'Scream VI' Editor on Film's 'Darker, Grittier' Tone, Franchise's Move to New York, and Balancing Humor and Horror (Exclusive)
Scream VI may have only just hit theaters, but it is already dominating the box office. Opening the franchise up to a new setting in New York City, something that editor Jay Prychidny told PopCulture.com brings a "new path for the franchise," the film has already cemented its place as the biggest overseas opening weekend of the Scream franchise, with fans still flocking to theaters. Warning: This story contains spoilers for Scream VI.
Taking place months after Scream (2022), the sixth installment follows the four Woodsboro survivors – Sam (Melissa Barrera), Tara (Jenna Ortega), Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) – as their attempts to move forward with their lives in New York City is abruptly upended when Ghostface returns, this time with a twist (for the first time, there are three killers instead of just two). Bringing back Courteney Cox as reporter Gale Weathers and Hayden Panettiere as Kirby Reed, a character last seen in Scream 4, Scream VI offers "a nostalgic reminder" of the first four films, all while charting a new path for the franchise and providing fans a "be darker, grittier, more intense, and rough around the edges" movie.
As the film continues to dominate the box office, Scream VI editor Jay Prychidny spoke to PopCulture.com about the new difficulties that came with the change of scenery, those emotional scenes between Melissa Barrera's Sam and Jenna Ortega's Sara, and how exactly the franchise manages to perfectly balance humor and horror.
PopCulture: In terms of tone, how does 'Scream VI' differ from the other films in the franchise?
Jay Prychidny: Scream VI has a real "go for broke" attitude. The previous film was more of a nostalgic reminder of the original four films and also acted as a passing of the torch to the new generation. So with this film, it's really off to the races to forge an entirely new path for the franchise. Since our characters have already been established, we can focus on deepening their relationships and putting them into new, fresh, and intense situations. This film is almost like the "Punk Rock B-Side" of the previous film, which was more of a "Greatest Hits" album. Our heroine, Sam, is also someone with a dark side, which makes this entry feel very different from the first four in the series. In this film, we get into her head a lot more, which isn't always the sunniest place to be!prevnext
PC: 'Scream VI' moves the franchise in a new direction, taking it to New York. Were there any new challenges in the editing room that came with that?
JP: The New York setting inspired so much of the film's tone on every level, including production design, costuming, the soundtrack, and editing. We wanted the film to be darker, grittier, more intense, and rough around the edges. The editing isn't as clean as some of the entries set in picturesque California. I loved roughing up the action scenes a bit and making it all a little more chaotic. I love that style of editing because it allows me to be more unpredictable with what's coming up and use sound and action-cutting in visceral ways. Some of those stabs you can almost feel!prevnext
PC: 'Scream VI' has a sizable ensemble cast. Can you talk a bit about editing a large number of strong characters?
JP: The Scream franchise has always been known for its incredibly strong and memorable characters. It's so exciting to have Gale (Courteney Cox) and Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) back for this installment, joining our returning "Core Four" characters from the previous film, Sam (Melissa Barrera), Tara (Jenna Ortega), Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown). Not to mention there are almost a dozen new characters in the film! When you have so many important characters to the audience, you need to make sure each gets their due by giving them their moments to shine. Protecting and preserving those moments is so important so the audience doesn't feel short-changed by their appearance. But because there are so many characters, it's also important to ground them all into a tighter focus so it doesn't become unwieldy. Sam is such a central character for me, so I would play characters and events through her as much as possible in order to make her perspective the grounding force of the movie.prevnext
PC: Can you tell me a little bit about the key dynamics of creating suspense and scares in the edit.
JP: With over 25 years of Scream movies, audiences have become very savvy in predicting what will happen and when! So I definitely want to delight fans as much as possible with new scares and surprises. I would try to be unpredictable in my editing rhythms to create bigger scares. Essentially lull viewers into expecting one thing to happen and then doing something else. Many films can fall into predictable editing rhythms, so varying the editing language of this film was one thing I did to try to keep it fresh. I've also been a huge fan of the Scream movies since the release of the first film and have seen all of them multiple times, so I'm quite familiar with what the fans have come to expect. So one of the most fun things has been to play with those expectations!
Suspense is also such a key element of the Scream franchise and, for me, sets it apart from some other horror films. The lead-up to the kills are some of my favorite moments, compared to the kills themselves. Scream VI has some classic suspense moments like this, such as the scene where the audience knows the killer is in Sam's apartment, but no other character does. To me, the real key is having as much delicious fun with these moments as possible. I want to prolong these scenes as much as possible to keep the audience on edge without losing momentum. That's a subjective call – how long you can draw something out before it breaks. But I'm very pleased with how they turned out, and I think there are some really classic Scream-type setpieces in the film that stand up against some of my faves, like Sidney and Hallie crawling over Ghostface in the car or Maureen not knowing her boyfriend is the killer at the premiere of Stab.prevnext
PC: One of the things that, I think, really sets 'Scream' apart from other slashers is humor. The franchise manages to create a special tone with a good mix of strong horror and humor, as well as really developed characters with real emotional aspects to
JP: The humor and meta-qualities of the Scream franchise are key elements of its appeal. We definitely wanted to use as much humor as possible but also in a slightly different tone from some of the other films. The directors and I really enjoy the type of humor that isn't so overt but where you find yourself laughing at something, and you're not even sure why. An almost inappropriate laughter when you're not even sure there was a joke! That being said, there are definitely several overtly comedic scenes where I tried to push the pace and rapid-fire exchanges as much as possible, such as Mindy's rules for being in a franchise. But we did want to balance both types of humor in the film so it wouldn't become too goofy.
Showcasing the characters' emotional aspects was one of the most important things to me. There are some incredibly strong character scenes, especially between the Carpenter sisters, which were some of the most important to the directors and me. We were very protective of them because the slower character scenes often come under fire when you are trying to reduce length. But luckily, we never had to do that! Melissa and Jenna really act the hell out of those scenes, and I wanted to bring out the love between the characters as much as possible and arc out their relationship in an emotional and impactful way. Their scenes are some of my favorites in the film!prevnext
PC: One of the most anticipated moments throughout the 'Scream' franchise is the big reveal of the killer's identity at the end of the films. Can you talk us through the editing of the final act and the dynamics of the reveal?
JP: The third act killer reveal was, by far, the most difficult section of the film to edit. It was also the most varied in terms of the sheer volume of footage, coverage, and tonal options to pick from. For almost every line of dialogue, there were options that ranged from quieter character moments all the way to insanely broad comedy! Being a bit crazy is what always makes the killer reveals fun in a Scream movie, but I tried to temper that with grounded character emotion as much as I could. In fact, the reveal of the killer's motivation is one of the best emotional scenes in the film, which is something that I'm quite proud of. It takes them out of the realm of just being cartoonish villains to explore something deeper in their characters. There was also a huge amount of improvisation in that scene, so there was quite a lot of exploration in discovering which lines should be in the film and which take it too far over the edge. One of the most impactful lines in the scene is "There's a very special bond between a father and his first son," which was actually the setup for a joke improv line. But using it without the punchline actually deepened and enhanced the character relationships.prevnext
PC: How does 'Scream VI' set up the future of the franchise, and how can the Scream franchise continue to refresh itself?
JP: One of the most amazing things about this film is that it doesn't feel tired or worn out for being the sixth in a franchise. Far from it, it feels like a fresh reinvigoration of the entire series. There's a real passion and energy that permeates the scenes. It takes us into new emotional and psychological areas through Sam's character, and I can imagine so many ways the series could continue to refresh and reinvent itself. I think there's so much more material to be mined in Sam's character and the exploration of her shadow side and her dark passenger. Of course, I'm not the writer! But that's definitely what I'd love to see more of in Scream VII, and I think this film really sets us up for that.prev