Scream 6: How Filmmakers Pulled Off That Shocking Opening Kill Twist
The directors and screenwriters of Scream 6 walk us through coming up with that shocking opening scene and why getting Samara Weaving in the film was so important.
This article contains major Scream VI spoilers.
Screenwriters James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick are somewhat superstitious. This is not to say the pair of scribes believe in things like spirits, jinxes, or Bigfoot. But when it comes to collaborating on the script for a beloved franchise, they refuse to tempt fate by discussing what their plans for the next one might be. Instead they treat each film, be it 2022’s Scream (aka Scream 5) or last month’s Scream VI, like potentially the last word on its series. For that reason, they didn’t even begin swapping ideas on VI until the project was greenlit and the pair were having their first story meeting.
So imagine their surprise, then, that as Busick began explaining his wild idea for the opening Scream VI kill—which involved the immediate unmasking of Ghostface after he finishes butchering a poor associate film studies professor—Vanderbilt had to stop him mid-sentence.
“He held up his notepad where he had written out the same thing I had just pitched,” Busick recalls during our Zoom chat. “So we knew we were on a good track, and that we were sharing our Scream brain again.”
That communal brain also produced one of the best opening twists in the Scream series’ history. The sequence starts familiar enough, with a single woman named Laura Crane (Samara Weaving playing a character who appears to homage the equally doomed Marion Crane of Psycho) receiving an innocuous phone call. However, the details are also subtly different. Technically, Laura’s alone, and yet she’s also surrounded by dozens of people inside a trendy New York City restaurant. The voice on the other end of the phone also doesn’t sound like Roger L. Jackson either. Rather it’s Tony Revelori’s cheerful cadence, goading and flirting with her to go outside and, eventually, walk down a gloomy alley. Only then does the voice turn into the familiar rasp of Ghostface.
“The worst part is you teach a class about slasher movies, and you still walked down a dark alley alone.”
Yet in the aftermath of Laura’s brutal murder, the scene unexpectedly keeps going and the real twist comes: Ghostface removes his mask. Scream VI directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett still marvel at how that surprise got them too. Because of the way Busick and Vanderbilt like to handle the creative process, Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett discovered the surprise like an audience would while reading the screenplay in a studio office.
“I remember on the page what was written,” Gillett tells us. “‘Ghostface slashes at the camera like we’ve seen many times before, but we don’t cut to the title card.’ It was like, ‘Oh my God, what is going to happen next?’”
For the screenwriters, the appeal of the opening is to get the audience to lean in.
“[The idea is] how do we make audiences feel like we’re going to take some risks here,” Busick explains. “So we start with a traditional Ghostface kill, but the added, interesting element is that it’s a New York kill. It starts in a crowded restaurant and all that stuff, so already it’s got a different flavor, but then to have him take off the mask, and then we follow him. You think, ‘Are we going to follow him for the whole movie? Is this from Ghostface’s perspective, what are we doing here?’”
Of course the final twist is that Revelori’s Ghostface is not the Ghostface of the movie but rather just one more opening sequence victim, waiting to be killed by who will be the movie’s real main Ghostface. It’s a nesting doll of opening kills, although one cannot help but wonder if the screenwriters and directors considered committing to the idea of doing a whole film where the audience knows who Ghostface is. Bettinelli-Olpin admits they talked about it at the time, and does agree it’d be interesting to make a Scream movie where the audience knows, and the characters do not, what’s going on.
However, Busick and Vanderbilt had a clear idea about what Scream VI should become—which meant Revelori’s murderous film student needed to go.
“We rattle test a lot of different ideas,” Vanderbilt says, “but in this version we always loved the idea of feigning towards it and then going the other way. We very much wanted to specifically tell the story of Sam and Tara, the sisters story. And it felt like if Tony had stuck around, you wouldn’t be able to spend as much time [on the sisters] and would be focused over there.”
The instincts appear right for the movie Scream VI became. A big reason audiences seemed to connect with the sequel is because it made viewers care so much about the self-titled “core four,” which included Sam and Tara (Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega) as well as the twins Chad and Mindy (Mason Gooding and Jasmin Savoy Brown). Heck, the movie even does a good job of making you worry about Laura in those opening moments, which in no small part came down to casting Samara Weaving, a longtime friend of both the directors and screenwriters after Ready or Not.
Says Vanderbilt, “We always loved the idea of having her in the movie. Sometimes you do that though and it doesn’t work out… Luckily this time it did work out, because it takes a special kind of actor to only be onscreen for five minutes and care about them and not want them to die.”
The Scream VI directors put a finer point on it.
“We didn’t just want Samara because we love Samara and think she’s super talented,” Gillett explains. “It was those things in addition to where you feel like you know this character and give a shit about when they get killed in under five minutes. She’s just sitting in one place for 80 percent of that time, and we’ve seen that scene probably 150 times now. But she’s just so captivating, you never get bored and you believe every single thing she’s doing.”
As for getting Weaving, who worked with the same creative team on Ready or Not, to come back and die first in Scream VI, that turned out to be the easy part.
“She was game for anything,” Bettinelli-Olpin laughs. “I was like, ‘Hey, we’ll send you your part.’ And she’s like, ‘I don’t care what it is. I want to come and hang out.’”
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.