The Scream series made its name with meta commentary on the horror genre, but with the latest trailer for Scream 6, the series may get even more self-referential than usual. Ghostface’s narration in the trailer suggests that, this time around, Scream’s own fan base could be the target in its parody crosshairs. In the timeline of the Scream franchise, it would make perfect sense.
After an 11-year gap between sequels, Scream 5 (technically just called Scream) was released last year to a somewhat shocking level of success. Not only did the movie clean up at the box office, with nearly $140 million dollars worldwide, but it also kickstarted the franchise’s online fandom in a way it never had been before.
While the internet has been a fledgling home for horror friends since long before the original Scream’s release in 1996, it and its subsequent sequels were never quite met with the feverish excitement of franchises with monstrous icons. But with another slasher boom happening right now, and a smart re-requel meta-commentary that takes aim at everything from the new Halloween movies to Star Wars to The Matrix, Scream 5 managed to capture a new generation of fans — not to mention it helped kick off Jenna Ortega’s red-hot year that included X and Wednesday.
Scream is as popular as it’s ever been. Social accounts tracking rumors and cast appearances are in full yarn-board conspiracy mode. Reddit users devote precious time to cracking the mystery of the new movie’s killer, weeks before it actually hits theaters. The shift is sure to impact the movie’s plot — which would be right in line with previous installments. After Scream 2, the franchise’s previous peak, Scream 3 writer Ehren Kruger grabbed the baton from creator Kevin Williamson to comment on Scream’s own place in the movie industry and the state of sequels as money-making machines, churned out by studios with predatory executives. Bear in mind this is a movie from 2000 that was actually produced by Miramax.
While not the best entry in the series, Scream 3’s incisive look at the darkest parts of Hollywood are part of what turn the Scream franchise from a fun and funny meta-horror series into something comfortable with taking on the entire system it’s a part of. Which seems like it might be the direction of Scream 6 as well.
While we don’t know the exact story just yet, the trailer makes it seem like Scream 6 could be using a superfan as one of the characters who may or may not be Ghostface this time around. We see the movie’s main characters walking through a lavish room with the costumes and weapons of previous Ghostfaces. In fact, the entire trailer is packed full of Scream Easter eggs.
Meanwhile, by moving the film’s setting to New York City and away from the suburbs of Woodsboro — another trait this movie shares with Scream 3 — it allows far more witnesses to Ghostface’s murders, implicating the viewer and comparing them to the bystanders who don’t see or stop the murder in the movie, a bit of commentary it will likely share with Scream 2’s movie-theater-murder opening.
All of this makes it seem like this time around writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick could be taking aim at the fandom of horror movies, and its own now-rabid fanbase in particular, as the targets of Scream 6’s meta-commentary.
Scream’s commentary on fans has always aimed for a little more generality, looking at horror fans as stereotypes or obsessives who may or may not be plotting some murders of their own. But even if the series has never turned its attention to its own fans, this won’t be the first time that it’s flirted with the idea of online fame — even if at the time it hadn’t achieved it itself.
Scream 4 includes, alongside many murders, teens trying to get famous by livestreaming Ghostface killings. On the one hand, a lot of its smaller elements don’t quite match up like the versions of internet fame the kids are looking for, but it’s hard not to recognize their constant streaming, videoing, and vlogging as not entirely different from Twitch and YouTube streaming now or even TikTok content.
Each Scream movie, in its own unique way, has proven prescient about the future of culture, even if sometimes it took decades or more to realize how right they were. If Scream 6 is going to fit that mold, and if its trailers are any indication, it seems like toxic fan culture could be the perfect subject for the franchise to tackle — especially now that it has a fandom of its own large enough to make waves.