SPOILER ALERT: This interview contains spoilers from “Scream VI,” now playing in theaters.
The casual horror fan probably noticed a few iconic masks and monsters in the “Scream VI” subway scene: There’s Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Pinhead and even modern staples like Florence Pugh’s flower dress from “Midsommar” and a group of tethered people from Jordan Peele’s “Us.” But costume designer Avery Plewes and directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett went to extra lengths to pack more than 50 Easter eggs, costumes and blink-and-you-miss-it references into the latest “Scream.”
Tracking down Ghostface in New York City, the “Scream VI” crew, consisting of Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega), Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera), Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown), Chad Meeks-Martin (Mason Gooding), Ethan Landry (Jack Champion) and Danny Brackett (Josh Segarra), pile into the subway to confront the latest masked killer. However, it’s Halloween time, which means the train car is packed with throngs of New Yorkers in creepy costumes.
To the delight of horror fans, this is where most of the movie’s references start popping up. Plewes estimated she made 200 costumes, with 140 extras on set for the subway shoot. About 45 of those extras would change clothing after getting off the recreated train car then reappear in different costumes on the subway platform.
“It was a 25/75 rule, where 25% of the costumes were creepy at the beginning, and then it just progressively got worse,” Plewes explained.
As a tribute to Wes Craven, who directed the first four “Scream” movies, Plewes started with characters from the horror legend’s filmography to populate the subway scene.
“We started with Wes then went through A-list horror villains, new and old, then the stuff that feels really relevant to people today that is a part of the zeitgeist,” she said. “‘Scream’ is all about being meta and referencing the zeitgeist, and so you look at Ari Aster, Jordan Peele, we had ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ zombies on the subway. We wanted Mindy to feel terrorized, not just by horror elements, but also patriarchal tropes that would really freak her out.”
References and costumes from Wes Craven movies:
- “The Last House on the Left” (1972): Sadie
- “Deadly Blessing” (1981)
- “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984): Freddy Krueger
- “Deadly Friend” (1986): Samantha Pringle
- “Shocker” (1989): Horace Pinker and Allison Clemson
- “The People Under the Stairs” (1991): Daddy and a child
- “Vampire in Brooklyn” (1995): Preacher Pauly and Detective Rita Veder
To balance out the horror costumes on the subway, there are people dressed as real-life celebrities, like Julia Fox, Jennifer Lopez and David Bowie, plus a few non-costumed, regular New Yorkers just trying to get home in peace. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett, co-founders of the production company Radio Silence with their “Scream VI” executive producer Chad Villella, even put themselves in the subway scene, albeit very briefly. Bettinelli-Olpin dressed as Kurt Cobain and Gillett put a fake butcher knife through his head on the subway
“It’s maybe a matter of 12 frames, if not less. Just a quick little flash, but we appear very briefly,” they said. “The best 12 frames in the movie, certainly the scariest.”
Non-horror costumes and cameos:
- Jennifer Lopez
- Gloria Steinem
- David Bowie
- Julia Fox
- Ruth Bader Ginsburg
- Andy Warhol
- Klaus Nomi
- Angela Davis
- Orville Peck
- Spike Lee
- “Scream VI” co-director Bettinelli-Olpin dressed as Kurt Cobain
- “Scream VI” co-director Gillett with a fake butcher knife in his head
- “Scream VI” producer William Sherak’s daughter, Eloise
The directors joked they’ve watched the movie 1,000 times and constantly notice new references in the movie. Some of their most obscure Easter eggs include a reused sound effect from Ti West’s 2022 horror movie “X,” a glimpse of Sonic the Hedgehog’s blue head quills as a favor for Bettinelli-Olpin’s son and a shot of somebody dressed as Keke Palmer’s character from “Nope.”
Plewes and the directors also included a Wednesday Addams costume at the “Scream VI” frat party, without knowing that Ortega’s star status would later blow up after playing the character in Netflix’s “Wednesday” series last year. They almost included a poster from “X” in Tara’s room (Ortega also starred in that 2022 horror), but decided against it.
Easter eggs and costumes from the “Scream” universe:
- “Halloween” (1978): Michael Myers and Dr. Samuel Loomis, who is the namesake of Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) from “Scream.”
- “Friday the 13th” (1980): Jason Voorhees is on the subway with Freddy Krueger, referencing the conversation between Mindy and Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) earlier in “Scream VI.”
- “Dazed and Confused” (1993): Someone at the frat party is wearing a jersey with the number 10, which is the same number Tatum (Rose McGowan) wore in the original “Scream.”
- “Scream” (1996): Casey Becker, played by Drew Barrymore in “Scream,” but also by Heather Graham in the fictional “Stab” movie from “Scream 2.”
- “The Powerpuff Girls” (1998): Mojo Jojo, who is voiced by Roger L. Jackson, the voice of Ghostface.
- “Shaun of the Dead” (2004): Kirby watches it in “Scream 4.”
- “V/H/S” (2012): Bettinelli-Olpin, Gillett and Villella created and starred in a “V/H/S” short as a pirate, teddy bear and the Unabomber. In the first party scene of “Scream VI,” Tara is dressed as a pirate, someone is dressed as a teddy bear, but the actor who was supposed to dress as the Unabomber had to miss the scene after getting COVID.
- “The Babadook” (2014): Mentioned by Tara in 2022’s “Scream.”
- “Scream 4” (2011): Sherrie, played by Lucy Hale, appears in the fictional “Stab 6” opening
- “Ready or Not” (2019): Samara Weaving starred as Grace le Domas and appears in “Scream VI”; directed by Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett with costumes by Plewes.
- “The Black Phone” (2021): The Grabber’s mask; also shot by “Scream VI” cinematographer Brett Jutkiewicz
More costumes and references from the subway scene, frat party and elsewhere:
- “Eyes Without a Face” (1960): The mask was the original inspiration for Michael Myers from “Halloween.”
- “The Birds” (1963): Melanie Daniels, and an homage to Alfred Hitchcock
- “The Addams Family” (1964): Wednesday Addams, who Ortega plays on Netflix’s “Wednesday” series.
- “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975)
- “Carrie” (1976)
- “The Shining” (1980): The Grady twins
- “Videodrome” (1983): Used the original butcher’s apron and gloves that Debbie Harry wore; also an homage to David Cronenberg.
- “Children of the Corn” (1984)
- “Top Gun” (1986): Tom Cruise’s Pete “Maverick” Mitchell
- “Hellraiser” (1987): Pinhead
- “Child’s Play” (1988): Chucky and his bride, Tiffany
- “It” (1990): Pennywise with his balloon and George in his yellow rain jacket
- “Sonic the Hedgehog” (1991): Added in the background as a favor for Bettinelli-Olpin’s son.
- “The Grudge” (2004): Kayako Saeki
- “Trick ‘r Treat” (2007): Sam
- “Creep” (2014): The Peachfuzz wolf mask
- “The Handmaid’s Tale” (2017): The handmaids’ red cloaks
- “Us” (2019): Tethered people in their jumpsuits
- “Midsommar” (2019): Florence Pugh’s flower dress
- “X” (2022): The knock at Samantha’s therapist’s door in “Scream VI” is the same audio reused from “X,” which was performed by director Ti West. West previously worked on “V/H/S” with Bettinelli-Olpin, Gillett and Villella.
- “Nope” (2022): Emerald “Em” Haywood