Why Horror Is So Much Scarier When It’s Located In A Big City
Horror movies love to play on our fear of the unknown. This is why so many horror movies are set in or near an unfamiliar location: a cabin in the woods, a foreign country, out in space or on the open road. Another factor at play is isolation. At a quiet cabin in the woods, victims can be picked off one by one without anyone noticing. It’s rare for horror movies to be located someplace crowded with people like a busy store, a packed subway car or a city in general.
Scream (1996) played on these fears by contrasting the horror of a pair of teenage masked killers against the seemingly safe backdrop of a quiet California community. As the franchise evolved, we saw Ghostface stalking a college campus and a Los Angeles movie set before returning to Woodsboro. Wherever characters thought they would be safe, Ghostface found a way to target them.
One of the scariest scenes in the series happened in Scream (2022) when Sheriff Judy Hicks was stabbed in broad daylight in front of her suburban home. Surrounded by other houses and neighbors, it was shocking that no one intervened when it seems so unlikely that the attack went unnoticed by anyone. Were neighbors looking through the blinds afraid to intercede? Did they lock the doors while calling the police, hoping they wouldn’t be next?
At the end of Scream (2022) four young people, Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera), Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown), Chad Meeks-Martin (Mason Gooding), and Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) have survived a series of grisly Ghostface attacks in their hometown. After the film ends, the foursome decide to start over in the big city. If a sleepy town like Woodsboro is unsafe, perhaps they think New York City with its crowds and close quarters might provide safety in numbers. In New York, they are joined by consummate survivor Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) and Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere), who survived Ghostface in Scream 4 (2011).
From previews we already know that Ghostface finds the survivors in New York City and for some, there won’t be any safety in being surrounded by millions of people. Scream VI’s trailer shows Sam and Tara running into a bodega and begging the shoppers inside to help them as Ghostface is right on their heels. This is the part of the horror movie where the would-be victims are supposed to be safe. They’ve reached civilization. The bodega is well-lit and filled with people who are willing to help the girls. One of them even has a gun. Horror audiences have been trained to think of this moment as the end. But Ghostface, always seemingly omnipotent, quickly disposes of the helpers and returns to stalking Sam and Tara. The message is clear: there is no safety to run to, no one who can come and help, there is just Ghostface and his victims.
Another released scene shows the four Woodsboro survivors riding the subway on Halloween. Are the Ghostfaces they see costumes? Or a cleverly disguised Ghostface knowing that on Halloween he can stalk openly in his mask? This scene shows that the same crowds of people who seem like they will provide protection can also hide a killer in their midst.
What will happen to our survivors when Ghostface finds them in New York City? We’ll find out when Scream VI premieres only in theaters on March 10.