It’s not every day you get to unbox a Scream-themed Happy Meal for adults. Pop-up dinner party brand Chain is celebrating Spyglass and Paramount’s newest slasher entry with a drive-thru classic and swankified fast-food restaurant vibes. All the decorations blend Scream with roadside-casual mascots, like Grimace dressed as Casey Becker or a Bob’s Big Boy with a supersized knife through its burger. That’s what happens when Chain co-founders BJ Novak and chef Tim Hollingsworth share their love of exclusive diner experiences with horror fans, melding two worlds into one bloody-rare bite of Woodsboro history.
Chain started as a pick-up concept during lockdown. Novak and Hollingsworth wanted to recreate fast-food favorites with an upscale twist, available to the lucky few who secured an invite to their limited gourmet drops. Past releases are odes to Outback Steakhouse (“The Bustin’ Onion”) and Taco Bell (“The Wagyu Beef Cruncho Perfecto”) — all your sinful favorites with a decorated chef’s upgrade. It’s a meld of culinary craftiness and childhood comforts like that Kentucky Fried Chicken smell when mom or dad picked up dinner on the way home from work. Chain takes feel-good dishes and kicks ’em up a notch, no different for their Scream VI menu collaboration.
The pop-up’s stab at a Scream menu is their riff on McDonald’s. In the Stabby Meal box — complete with word games printed on the cardboard container’s exterior — is a Bone Marrow ChainBurger, Throwback Fries, and Woodsboro Orchards Apple Pie. Reader, this flavorbomb burger dripping with greasy goodness is one of the best cheeseburgers I’ve devoured since moving to Los Angeles a few months before lockdown. Under Hollingsworth, Chain has rendered the Quarter Pounder with Cheese obsolete. Each bite is as tender and decadent as the last, with bone marrow beefing up the meatiness to obscene levels. I’ve rarely had a cheeseburger melt in my mouth, so kudos to the Chain kitchen staff team.
Throwback Fries and handheld Apple Pies complete the ambiance of a multi-course fast food meal, including unique dipping sauces. Chain’s Midnight Garlic Ranch condiment is their secret weapon, and the Mario Kart 64 station is their version of a ball pit. Chain thinks of everything, including signature cocktails like the tasty Sunset Presidente blood orange mezcal margarita with a deep crimson topper like a fresh Ghostface victim spilled into my glass. There’s no denying the burger is the main event for Chain’s Scream VI menu, but it’s a front-to-back experience that contemplates more than premium ingredients. The Stabby Meal allows adults to feel like a kid again without sacrificing quality and is a must-eat for horror fans who also dabble in foodie adventures.
Plus, is there any more fitting end to a Scream event where Ghostface actors stalked the crowd than the power going out? Credit a freak Los Angeles storm that killed electricity on the entire block where the tasting took place for a fitting end that initially seemed like just another stunt and only amplified the slasher ambiance. Some things you can’t script, and sipping a beverage not knowing whether pitch blackness was all part of the show was a perfect end … at least that night.
The following day, I got to walk through the exclusive Scream VI Experience here in Santa Monica. As a Los Angeles transplant by way of New York City (specifically Brooklyn for eight years), the immersive exhibit provided a bit of nostalgia on a budget. It’s nothing like another Halloween Horror Nights maze, so don’t expect blood-curdling frights, but as a supplementary hype machine for the new Scream entry? Marketers know how to stoke the right curiosities and put on a bloody good show.
As someone who yearns for the taste of a mediocre NYC bodega sandwich at 2 AM after a night of bar-hopping, the welcome window dressing of beer logo stickers on fake bodega entrance doors is perfect. Upon walking in, you can peruse shelves filled with outdated products and new creations like crunchy cheddar-flavored Craven Crisps or sealed packages of Judy’s Lemon Squares. Easter Eggs are hidden between manufactured favorites, like Stu’s Chews gum on the cashier’s counter or stacks of Gale Weathers novels for sale.
I haven’t seen Scream VI, nor were we given any exclusive information, so take anything from this point as speculation — but one Weathers book title stirred immediate social media attention among Scream superfans. “Requel: Terror Returns to Woodsboro” is stuck between “College Terror” and “Stabbed in the Back: The Real Sunrise Story,” which theorists deem a new Weathers publication for Scream VI. The hope is that Gale would have grown from Dewey’s death, but such a title might suggest the opposite. “Requel: Terror Returns to Woodsboro” could be another cash-grab expose that exploits more victims and a reductive development for the character of Gale Weathers if canon — or Gale’s writing about Dewey from a place of bittersweet remembrance, and the book is leagues away from hurtful exploitation.
After a few minutes, sound effects trigger a call that urges attendees into the next room. It’s a hallway where we’re told to stay toward the middle, away from white walls. That’s because a video element will instruct us on the dangers that await as we get a personal message from Ghostface himself. Projected imagery flashes blood-red Ghostface masks, glistening steel hunting knives, and other disturbing pictures. Ghostface asks if we’re lost — “Is this your first time in New York City?” Whether it is original voice actor Roger L. Jackson’s dialogue or not, it’s everything you’d expect from a private message from Ghostface.
Video magic makes it appear like you’re riding a New York City subway car. It’s more pleasant speeding through underground tunnels sans mystery smells and reckless dancers almost roundhousing you in the face. Finally, you end up outside Lincoln Square at the 66th street stop after a Ghostface scare on the screen. It’s a reminder that Ghostface is always lurking, no matter your exit. A fresher incarnation of Ghostface than we’ve seen, who repeats a trailer line about how they are a whole new type of villain Scream fans have yet to encounter (keep this in mind for later). “I’m something different.”
After a brief stroll through makeshift New York City alleys drenched in bloody red lights, we reach a limited version of the trophy room seen in the Scream VI trailer. There’s ample time to wander around, and here’s what tickled my curiosities and grabbed my interest.
Generally, it’s a memorabilia collection dedicated to all the violent implements used by Ghostface, shrines to standout victims, and paraphernalia attached to Ghostface. It’s a celebration of the killer’s accomplishments, starting with the original cloak and mask Billy Loomis wore. Other displays are filled with stained clothes, the knife used to gut Principal Arthur Himbry, the badge left behind by Dewey Riley — they’re all in airtight boxes, like an art gallery. Even the massive stage prop from Scream 2 that Derek Feldman is bound to, the bronze star, is on display. Everything from Stab costumes to a slate for Stab 3 (directed by Roman Bridger) is encased in glass like precious valuables, which makes it all seem celebratory.
Included with the murder weapons and blood-stained garments of past Ghostface victims are sketchbook drawings that illustrate each murder. The only color used is red for the blood of crime scenes, like someone jotting down illustrated notes, keeping a morbid yet artistic body count. Maybe these aren’t clues and add a sinister touch to the Scream VI Experience, or perhaps these are evidence of an obsessive yet to be unmasked. Make of the details what you will since deaths as recent as Dewey’s are included, but also Kirby Reed’s “death,” who we now know is alive. Does this illustrator not have all the pieces themselves? Or, like most Scream VI marketing, is this all meant to keep conspiracies spinning while the truth remains hidden under shadows?
Soon after, the Scream VI Experience ends with a hall of Ghostface statues that leave surprises best discovered for yourself. That’s the essence of the Scream franchise anyway, right? I’ll find any way to solidify my claim that Stu Macher is living and will oversee a “Cult of Ghostface” angle in Scream VI, which could be furthered by the fact that in the experience’s trophy room, the busted TV that crushes Stu’s head doesn’t have a nametag on display. Billy Loomis’ outfit is labeled, and everyone else’s drawings or news clippings have explicit identifiers, but why not Stu’s supposed execution weapon? It’s because Stu’s collecting everything, overseeing Woodsboro massacres from afar, and now he wants the ultimate revenge.
If you’re going to theorize, why not go big?
All burning questions will be answered on March 10th when Scream VI hits theaters. Then we’ll know if countless hours of internet debates over the deterioration of Ghostface masks shown in trailers or the title of fictional Gale Weathers books stuck behind a fake cashier in a limited-run immersive event mean a lick to the canon outcome. Radio Silence have done a splendid job picking up where Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson left off, and experiences like Chain’s Stabby Meal or the Los Angeles walkthrough help solidify the impact Scream has left on not only horror cinema but pop culture at large.
May this be the beginning of Chain’s collaborations with horror properties — maybe a riff on the McRib would pair nicely with the next Leatherface movie? The public demands more edible marketing campaigns for horror movies, especially if they’re as good as the Stabby Meal.