Scream 6’s ending explained

Warning: this article contains major spoilers for Scream 6 (2023).

Scream 6 sticks to its franchise’s bloody formula with the same joyful glee as the series’ past installments. Set in New York City, the film follows Scream 5 survivors Sam (Melissa Barrera), Tara (Jenna Ortega), Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown), and Chad (Mason Gooding) as they find their lives turned upside down yet again by the emergence of a new Ghostface killer (or killers?), who is dead set on taking their happy ending away from them.

Guided by Scream 4 survivor-turned-FBI-agent Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) and recurring Scream heroine Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), Scream 6‘s core four eventually discover an abandoned theater that has been converted into a shrine full of memorabilia from the franchise’s past installments. It’s in this theater that Chad, Sam, Tara, and Kirby attempt to make their final stand against Ghostface. Unfortunately, a heartfelt moment between Chad and Tara is interrupted when Chad gets repeatedly stabbed by not just one, but two Ghostface killers.

Moments later, Sam and Tara find themselves trapped between the two Ghostface killers, as well as their unmasked leader, Detective Wayne Bailey (Dermot Mulroney), the father of their promiscuous roommate, Quinn (Liana Liberato). Wayne, it turns out, isn’t just the father of Liberato’s Quinn, but also Ethan (Jack Champion), one of Tara’s college friends, and Richie Kirsch (Jack Quaid), the Ghostface killer Barrera’s Sam brutally killed in Scream 5. In a shocking twist, it’s then revealed that Wayne’s Ghostface accomplices are none other than Ethan and Quinn, the latter of whom’s death was convincingly faked earlier in the film by her, Wayne, and Ethan in order to throw her “friends” off her trail.

Detective Wayne Bailey sits at his desk in Scream 6.
Paramount Pictures

Continuing his villainous monologue, Wayne confesses that it was he who built the Ghostface shrine discovered by Sam and her friends, and that he did it using all the memorabilia his son, Richie, had collected while he was still alive. Wayne then demands that Sam put on the Ghostface mask once worn by her father, original Scream killer Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), so that he can frame her for the murders of her friends and sister. In retaliation, Sam, Tara, and an injured Kirby decide to fight back against Wayne, Quinn, and Ethan.

Tara kills Ethan by stabbing him in the mouth, while Sam, for her part, shoots Quinn in the head. As Richie’s homemade horror movies play on his Scream shrine’s torn movie theater screen, Mulroney’s Wayne subsequently finds himself being goaded over the phone by none other than Barrera’s Sam. Wearing her father’s Ghostface cloak, Sam then stabs Wayne to death while Tara stoically stands next to her. In the moments that follow, Tara agrees to start actually dealing with all the trauma she’s experienced by going to therapy, while Sam agrees to stop aggressively monitoring her sister’s life.

Outside the theater, the two sisters reunite with Kirby, who tells Sam that she’ll always be around to help them because, according to her, they’re “family” now. In the same scene, Sam and Tara discover that both Chad and Mindy survived their stabbings earlier in the film, as did Cox’s Gale. As the group begins to part ways, however, Sam briefly becomes entranced by her father’s Ghostface mask. Thankfully, she chooses to leave it behind on the ground after Tara takes a moment to check on her.

Seconds later, Scream 6 cuts to black for the last time.

Sam, Tara, Mindy, and Chad stand together in Scream 6.
Paramount Pictures

Narratively, Scream 6 borrows a lot of elements from 1997’s Scream 2, which similarly picks back up with many of its predecessor’s characters when they’re in college. Much like Mulroney’s Wayne, Scream 2’s villain, Nancy Loomis (Laurie Metcalf), is also the vengeful parent of a previous Scream killer. The new film’s ending, notably, doesn’t waste the opportunity to highlight Sam’s biological link to both Billy and Nancy Loomis.

Barrera’s Sam takes visible enjoyment out of murdering both Quinn and Wayne at the end of Scream 6, and the uncertain longing in her eyes when she briefly stares at her father’s Ghostface mask suggests that the events of the film may have only further strengthened Sam’s killer instincts. Whether or not those instincts ever drive her toward full-on villainy remains to be seen. Either way, Scream 6’s surprisingly gory conclusion makes it explicitly clear that Sam Carpenter is, at the very least, just as formidable a survivor as Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott.

Scream 6 is now playing in theaters.

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