Ghostface killer in the film… at least until it came time for third act monologues where everyone was in their civilian clothes.
In retrospect, it’s kind of a bizarre curiosity in this franchise. One which the filmmakers behind Scream VI intended to change while crafting a climax for the latest installment. Finally, we’d see our heroes chased by two Ghostfaces—Ghostfaces who in turn would serve a third mastermind and semi-cult leader. It’s that initiating idea, where two killers could stab a poor schmuck at the same time (sorry, Mason Gooding’s Chad!), that determined what Scream VI became.
“The first thing that came to us was we wanted three killers, three Ghostfaces,” screenwriter Guy Busick tells us when we sit down with him and his co-scribe James Vanderbilt ahead of Scream VI’s digital and Paramount+ release. “We wanted to see two in the costume in the finale, which we had never seen before.” And this in turn, led them to realize they needed a family of killers. Thus entered Det. Bailey (Dermot Mulroney) and his children Quinn (Liana Liberato) and Ethan (Jack Champion).
“It would strain credibility for three people who are just friends, or whatever, to all be psychopaths and have the same motive to go kill a bunch of people,” Busick reasons. “But a family makes more sense, and if it’s a toxic family, and that [toxicity] came from the top, it came from the father, then we can buy that.”
The screenwriters did not initially intend for the killers to be related to the mastermind of the previous movie, Ritchie Kirsch (Jack Quaid). Busick even teases the family of killers had an entirely different motive in the first draft of the Scream VI script before the idea of tying it back into 2022’s fifth Scream film came to them. But the shift worked in their favor, including when Quaid (who did not return for obvious reasons) happily shared some of his own home movies and video diaries that the filmmakers were able to incorporate into the climax. Now they’re Ritchie’s rambling manifestos, playing on a cinema screen in the background as Ritchie’s family attempts to skewer the Carpenter Sisters, Sam and Tara (Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega).
While speaking with Scream VI directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, the pair also reveal that the idea of connecting the two films became fortuitous in the casting. For example, they hired Avatar 2 star Champion to play nerdy, psychopathic Ethan based on the strength of his video audition. However, upon meeting him in-person, the directors were shocked by just how much he resembled Quaid. They could be brothers. Unfortunately, since that was intended to be a twist, immediate panic ensued.
“We had to tell Jack Champion not to stand next to Jack Quaid [at the premiere],” Gillett laughs now. “It was like, ‘You guys cannot be photographed in proximity of each other!’”
Directing Champion, as well as Mulroney and Liberato, as the killers also proved to be a departure for the Scream VI helmers. In the auditions, they had every actor read the script of a previous Ghostface’s monologue. This is done as a way to test an actor’s credibility at playing a murderous nutjob while also not letting any auditioning thespian know if they’re actually playing the killer. And in the case of 2022’s Scream 5, after casting Quaid and Mikey Madison as the killers, the directors didn’t clue the actors into the fact that they were the film’s actual villains until late into filming.
Conversely on Scream VI, after everyone was asked to read Timothy Olyphant’s monologue of insanity from Scream 2 in the auditioning process, the filmmakers quickly cut the charade short, revealing in pre-production who would be killing who.
“We told Jack and Liana in their fitting,” Bettinelli-Olpin reveals. “We did like a Columbo ‘one more thing’ as they were walking out, and then Avery [Plewes], our costume designer, was like, ‘Here’s the robe!’ And they both freaked out.”
With that said, as important as who Ghostface is, these movies are often more about who the masked killer is terrorizing. And Scream VI has received generally enthusiastic notices for being both tense and for having such a winsome “Core Four:” Sam, Tara, Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown), and even Chad. So it’s kind of remarkable that for such a sinister movie, they all survive after being stabbed at least once… or many times in Chad’s case.
For the directors, this surprisingly happy ending occurred for a reason.
“Scream 5 was hard in terms of that,” Bettinelli-Olpin says while referring to the death of fan favorite Dewey Riley (David Arquette) in the last picture. “Not only as filmmakers, but as fans. There was a part of us that wanted to make this movie go super fucking hard and also be a feel-good movie. We’re kind of balancing those two things. When you watch the first movie [from 1996], part of the reason you watch it over and over is you love Gale, you love Dewey, you love Sid, and they all survive, and you get to watch them all survive every time we watch that movie.”
He continues, “We were like, ‘Let’s make this movie feel like we’re gonna murder everybody, and then have them live and have a happy life. It’s that funny balance where you’re trying to do two things at once, but for us it just felt right.”
Gillett agrees. He points out that they considered all options while developing the Scream VI ending, but they wanted to also keep the focus on why audiences invest in these stories.
Says Gillett, “We never want a character to die and then not deal with the consequences of that. I think for us, we want to make sure that even those moments are treated with a level of sensitivity, so the characters aren’t callous. Like if you lose a friend, you have to deal with the gravity of what that means to them. We did it when Dewey died. That movie spends a good chunk of time grieving his loss before it’s kind of back on the fun Scream rails, and we’re back off to the next set piece. We just felt that for as fast as [Scream VI] was, we didn’t want it to slow it down for these moments of grief-stricken mourning.”
And to their credit, Scream VI does hold up a lot on rewatch when the Core Four all get to walk away happily ever after. For now.
Scream VI is now available on Digital platforms and Paramount+ and arrives on 4K Ultra HD SteelBook, on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD on July 11.