Ghostface With a Gun? Why Scream 6 Isn't Breaking Any Slasher Rules
Scream is not the first slasher film to bring guns to stabfests.
Movie previews and social media go together like lit matches and gas cans. So when Paramount dropped the full trailer for Scream VI in January, Twitter expectedly went up in flames with the requisite hype, skepticism, and less expectedly, censures about firearm use. Making people mad online doesn’t take much — in this case, it was 20 seconds of Ghostface slinging a shotgun in a New York City bodega. Ghostface doesn’t use guns! What’s happening to our precious Scream?
The internet feeds via autocannibalism, so many forgot the obvious: Scream is an open-carry horror franchise. If Ghostface doesn’t use guns, for instance, what was Stu Macher holding in the final act of Wes Craven’s original 1996 masterpiece? A Buck 120 knife shaped like a gun? Were Mrs. Loomis and Mickey shooting Glocks in Scream 2, or were viewers gulled by the Mandela effect?
The Internet eventually moved on from this minor controversy, but the general feeling remained that Scream VI, the sequel to the requel of horror’s most influential meta slasher, was breaking the rules. But despite The Rules established by the original Scream’s supporting characters (Randy Meeks) and heeded by its killers (Macher and Billy Loomis) 27 years ago, the Scream franchise was never about following them.
Ghostface isn’t a Jason Voorhees figure. Underneath the mask and robe, it's just people. Otherwise, Skeet Ulrich would have spent a chunk of his career playing Zombie Ghostface, rather than waiting two and a half decades to cameo as Ghost Dad. In Scream ‘22 and Scream VI, he reprises his role as OG Ghostface, visiting his daughter, Sam (Melissa Barrera), from the hereafter to taunt her about their familial bond while giving her fatherly advice in times of need. (Read: He helps Sam tap into her inner psycho so she can go sickhouse on new-age Ghostfaces.)
The Rules of the slasher are part of the character’s M.O., but they aren’t a rigid ideological code. Ghostface kills for personal reasons, using horror cinema mores to sow paranoia and fear. How they kill is another matter. Most victims in Scream films die by the Buck 120, but garage doors and gas leaks do fine in a pinch. Disarming a bodega clerk and blowing him away with his own shotgun is just Ghostface being Ghostface. They’re comfortable improvising, and the lunatics under the mask aren’t shy about marksmanship when the mask comes off.
Even without the in-series precedent, there’s slasher precedent. Ghostface isn’t the first slasher, nor is Scream the first slasher film, to bring guns to stabfests. Several characters are shot dead in The Town That Dreaded Sundown. In Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines, Maynard (Doug Bradley) kills Sheriff Carter (Camilla Arfwedson) with a jerry-rigged shotgun. Silent Night, Deadly Night 2’s endlessly memed “garbage day!” scene ends with a gunshot. In Maniac, Frank Zito (Joe Spinell) bursts Disco Boy’s (Tom Savini) head like a watermelon with a double-barreled 12 gauge. (Jason Voorhees uses a spear gun in Friday the 13th Part III, though whether this counts is admittedly debatable.)
Guns aren’t foreign to slashers. They’re just not common. Slashers prefer the intimacy of a close-up kill, or aim for creativity: bread slicers (Fear Street Part One: 1994), liquid nitrogen (Jason X), or any kill in any Nightmare on Elm Street film. It’s something of an in-joke in Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland. In a stand-off with series killer Angela Baker (Pamela Springsteen), Officer Barney Whitmore (Cliff Brand) asks a simple question: “Come on Angela. What’s it gonna be?” “A gun!” she replies with a smile before putting a bullet in him. Fire, flagpoles, lawnmowers, and tent stakes have their time and place. Sometimes you just need a clean headshot.
Ghostface knows it. So do their inspirations. Guns aren’t common in the slasher niche, but they aren’t forbidden, either. Scream VI directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett might consider adding a disclaimer to the film now that it’s in theaters: “None of the Scream franchise rules were broken in the making of this motion picture.” They'll save themselves an awful lot of grief.