Sound Off submitted and written by Matthew Daniels

Ethan Landry played by Jack Champion

"Step the fuck back, you're at the top of my list"

"It brings us to our current suspect, Ethan, the shy dorky guy that no one suspects"

"Get your Ghostface ass away from me, Ghostface"

'Yes w Ethan aka GF'

Oh Mindy, we love you but you're really giving away the surprise.

Scream's meta-ness is one of its most valuable features. Its energy and importance should permeate every frame, be carved into every victim and be spoken in every passionate monologue. When it's done right, it's glorious and yes there's usually always a certain amount of clever, suggestive dialogue, looks between characters or actions that should hint at who our killer is in any decent slasher movie. The key word being 'hint'. But... can being too 'meta', too self-aware, ruin the movie? In our beloved Mindy's case, Scream VI's killer reveal was unfortunately made a little less impactful when Ethan's mask was ultimately removed after an hour and a half of persistently being told it's him. We get it, she knew and it was clever for a brief moment. But, should she really know when it comes to Ghostface and did the movie really sacrifice its mystery in order to be too clever with a character?

I loved Scream VI, but I admit, this is the one key thing that has bothered me about the movie ever since my first viewing. By the third over-spoiled and in your face hint came it got a bigger groan from the audience than Chad turning up alive at the film's conclusion did. It even got a few "they're gonna make it Ethan" comments whispered from the back rows of the cinema. It was clear by a certain point to everyone around me that they really were telling us the killer and the intended cleverness of it actually missed the mark and spoiled that face of the unknown that Ghostface is supposed to be. There was no twist to it, no diversion, no attack on Ethan, nothing to justify Mindy's words, just straight-up "Ethan is the killer"... anything like this could have helped the mystery a lot more... but the only thing that was in mind seemed to simply be an ending punchline. Mindy took her job as the 'voice of the audience' a little too seriously and her constant forcing of Ethan as the killer became overbearing to many. Yes, we get she 'should' know, but we shouldn't. Her knowing it was Ethan works on a character basis but not a mystery one and by half way those months and weeks of "don't spoil the movie" leading up to the release date were out the window.

There's always a risk when giving away details or having hints to a killer's identity and it can really go either way. All Scream movies drop these clues, some more subtly than others and in Ethan's case I feel there should have only been one or two and that's it or an equal spread between characters. Don't keep going on. The audience will either feel it couldn't possibly be this character as it's been shoved into our eyes and ears so much over the course of 2 hours or they simply won't fall for the bait. Usually these obvious observations for one character are to divert you away from the actual killer. In Scream VI's case, those observations only drew attention back to them. You can see what Buswick and Vanderbilt were attempting to do though, but giving the killer away just to pretty much achieve the payoff of the joke that a movie geek like Mindy should know who the killer is, was a bold choice. Perhaps a slight oversight, but we are talking about a whodunit here and there are some rules that aren't so smart to break. It's clear that Ethan could have been suspected by Mindy in a much less glaring way. I'll give it to Ethan though, he certainly played the character emotionally well enough for us to be partly fooled and if Mindy was a little less blatant maybe we all wouldn't be collectively groaning by the reveal. Again, as a character he worked, as a mystery he didn't.

If you're going to throw the word killer around this many times towards one character, to me it stands to reason that there should be something bigger gained from it. Yes, it was at times fun to see Mindy work her magic but in the end I feel the whole situation would have paid off a lot better by either killing off Ethan as a victim of Ghostface or having Ethan himself attack Mindy... so much focus towards Ethan, without a twist in the story or a surprising moment where Mindy was challenged by the accused.

So, how could Scream VI's problem with Ethan have been tackled better and Mindy's furious issues with him toned down and realised in a more fitting way that didn't compromise the mystery so much? Let's talk hypothetically and keep two scenarios in mind that both keep Mindy's Ghostface spidey-sense as part of the story, 1) where Ethan is not the killer and 2) where Ethan is still the killer. How could the ending have changed if those accusations ended up false and the killer was not told to us throughout... and how could Mindy's barrage of accusations have a less annoying effect for the audience and a more fruitful payoff if Ethan was still the killer?

To me, there was one missed opportunity that could have transformed Scream VI's final act and wiped the pain of Mindy's abrupt 'spoiler alerts'. One that would have added a surprising revelation that could have been truly shocking as well as upped the body count a little more. That one missed opportunity is known as Frankie. 'Date Rape Frankie' to many. The frat guy/possible creep was featured in Scream VI's Halloween party sequence, hitting it off with Tara. Played by Andre Anthony, his character was a large enough presence on screen to be memorable and was honestly a shock to me that he wasn't at least a recurring character in the movie and another suspect for the list. It felt like he was set up to be involved in a bigger way and a few more scenes with his character would have benefitted the mystery a lot more.

But let's take a step back from Frankie as it's during the tense subway scene where things could have began to take a turn into... something different, and if I were doing the movie I'd have diverted this scene a little more off track, which would have changed the course of the movie into what I feel would be a more satisfying conclusion. Ethan's strange death stare at Mindy could have kicked off a flipping of the script... an important phrase to me. We mention meta a lot when talking about Scream, it's as synonymous as Neve Campbell is to it, but when it comes to characters like Mindy who know a little too much about the horror movie they're living in, that script should truly be flipped for them... as well as us as the audience. As meta as Scream is, this is a whodunit after all and any rules should be shattered by our killer. The movie should lead you down one path and then rip that thought away from you, keeping you guessing until the end. It's the point of the unknowing menace of battling Ghostface and sadly there was no effort to do this with Ethan. So, Mindy's beef with Ethan should have been flipped into something else that shocked the audience and the subway scene would have been the perfect place to do this.

Imagine this... Mindy stands alone in darkness, terrified and surrounded in one corner of the subway car. The lights flicker revealing Ghostface standing amongst the passengers, his stare fixed on Mindy. Then, blackness... then light. He's closer now. Black again. Mindy's eyes desperately try to peer into the blackness, but she sees nothing, not even a flash of white from the mask. Just unbearable, disorienting darkness, and then... light. Ghostface has gone. But, under darkness again, buried deep in the crowd of costumed passengers, a gloved hand is gripped tightly over Ethan's mouth, muffling his agony... his throat slashed open. Ethan falls dead into Ghostface's arms and he places him in an empty seat. The train arrives at its stop. The doors open and passengers flood out, as does Ghostface, blending in with the crowd. Mindy's eyes widen with horror as Ethan's body is revealed to her, slumped into a seat. Everyone else, blissfully unaware.

A twist like this would be the first step to improving the final act as well as its flow, making Ethan just an unfortunate victim, someone wrongly judged and an honestly heartbreaking death considering how genuinely sad Ethan seemed to be after every accusation of being Ghostface. It would have made Mindy's incessant "Ethan is Ghostface" a lot less annoying too. We as the audience would have to reconsider our brainstorm list of suspects and truly dig, also proving that there can be as many rules in the franchise as you like but their life isn't actually a movie and Ghostface isn't there to follow the rules of one movie geek. The idea, to me, is ten times more interesting if the meta aspect is from the killer's viewpoint, who can do everything to make sure they avoid the traps that set Mindy's or any characters alarm bells off. In a slasher franchise full of rules, these characters should always be proven wrong about most of theirs. It's in the killer's hands to flip the script... or tear it up.

So, where does Frankie come into this? If we consider my alternate take on the subway scene with Ethan dying instead of Mindy being stabbed then Frankie would have been the perfect choice for a third killer and a more fitting and believable choice to be Richie's brother. Also... Frank-ie... Rich-ie... come on! Frankie was memorable enough in his one scene to be remembered but when it's time for that mask to come off you would never have guessed him. You know, mystery. In fact, he was so memorable I wondered where the hell he was around half way into the movie. Scream VI could have been the perfect opportunity to involve a killer that is barely seen in the movie... someone who shows up once or twice... a more modern take on Debbie Salt for example. One who can go unnoticed and is more free to go about their wicked business in secret, especially alongside Quinn who was also out of the picture. It would have worked very well having a duo of killers that weren't on any suspect list with Bailey free to pull the strings, especially in a large setting like New York. This is something I'd certainly like to reappear in a future Scream movie, especially after several that have been very free, I feel, with giving away who its killers were. The horror of a killer who is involved within your friend group is terrifying... but one who lurks in the shadows outside it that you wouldn't even suspect is an even more psychologically frightening face of the unknown. This could have been possible by simply realising the potential that Frankie had and the idea of Mindy absolutely feeling that she knew who the killer was without taking into consideration that the killer may be more self-aware than her, is a very interesting story indeed.

Now, what if Ethan was still the killer and Mindy's mind was still as sharp as Sherlock's? Apart from simply toning down Mindy calling Ethan 'Ghostface' so many times or involving him in a scene where he himself is 'attacked' so we at least second guess ourselves, act three could have been improved upon by having Mindy's knowledge come back to bite her on the ass. That death stare meant one thing - Mindy knows too much. She has to be stopped. Personally, I would have separated Ethan from Mindy in a sea of people at the end of the subway scene, perhaps fake an Ethan stabbing by Quinn in costume, and have her go to meet the rest at the abandoned theatre. She would be attacked before she could even enter, in a fight that ends with her being stabbed and left for dead by Ethan in costume on the rickety old fire escape at the entrance, knowing his presence, even through the blackness of Ghostface's eyes... she knows she was right and that she's been ended by him. She could ultimately live and pop up with an "I told you so" at the end, who knows, but it makes more sense that a character who definitely is meta enough to know exactly who the killer is should be killed off or 'stopped' before being able to reveal it by the very person they suspect, instead of popping up at the end alive with the "I told you so", just to see the joke all the way through. That would have suited the meta so much more if it was taken in an actual slasher context instead of a comedic one to get the punchline. As much as the idea of a character knowing who the killer is suits a very meta movie like Scream, especially a character like Mindy, ultimately the point of Ghostface is to not know who he or she is. Mindy should only ever be the rough guide to survival and not the guardian of the last page of the script. Ethan as the killer and Mindy's awareness of him could have worked beautifully with just a few small tweaks and could have been quite a cool subplot for her to have her own thing going on with a Ghostface.

I want Scream 7 to think outside the box and not feel it needs to give us all the answers, like we have our own personal Mindy whispering in our ears, just because it's in a self-aware universe or that we as the audience should be told who the killer is just because we know how horror works and we'll get a giggle out of how obvious it was. Let us judge for ourselves. It's about balancing self-awareness and Scream's deep history of genius meta with understanding that we're not the ones in the movie, we're watching it, and it's up to us to pick up on those clues that every Scream movie should sneak in there. A mystery should remain a mystery until the end though. Personally, I want to see a Scream movie pull off a killer reveal with a character that's seen once or twice... or a character not regarded as too important at first. Scream needs to play with the idea of 'anybody' and the 'unknown' a little more, especially as it's in a wide universe which has fans of both its real bloody legacy and fictional movie with a movie. It should truly be open to being anybody instead of any fixed stereotypes that characters like Mindy pick up on.

I feel one of the most significant things Scream 7, and an even newer era, can do, would be to focus on who is chosen to represent Ghostface more carefully and make every effort to truly make this a whodunit to remember, putting that meta-ness in the hands of the killer instead of the good guys. A more meta approach to Scream and Ghostface to me would be to create one that defies rules and is beyond the self-aware knowledge of the characters, one who is self-aware himself. It should be hinted but never thrown in your face for the sake of trying to be clever. Never sacrifice its mystery. Even if you've guessed the killer, when the mask comes off you still need to have been questioning your guess all the way up until that reveal and if Mindy had held back on the spoilers a little more and the story altered a little maybe Ethan's unmasking would have had the desired shock for the audience. As much as I adore the Radio Silence era, it was perhaps a little guilty of not fulfilling this wish as well as past movies did, as it seems like there was a huge need to be extremely meta from all involved, which took a chunk away from the mystery, forgetting that it's more fun for an audience to not be told who the actual killer is every few minutes. The best thing Christopher Landon can do for the franchise is to inject the mystery back into it a little better.

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