The Scream franchise is an anomaly in the realm of horror. Despite being so long in the tooth that it can now claim six movies to its name—plus an MTV television show—the series has remained remarkably consistent. The original four movies were all directed by the same genre maestro, Wes Craven, and the new 2020s iterations, overseen by the creative collective Radio Silence, have carried on Craven’s tradition, right down to including the screenwriter of three of the four original movies, Kevin Williamson, as an executive producer and featuring all of the main protagonists from 1996 in at least one entry.
For a genre littered with reboots, retcons, and Swiss cheese continuity, this narrative/quality consistency is unprecedented. So why then was Radio Silence’s first follow-up to Craven’s quartet not called Scream 5?
It’s something that directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, as well as executive producer Chad Villella, have repeatedly addressed. Together, the trio forms Radio Silence, a group of filmmakers united by their love of horror growing up, especially Scream. And intriguingly, when we chatted with the helmers for the latest issue of Den of Geek magazine ahead of the upcoming Scream 6 release (or Scream VI in the marketing), they almost exclusively referred to the previous film as Scream 5.
The way Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett see it now, the fifth film’s confusing Scream title is a fourth-wall breaking wink to longtime fans—a way to cheekily comment on the recent phenomenon of legacy sequels/“requels” continuing the story of a horror classic… and yet reusing the title of the original movie to bring in younger audiences. Think David Gordon Green and Blumhouse’s Halloween in 2018, Netflix’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre last year, or the upcoming The Exorcist requel due out this October. Meta-ironies aside though, in an interview with Forbes last year, Bettinelli-Olpin previously admitted that the production company Spyglass Media Group insisted to Paramount and the filmmakers that what they were calling “Scream 5” be renamed simply “Scream.” Which may explain the filmmakers’ palpable joy when we ask them now if they’re happy about the next one being titled Scream VI.
“Yes,” Bettinelli-Olpin immediately responds. “So relieved,” Gillett adds.
Bettinelli-Olpin continues, “Listen, we went through all the titles you could imagine. And there was something just so simple and clean, and nice, about Scream VI. Also after Scream 2022, which was named that for a reason that is explored in the movie, to be able to then go from that to ‘Scream’ and Roman numeral ‘VI,’ for us, was [amazing]. Let’s make sure we all remember we’re watching Scream VI, you know what I mean?”
For a series that’s endured no actual reboots to date, and no breaks in continuity, it’s strangely comforting to see the horror franchise embrace the sextuple aspect of a sixth installment. Some entries in the series might not be quite as good as others, but overall this may be the one horror series where fans are happy to watch every installment to follow the story.
Scream VI, with the Roman numeral, opens on March 10.