Don't Answer The Door, Don't Leave The House, Don't Answer The Phone, But Most Of All, Don't SCREAM.—Tagline
In 1996, director Wes Craven (of A Nightmare on Elm Street fame) and writer Kevin Williamson (who would go on to make Dawson's Creek and The Vampire Diaries) decided to make a film to end the slasher genre once and for all. A peaceful town in California turns into a bloodbath when a masked killer haunts the town. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), a young teenage girl whose mother was killed a year before, becomes the target of the masked killer! Her boyfriend Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) becomes the main suspect, along with Sidney's father. Local tabloid news reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Woodsboro's Deputy Dwight "Dewey" Riley (David Arquette) investigate and try to figure out who the killer is and if it's the same person who killed Sid's mom the year before.
It ended up being a success, and doing the exact opposite of what it was supposed to do by giving new life to the slasher genre.
Something that set Scream and its sequels apart from other slashers was that they weren't just straight horror films, but also dark, "meta" parodies of the genre. The killers' modus operandi was that they were all deliberately invoking slasher movie cliches, and our characters were all trying to survive by attempting to guess which horror movie tropes the killers were going to follow next -- which just as often got them killed as it did save them. To a generation that had grown up viewing slasher films as trite and cliched following the genre's burnout at the end of The Eighties, this was a very welcome shift. Unfortunately, many (though certainly not all) of the horror films that copied its formula in the ensuing years didn't understand this, instead feeling that the films' success was the result of their young, hip casts, featuring stars from such hit TV series as Party of Five, Friends and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As a result, the film has suffered from quite a bit of Hype Backlash since its release, as the things that it did started to become commonplace in the horror genre.
In addition to all the copycats, Scream was able to spawn three sequels of its own. While none of them are quite as fondly remembered as the original, they all have their fans.
- Scream 2, released in 1997, had the surviving characters moving on to college, while dealing with a sudden Fifteen Minutes of Fame thanks to both the media coverage of the killings and Stab, the Ripped from the Headlines slasher flick made about the event. Just as the original satirized slashers, the second film satirized the genre's obsession with sequels, and all their related tropes.
- Scream 3, released in 2000, concluded the original trilogy and moved the action to Hollywood, where a third Stab film is being made. This film targeted trilogies and the inner workings of the film industry, and is the only film in the series not written by Kevin Williamson. It's usually treated as the Black Sheep of the series, with weaker writing and less of the series' trademark humor, although of course, Your Mileage May Vary.
- Finally, Scream 4 (or Scre4m), released in 2011, brought the action back to Woodsboro, dealt with the legacy of the original trilogy, and parodied the various trends in horror that have cropped up in the decade since the last Scream movie -- namely, the recent surge of remakes and reboots of classic horror series. While it was decently received by critics and fans, its disappointing box office returns may have short-circuited its attempt to restart the franchise with a new trilogy.
- A TV show based on the franchise is currently in development by MTV.
Tropers like us owe a substantial amount of our hobby to the film. Whole-heartedly about lampshading and deconstructing tropes, it was one of the first major, mainstream films to do this since Airplane!, while remaining grounded in reality this time and exploring a whole new genre to boot. It's also notable for predating Buffy the Vampire Slayer by a few months when it came to having sarcastic, Genre Savvy teenagers in a post-modern Horror setting.
Scream is the Trope Namer for:
Scream provides the following tropes:
Series In General
- Action Girl: Sidney, being a Final Girl, has her moments.
- All-Star Cast: It certainly qualifies, particularly the sequels.
- Anyone Can Die: Any character featured in the first ten minutes, regardless of the actor in the role, can (and will) die. With other characters, however, this trope is averted -- Sidney, Gale and Dewey have survived all four movies.
- Badass Damsel: Sidney laughs at the Distressed Damsel trope!
- Big Bad: Ghostface is the identity donned by every one of the series' antagonists; no matter who it is behind the mask, they always exhibit the same basic personality and physical attributes: taunts victims through phone calls, grunts and groans when injured, remains primarily mute while face-to-face with a victim, prolongs a kill when an advantage is gained, stabs victims with a hunting knife, switches from being quick and efficient to clumsy and accident-prone, outright ignores blunt trauma, stabbing wounds and gunshots, strong enough to physically overpower victims in a fight, prowls without being detected, and often vanishes from the targets' defense before taking them by surprise almost immediately thereafter.
- Bittersweet Ending: All the films seem to end on this note, Ghostface's dead and the heroes have lived to go on fighting and living another day, but most of the characters you have cared about are now dead and aren't coming back... unless they're still alive but barely.
- Bloodier and Gorier: Discussed in the second film, but it actually used less fake blood and guts than the original. The fourth movie, however, is much bloodier than Scream 3, and possibly the rest of the series.
- Boom! Headshot!: Billy and Roman. Sidney also shoots Mrs. Loomis in the head, but she was probably already dead.
- Bound and Gagged: At least one character in every film: Steve Orth and Neil Prescott in the first, Derek in the second, Dewey, Gale and Milton in the third, and Charlie and Trevor in the fourth.
- Brick Joke: One that occurs between movies. In the first, when Sidney is asked who she'd like to play her in the inevitable movie about the events, she says that she'd prefer Meg Ryan, but knowing her luck, she'd get Tori Spelling. Guess who plays her in Stab?
- Butt Monkey:
- Dewey, who depending on your point of view is either the unluckiest or the luckiest character in the series: he gets attacked and very badly sliced up in every film but also manages to survive them all.
- Sidney as well, when you consider that she's basically destined to spend the rest of her life being periodically attacked and having all her friends killed by nutjobs attempting to imitate the previous killers.
- Conversational Troping
- Creator Cameo: Director Wes Craven has brief cameos in all the films. In the first, he's the school janitor Fred; in the second, he plays a doctor in the hospital; in the third, he's one of the tourists on the movie lot.
- Also had a cameo in the fourth, but it ended up on the cutting room floor.
- Additionally, writer Kevin Williamson appeared as a man interviewing Cotton Weary in the second film.
- Dead Star Walking: A tradition for the films is to have a big-name actor in the opening scene, only to kill them off within fifteen minutes. The first film had Drew Barrymore in this role, the second had Omar Epps and Jada Pinkett (and later killed off the Slayer herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar), the third had Liev Schreiber, and the fourth one has <breathes in> Lucy Hale, Shenae Grimes, Kristen Bell, Anna Paquin, Aimee Teegarden and Brittany Robertson.
- YMMV on the fourth one, in terms of the word "star."
- If you mean the fourth movie, well, Kristen Bell and especially Anna Paquin (winner of an Oscar and a Golden Globe) surely qualify. If you mean the fourth name on that list, well... ditto.
- YMMV on the fourth one, in terms of the word "star."
- Deadpan Snarker: Most of the characters often say witty snarky comments, but Ghostface seems to be the biggest one when he taunts the victims.
- Deconstructive Parody: What it aims to be, but isn't.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Gale over the course of the series.
- Determinator: Ghostface is really driven when it comes to killing his intended victims.
- Evil Phone: The killers are quite fond of messing with their victims over the phone.
- Evil Sounds Deep: As the series went on, Ghostface's voice went deeper in tone, possibly as a result of the voice actor (Roger L. Jackson) getting older.
- Film Within A Film: The Stab series of slasher films, which act as this universe's analogues to the Scream series. The first Stab, featured in the second movie, is based on the events of the first film (albeit with some artistic embellishment), is directed by Robert Rodriguez, and stars Tori Spelling as Sidney, Luke Wilson as Billy, David Schwimmer as Dewey, and Heather Graham as Casey. The third film, meanwhile, revolves around the production of Stab 3, which the masked killer is trying to sabotage. By the events of Scream 4, there have been seven Stab films, with the series having abandoned all pretense of being Based on a True Story after the third (Sidney sued to prevent any further use of the original characters) and gone into straight-out fantasy by the fifth (which included a Time Travel plot).
- Final Girl: Sidney and Gale are subversions; while they survive all three movies, neither of them (especially Gale) represents the ideals of purity that this trope upholds.
- Sidney evolves into a deconstruction of this trope as the series progresses, what with her life coming to be defined by the trauma suffered by her and those close to her thanks to her "perpetual victimhood."
- Jill in the fourth film is arguably among the greatest subversions ever. She masterminded the killings and planned to frame someone else for it so that she could play this trope and get her Fifteen Minutes of Fame, much like her cousin Sidney did.
- Floating Head Syndrome: The first film helped to popularize the use of this trope with horror movies, and all of the sequels indulged in it as well. This trope is so attached to the series that, when the fourth film finally released a "floating head" poster (even if it's only the Mexican poster), the fans were ecstatic that it was following series tradition.
- Follow the Leader: The Faculty, which essentially did for sci-fi horror what Scream did for the slasher genre.
- Which makes some sense, as it was written by the same screenwriter.
- For the Evulz: Many of any Ghostface killer's reasons.
- Probably Stu the most though. He really had no reason to help Billy but did just because he wanted to.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Arguably, Ghostface. Roman Bridger being the biggest one since he masterminded Billy and Stu into killing his own mom then in turn the Woodsboro murders and followed through his own killings by killing his cast and trying to kill Sidney, his half-sister, as well while appearing as their dead mom.
- Freudian Excuse: Almost every Ghostface claims to have one. By the third film, Sidney has had enough of it and yells at the killer that they all have no excuse, they're all just that — excuses to kill people For the Evulz.
- The exception to this being Jill, who openly admits that she's a Complete Monster, citing that "sick is the new sane".
- Genre Blind: Ironically enough, the killers. Each time there have been two killers, one has turned on the other. And yet they never see it coming.
- Genre Savvy: Randy, a horror movie fan who lists three rules for surviving a horror movie -- don't have sex, don't drink or use drugs, and never say "I'll be right back." Naturally, the characters break all three in record time. Randy expands his rules to sequels and trilogies  in the later films.
- Gorn: Even for a horror series where the killers only use knives to kill, some of the deaths are quite icky. A particularly grisly example is the second victim in the series -- while she is eviscerated offscreen, it soon cuts back to her intestines falling out. Even Roger Ebert admitted being a little grossed out by the first two, almost to the point of docking the films for it.
- Gutted Like a Fish: Trope Namer, and happens quite a bit in the series.
- Harassing Phone Call: The killers love doing this to people they intend to kill.
- Hot Scoop: Gale.
- If It Bleeds, It Leads: Personified with Gale, although she gets better in the sequels.
- Lampshade Hanging: And how!
- Late Arrival Spoiler: Best to watch the films in order, because the sequels tend to be quite open about the identity of the killers from previous entries.
- Legacy Character: Ghostface.
- Made of Iron: Notably averted. Ghostface is clumsy, falls down, and gets smacked around quite a bit, due to the fact it's normal folk under the masks, and not the genre's usual undead/supernatural/etc. figures.
- Meta Guy: Randy in the original trilogy, and Robbie and Charlie in the fourth film. See Genre Savvy.
- Murder Simulators: Referenced several times with regards to violent horror movies. Considering that the director is a man who made his name with such films, this can easily be interpreted as a Take That against fear-mongering Moral Guardians.
- Mutually Fictional: With Halloween and The View Askewniverse.
- Not Quite Dead: In each damn one. The characters end up fully expecting it. In Scream, Randy lampshades this with Billy, who promptly reveals himself to be not quite dead. Sidney very calmly shoots him in the head. Subverted in Scream 2, Gale and Sidney expect Mrs. Loomis to be this, and then Mickey jumps up behind them screaming. They shoot and kill him, and then Sidney shoots the (probably already dead) Mrs. Loomis in the head, just to be sure. Scream 3 has Roman play this straight, until Dewey shoots him in the head. Scre4m shows Jill survive a defibrillator on full power to the head, and attempt to stab the characters in the back with glass. Sidney, fully expecting it, turns around and shoots her in the heart killing her.
- Plucky Girl: Sidney.
- Post Modernism: Numerous elements in the films as discussed in the main text. The film also started a massive wave of self-referential, teen-focused horror films that ran through the late '90s.
- Self-Referential Humor: The series' bread and butter.
- Serial Killer: Needless to say.
- Slasher Movie: Despite the director's initial intentions, the films are well-accepted members of the genre.
- Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror: The first two films were roughly equal mixes of horror and comedy. The third film, which had a different writer, was more of a straight horror film, with more of the humor coming from the characters rather than from jabs at the genre. Finally, the fourth film, which brought back original writer Kevin Williamson, is arguably the most comedic of the franchise, with even a few of the deaths (such as Deputy Perkins) being Played for Laughs.
- Tempting Fate:
- The phrase "I'll be right back" is treated like this. Stu makes a point to say it multiple times, apparently jokingly.
- Sidney, why did you even mention the idea of Tori Spelling playing you in the movie?
- Too Dumb to Live: Tatum Riley tries to escape Ghostface when she panics and tries to get through a large dog-door. Not only can she not get through, she gets stuck so she can't get back in. Ghostface recovers and switches on the automatic door, which snaps her neck rather messily.
- A perfect example of this trope, when one considers there were several instances where she could have (a) found something larger or sharper than the knife Ghostface was using to defend herself and/or (b) curb-stomped Ghostface to within an inch of his/her life after knocking Ghostface down not once, but twice.
- Troperiffic: Lampshadedly the whole point of the series, especially the first film.
- Voice Changeling: Ghostface's voice changer, which can even replicate other people's voices in the third film. On the other hand, Technology Marches On...
- Wham! Line: All movies seem to have this happen just before The Reveal:
- "We all go a little mad sometimes," as said by Billy Loomis before he shoots Randy Meeks (though non fatally).
- "Your slut mother was fucking my father. She's the reason my mom moved out and abandoned me. How's that for a motive?" as said by Billy, while explaining to Sidney about this. Even Stu was shocked by this.
- Ghostface, while unleashing its Motive Rant in Scream 3
- "We all go a little mad sometimes," as said by Billy Loomis before he shoots Randy Meeks (though non fatally).
Ghostface/Roman: I searched for my mother, an actress named Rina Reynolds... searched for her my whole life. I finally tracked her down, knocked on her door, thinking she would welcome me with open arms... but she had a new life, a new name: Maureen Prescott! You were the only child she claimed. Sid, she shut me out in the cold forever! Her own son. (takes off the mask, revealing whom they are) Roman Bridger, director... (uses the voice changer) and brother.
- White Mask of Doom: Ghostface.
- A Man Is Not a Virgin: Subverted with Randy, who attributes his survival to being a virgin.
- Ax Crazy: Billy and Stu.
- Big Bad Duumvirate - Billy and Stu are the ones that issue the killings as Ghostface.
- Blown Across the Room: Randy gets thrown backwards several feet by a gunshot.
- Cat Scare: When Tatum hears a noise in the empty garage, she turns just in time to see a startled cat scramble out the pet door.
- Chekhov's Gun: The 30 second delay on the tape gets Kenny the cameraman killed.
- Combat Pragmatist: After stabbing Billy with an umbrella, Sidney sticks her finger through the wound to gain the upper hand.
- Dangerously Genre Savvy: Billy and Stu, until they decided to stab each other before trying to kill Sidney and her dad.
- Tatum during her death scene; she continually mocks the killer and the idea of the helpless female victim scenario, until he actually pulls a knife on her:
"No, please don't kill me Mr. Ghostface! I wanna be in the sequel!"
- Sidney also qualifies when she first talks to the killer:
"[referring to horror movies] They're all the same; some killer stalking some big breasted girl who can't act, who's always runs up the stairs when she should be going out the front door - it's insulting."
- This of course leads to an Ironic Echo, where she is forced to run upstairs instead of outside when the killer attacks moments later.
- Dawson Casting: All of the teen characters in the original are played by actors who were old enough to drink at the time.
- Death by Sex: Lampshaded.
Randy: Rule #1 [for surviving a horror movie]. You can never have sex. (boos from the crowd) Big no-no! Sex equals death, okay?
- Subverted, however, by Sidney, who has sex (with the killer!) and still survives.
- Did Not Do the Research: One of the causes of Casey's death is forgetting that Jason wasn't the killer in the first Friday the 13th. Also:
Sidney: Why? Why did you kill my mother?
Billy: Why? WHY? [[[Beat]]] You hear that Stu, I think she wants a motive. Hmm. Well I don’t really believe in motives – I mean did Norman Bates have a motive?
Billy: Did they ever really decide why Hannibal Lecter likes to eat people? Don’t think so.
- Enforced Method Acting: Wes Craven made Drew Barrymore think that he was going to kill her dog in order to get the right emotional response out of her; that's kinda fucked, bluntly put.
- Not quite. He was actually reminding her of a story she had seen about a sociopathic kid who had lit his dog on fire.
- Craven also fulfilled this trope by making sure that none of the actors had met Roger L. Jackson prior to filming and the telephone scenes were filmed with him actually on the phone.
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: When Stu, one of the killers, is informed that the cops are on their way, rather than reacting negatively to that, or the fact that he's coughing up quite a lot of blood, he starts crying and says, "My mom and dad are gonna be so mad at me!" You almost feel sorry for him. Almost.
- Not to mention being Billy's entire motivation for the murders.
- Everyone Is a Suspect: The exact phrase is even quoted word-for-word.
- Evil Is Hammy: Stu, who seemingly goes crazy following The Reveal.
- Genre Killer: An attempt at a deliberate example of this... which didn't really work out.
- Ha Ha Ha No
- Improvised Weapon: Sidney drops a TV on the killer in the first film. It can be taken as Death by Irony, since the TV is showing Halloween and the killer, who was an obsessive fan of horror movies who wanted to live one out, is now all the way into one.
- Insistent Terminology: By the killer, both of them.
Sidney: You're crazy, both of you.
Stu: Actually, we prefer the term "psychotic".
- Irony: When called by the killer, Sidney, who dislikes horror movies, badmouths them, saying they all just involve some eye candy girl who always runs upstairs instead of out the front door. When Ghostface attacks moments later, Sidney tries to run out the door, can't, and seeing no other option, runs upstairs.
- Murder Simulators: The killer states that violent movies "don't create psychos, they only make psychos more creative."
- Not Quite Dead: Lampshaded.
"Careful, this is the moment when the supposedly dead killer comes back for one last scare."
- Not with the Safety On, You Won't: Played straight, then later subverted.
- Oh Crap: Randy's reaction after realizing that Sydney just handed the gun to one of the killers.
- One-Scene Wonder: Drew Barrymore only gets fifteen minutes of scream time, but it's easily the most famous scene in the movie.
- Red Herring: Played with beautifully, in that the red herrings aren't red herrings at all. The movie practically screams "This is the killer" whenever Billy's onscreen (a phone falling out of his pocket after a call from the killer, an unstable attitude, his tendency to show up only after someone is killed), and does it so much that everyone assumes this is the film trying to distract you from the real killer. The trickery is upped further when the apparent Red Herring is killed and everyone who's been paying attention will think "So obviously that means it was Sidney's father the whole time!" It then takes the usual horror denoument "The guy who was too obviously the killer was killed off, and the real killer turned out to be the person the Final Girl thought she could trust the most (her father)" in a very inventive direction by doubling back on itself: The Red Herring was the killer, his death was faked and there were actually TWO killers and the guy you thought you could trust was trustworthy after all!
- The Red Stapler: Caller ID systems became so ubiquitous after this film came out (any guesses as to why?) that it was even lampshaded in the sequel, where Sidney has one and uses it to catch a Ghostface-imitating prankster.
- Romance on the Set: David Arquette and Courteney Cox.
- Sacrificial Lamb: Casey.
- Sacrificial Lion: Tatum.
- Saw Star Wars 27 Times: Played for Drama - Casey angrily declares that she's seen Friday the 13th "20 times" when the killer says that she gave the wrong answer to the trivia question about it (with the stakes being her boyfriend's life). Unfortunately for Casey, the killer was not talking about the series as a whole, but the original movie, whose killer was not Jason Voorhees but his mother. The boyfriend gets Gutted Like a Fish soon after.
- Self-Deprecation: Casey saying that all the sequels to Nightmare On Elm Street sucked. This could also be seen as a Take That, since Craven only directed the original and New Nightmare (and only co-wrote Dream Warriors). He only decided to keep it in once its self-deprecating nature was pointed out; he apparently thought it was a bit mean-spirited at first.
- Sequel Snark: "No, please don't kill me, Mr. Ghost face! I wanna be in the sequel!"
- Shout-Out: A brief appearance by a janitor named Fred, who dresses like Freddy Krueger and is played by Wes Craven.
- Sleeper Hit: A very rare example of a movie that debuted at #3 at the box office and then slowly climbed up to #1 thanks to strong word-of-mouth. No movie since has been able to accomplish that feat.
- Stunt Casting: Drew Barrymore as the second victim. (Everyone forgets that her boyfriend Steve was the first on-screen victim.)
- Hmm... looks like Ghostface has a question for another trivia game.
Ghostface: Who was the first victim in the first Scream movie?
Soon-to-die teen: It was Casey! Drew Barrymore's character! I've seen that movie a hundred times!
Ghostface: Then you should know it was Casey's boyfriend who got killed first! I'm sorry, but it looks like your boyfriend is about to follow in his footsteps.
- Take That: "And no thanks whatsoever to the Santa Rosa City School District Governing Board." To elaborate: when this movie was in production, scenes were to be filmed at Santa Rosa High School in northern California. The school board, however, objected to the gory nature of the movie, and after a lot of small town political theatre, shooting for the school scenes was moved to a community center in the nearby town of Sonoma. In response, Wes Craven threw that phrase into the credits, right after the "special thanks" portion. The town of Santa Rosa, once a popular filming location, was essentially blacklisted from Hollywood as a result of the experience.
- To be fair to the people of Santa Rosa, there was also a strong element of Too Soon involved, with the community still recovering from the Polly Klaas murder in the nearby town of Petaluma. The killer's trial was even set to take place around the time that Scream began production. Wes Craven later admitted in the Biography Channel's Inside Story program that he understands now why the timing was just too uncomfortable to be acceptable.
- Technology Marches On: Or more specifically, access to technology marches on. When Billy drops his cell phone while comforting Sidney after her first attack by the killer, he becomes an immediate suspect because the killer was using one. Back in 1996, cell phones were still rare enough that this would look suspicious. Today, not so much.
- Too Soon: In-universe, the principal expels two students for insensitivity because they were roaming the halls dressed as Ghostface after the real Ghostface killed two students the night before, and then, not thinking it to be punishment enough, threatens to kill both for their actions AND hits BOTH with a Precision S Strike.
- For a real-life example, see above.
- Viewer Stock Phrases: "Look behind you!" is played with in the sequence where Randy watches Halloween and says this to Jamie Lee Curtis in the movie -- but also, unknowingly, to himself, as the killer is approaching him from behind. Meanwhile, a couple of people in a van outside, watching the exchange on a video camera, are saying the same thing to him. However, because the video they're watching is on a time delay, and whatever is going to happen is already over, they are powerless to help him -- just as Randy cannot change what happens in Halloween, and the Scream audience can't change what happens in the movie they're watching. Whew!
- Played with even more when Randy says, "Look behind you, Jamie!" He's talking to Jamie Lee Curtis, but guess what the actor playing Randy is named?
- Aborted Arc: Gale sets-up the idea that the killings behind the new Ghostface Killer is a copy cat to the original victims but it goes nowhere.
- All Part of the Show: The death of Jada Pinkett's character is mistaken for this by the crowd in the theater, who thinks it's a publicity stunt.
- Analogy Backfire: After Mickey compares himself to the killer from the first film, Billy Loomis;
Sidney: Yeah, well you're forgetting one thing about Billy Loomis?
Mickey What's that?
Sidney: I fucking KILLED him!
- Avenging the Villain: Mrs. Loomis.
- Ax Crazy: Mickey and Mrs. Loomis.
- Big Bad Duumvirate - Mickey and Mrs. Loomis shared the role of Ghostface in this film.
- Big Damn Hero: Cotton.
- Black Dude Dies First: Done, and lampshaded.
- California University: Though Windsor College sounds like a fictional California college, the college in the film is in Ohio, both established in script and on the film.
- Chekhov's Gun: Derek's Greek letters.
- Cherry Tapping: Sidney shoots Mrs Loomis in the head after commenting that they always come back;
Sidney: Just in case
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Arguably, Randy.
- If It Bleeds, It Leads: The killer (at least, one of them) planned on invoking this in order to get himself media publicity and a sensational trial.
- Murder Simulators: A discussion in a film class early on has several characters debating whether or not violent slasher flicks turn people violent. Later, the killer plans on blaming his killing spree on said slasher movies (such as the newly-released Stab), invoking this trope in order to create a sensational trial and get the Moral Guardians on his side.
- Oh Crap: Sidney's expression when Ghostface turns off the voice changer and speaks with Mickey's voice.
- Sacrificial Lion: Randy.
- Sequel Escalation: Provides the page quote, too!
Randy: "There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to create a successful sequel. Number one: the body count is always bigger. Number two: the death scenes are always much more elaborate — more blood, more gore. Carnage candy."
- Sequel Hook: The film was originally supposed to include a shot of the masked killer in the bell tower as the camera pulls back in the final shot, but this was never done.
- Sequelitis: Discussed in-universe in a scene in a film class, with Randy claiming that "sequels suck" and destroyed the horror genre. To prove his point, he and Cici ask their fellow classmates to name sequels that are better than the originals. Yes, this discussion is being had in a horror sequel.
- Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Randy.
- You Bastard: The whole point of the intro.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Mickey is killed by Mrs. Loomis for this purpose.
- Arc Welding: The killer, Roman, reveals that he was the one who originally convinced Billy and Stu to start killing, making him directly responsible for the events of the first movie and indirectly responsible for the second.
- Big Bad - Roman was the one that convinced Billy and Stu to become killers in the first film, and was indirectly responsible for Mrs. Loomis wanting to avenge Billy's death, plus Mickey, Jill and Charles fame-seeking motivation for being the next Ghostfaces. Furthermore, Roman was the lone Ghostface killer in the third film, so one could arguably consider him as the Biggest Bad for the series, at least for the original trilogy.
- The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In: Subverted when Ghostface throws his knife at Dewey, and it hits him on the handle side. It still hurts enough for him to fall down the stairs.
- Jay and Silent Bob appear on the movie set of Stab 3. In their own films, they interrupt the filming of a fictional Scream sequel.
- Roger Corman also has a cameo as a studio executive.
- In-universe, Cotton Weary shoots a cameo for Stab 3 As Himself.
- Heather Matarazzo appears as Randy's sister.
- Carrie Fisher appears ... as a woman who is always mistaken for Carrie Fisher, and is very annoyed by it. She also accuses Carrie Fisher of sleeping with George Lucas to get the role.
- Chekhov's Handgun: This little dialogue says it all.
Kincaid: (hands Dewey his pistol) Take this GET THE SON OF A BITCH!! he does get him.
- Dawson Casting: Happens in-universe. Sarah is 35 years old, but her character in Stab 3, Candy, is only 21.
- Death by Sex:
- Lampshaded by Randy, who taped a video prior to his death just in case, and blames what became his eventual death in the last film on the fact that he had sex with a girl in the video store.
- One of the most Egregious instances ever: Angelina gets killed literally seconds after revealing that she slept with the producer to get the role. Damn, do the rules strike fast! Doubles as a Death by Irony, since Angelina played Final Girl Sidney in Stab 3, and yet she herself failed to follow the rules that Final Girls are to obey (but then again, so did Sidney herself in the first film).
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Cotton.
- Dumb Blonde: Sarah, who mistakenly believes that Psycho's famous shower scene was in Vertigo instead.
- Frying Pan of Doom
- Horrible Hollywood
- Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: It's Roman's birthday.
- The Ingenue: Angelina. It's all just an act, though. Underneath this persona, she's actually a foul-tempered bitch who slept with the producer to get the role of Sidney in Stab 3.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Liev Schreiber (as Cotton Weary) has a cameo at the beginning. He is talking on the phone with his agent, complaining that the only gig he could get is a cameo at the beginning of Stab 3.
- Also, the Stab 3 cast can't predict their characters' fate: the script is being kept under wraps to avoid it being leaked on the Internet. This happened during the production of Scream 2, and may have lead Craven & co. to change that movie's outcome: in a leaked version, Derek and Hallie were the killers.
- Lighter and Softer: De-emphasized explicit violence in favor of humor, due to being made post-Columbine.
- Made of Iron: Randy's "trilogy rules" state that, at the ends of trilogies, the killers become supernaturally strong and tough, and can only be killed through decapitation, cryogenic freezing or other extreme means. As it turns out, he's partly right. The killer is able to survive multiple gun shots, because he's wearing a bullet-proof vest.
- Murder Simulators: One of the producers of Stab 3 notes how violence in cinema has become a touchy subject recently; the unstated-yet-obvious cause of this is the fact that, a year before, the Columbine massacre took place. They also speculate that Cotton's murder may have been by a deranged fan.
Milton: Detectives, there's no reason to presume that Cotton's death had anything to do with this movie, is there?
Kincaid's Partner: He was making a movie called Stab. He was stabbed.
- Needle in a Stack of Needles: The killer conceals their location by hiding in a rack of Ghostface costumes.
- Not Afraid of You Anymore: In the beginning, Sidney is revealed to be living as a recluse, convinced it is the only way to stay safe from psychotic killers from coming after her, and killing those around her. She lives in the middle of nowhere, locks and sets an alarm on her gate before locking and setting the alarm for her house. In the end, in a moment that is both awesome and touching She leaves her gate open behind her, and doesn't set the alarm for her house. When the wind blows the door open, she looks at it and walks away.
- One-Scene Wonder: Kincaid's partner is easily one of the most entertaining character's in the film, but gets less screnetime than most of the others.
- The Other Darrin: In-universe, Stab 3 sees the replacement of Tori Spelling as Sidney with Angelina Tyler.
- Red Herring: Detective Kincaid is implied a number of times to be the killer, in fact, his innocence leads to a Plot Hole/What Happened to the Mouse? incident. It was never explained how the real killer got Sidney's phone number, and Kincaid used Dewey's phone just before the scene in which Sidney gets the phone call from the killer. And it doesn't explain why he had all those newspaper clippings on Sidney in his desk, but the ending shows him now all chummy with the main three.
- Secret Keeper: Sidney is living as a recluse, convinced it's the only way to stay safe. The only people who know where she is are her father and Dewey.
- Shut UP, Hannibal: The killer Roman explains that he is Sidney's half-brother, and fires off a bunch of reasons as to why he committed the murders. Sidney then cuts him off, saying she's tired of all the bullshit that the killers she has encountered have told her, and says that all of the reasons she has heard are just pathetic excuses that the killers use to hide the fact that they kill people simply because they enjoy doing it. This leads to a rather large Villainous Breakdown.
- Stage Names: It's revealed that Sidney's mother Maureen was a failed actress who went by Rina Reynolds. In the same scene, it's also revealed that Jennifer's real name is Judy Jurgenstern.
- Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Cotton.
- Tempting Fate:
Sarah: Guys, we are not in any danger.
Tyson: "We are not in any danger," says Candy, page 15.
- That Makes Me Feel Angry: Played with. Disguised as Dewey, the killer has a phone conversation with Jennifer Jolie's bodyguard while he's looking through Dewey's trailer. When he insults "Dewey" over the phone, the killer responds with "That makes me... angry!" (with a definitive emphasis of rage on that last word), while bursting in and stabbing him in the back.
- Theme Naming: A number of characters (Angelina Jolie Tyler, Jennifer Aniston Jolie, Tom Cruise Prinze) are named after real-life actors. Fitting, since the characters are actors themselves, and in Jennifer's case it's actually a Stage Names.
- Throwing Your Sword Always Works: When Dewey catches the the killer by surprise, he retaliates by throwing his knife at Dewey... though it's hilariously averted as the handle side hits him square in the forehead.
- Tonight Someone Dies: Randy mentions that the rules of the trilogy mean that someone big is going to die before it's over. He's wrong though, Sidney, Gale, and Dewey all live.
- Video Will: Randy's tape, also counts as The Tape Knew You Would Say That somehow
- Wild Mass Guessing: The cast of Stab 3, since they don't have the full scripts for the movie (to keep the ending from being leaked), indulges in this while on-set. Angelina (the actress who plays Movie!Sidney) speculates that her character might even be the killer this time.
Scream 4 or Scre4m
- Actor Allusion: Gale and Rebecca's conversation has Rebecca bring up how surprised she is that Gale and Dewey's marriage worked as well in real life as it did in the Stab movies. The actors who play Gale and Dewey, Courteney Cox and David Arquette, are married. Also becomes Harsher in Hindsight when one remembers that the two of them separated not long after filming on Scream 4 was wrapped -- and that the main thrust of Dewey and Gale's story is that their marriage is falling apart.
- Anyone Can Die: The marketing has strongly teased the possibility of series regulars getting killed off. They don't, though all of them come close.
- Ax Crazy: Jill Roberts. Perhaps more so than any of the previous Ghostfaces.
- Big Bad Duumvirate - Jill and Charlie are the joint-killers that donned the Ghostface identity here, the latter for his love towards Jill, and the former to make herself a "sole-surviving hero", getting the fame that comes with the title.
- Bond One-Liner
Sidney: You forgot the first rule of remakes, Jill: Don't fuck with the original.
- Bury Your Gays: Played for laughs. Robbie states that being gay is probably the only way to survive a horror film. Later when Ghostface attacks him, he admits he's gay thinking it will save him. It doesn't.
- Casting Gag: Erik Knudsen not only was in the second chapter of the Saw saga, though the forth chapter is mocked in the the Stab openings, but also starred in the CBS TV show Jericho the lead of which was none other than Skeet Ulrich, who played Billy Loomis in the first Scream. And even more surprising or by sheer coincidence, his name in Scream 4 is named Robbie Mercer, which sounds a lot like the name of the character (Bobby Mercer) in Four Brothers who was played by Mark Wahlberg and who is the brother of Donnie Wahlberg of New Kids on the Block fame who played Knudsen's father in the second Saw film and is Mark's brother.
- Cash Cow Franchise: While Stab was entering this with the third installment (the first not based on real life murders), the fact that it got to 7 installments - one of which has time travel - shows it went down the "grab a quick buck" path rather easily.
- Continuity Nod: The girl in the beginning getting crushed by a garage door.
- The Danza: Emma Roberts' character is named Jill Roberts.
- Death by Sex: Apparently, averted. The trailer states that "the rules have changed. Virgins can die now." In the trailer, this is then promptly used by Kirby for a Take That at the girls sitting next to her:
"Does that mean I'm not gonna live as long as these two?"
- The answer seems to be "Yes," but it's never definitely stated she gets it, except by Jill -- who has a vested interest in her being dead, and who wasn't on the scene when it happened so it's likely she's only assuming it's such. And since Kirby went down well with fans - being played by Hayden Panettiere didn't hurt - the possibility of her coming back cannot be ruled out. Especially as unlike virtually every other victim throughout the series the last time we see Kirby she's still alive...
- If Kirby actually died, it's a weird inversion - she died for not having sex (with the eventual murderer of all people, as a Moment Killer ruined their advances on each other)
- Distaff Counterpart: Kirby, for Randy from the original.
- Downer Ending: Yes, in the end, Jill and Charlie's plans are foiled. However, all the new characters, save for Judy, are dead. Sidney, Dewey, and Gale come out injured and broken. The media are convinced that Jill is a hero, and one wonders how Sidney is going to take having to tell the world that her own family member was playing them all like fiddles, and was committing the murders herself.
- Drinking Game: At the Stabathon.
- Evil Is Hammy: Jill, especially in the scene where she's self-harming to make herself look like a victim of the killer.
- Evil Plan: The events of the film were all planned out by Jill, who wanted to kill Sidney, frame Trevor, betray Charlie, and come out the Final Girl of the movie so that she could have the same fame and hero worship that Sidney got for surviving her first three ordeals. The Moral Event Horizon is crossed when she decides that, in order to be more convincing and sympathetic, she had to kill off her own mother, in addition to Sidney. Considering her mother is Mary McDonnell, Jill and the movie itself cross a Moral Event Horizon when she succeeds, though Your Mileage May Vary.
- Executive Meddling: It apparently underwent a lot of this from the Weinsteins before its release, including most of the script changes.
- Fan Service: Putting Lucy Hale, Shenae Grimes, Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell, Aimee Teegarden, Brittany Robertson, Alison Brie, Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts, Marley Shelton and a still-sexy Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox in the same movie defines the term, even if many of them are bumped off before (and in Emma's case, during) the finale. The only survivors, other than guess who, are Kristen (who was actually in the movie within the movie), Marley, and possibly Hayden.
- And as for Emma Roberts and Hayden Panettiere sharing a bed, thank you.
- Fan Disservice: Subverted. Just before Olivia is killed off she undresses and is seen in her underwear. However she puts a baggy sweater on thus eliminating the Disservice element.
- Fifteen Minutes of Fame: Jill's motivation for the killings.
- Film Within A Film: Stab 6 within Stab 7 within Scream 4, with a reappearance of Stab 1 halfway through the film.
- Apparently Stab 3 did get made, and it was based off of Scream 3. So it was about the original actors, played be new actors, trying to make Stab 3 and dying, while Sid, Gale, and Dewey, all played by new actors, investigated the deaths. It was a movie within a movie within a movie. And it couldn't have made much sense.
- Stab 5 was the worst, with all that time travel stuff.
- Groin Attack: Jill to Trevor. With a gunshot.
- Groundhog Day Loop: It has got to start feeling that way to poor Sid. The sad part is with Jill and Charlie donning the mask for reasons that have almost no connection to the original murders, it's unlikely that it's ever going to stop. There will always be psychopaths who go after Sidney because she's famous for being the ultimate Final Girl. She'll probably be dodging killers and watching people die until her old age. Luckily she has gotten very, very good at it.
- It Runs in The Family: One of the killers, Charlie, is played by Rory Culkin. The brother of Macaully Culkin, who has played a sociopathic killer not once but twice, in The Good Son and Party Monster.
- As of this movie, might also be the case in-universe with the Roberts family. Both Sidney’s half-brother Roman and first cousin Jill turn out to be psychopathic murderers.
- The Ladette: Kirby, a brash, snarky, tomboyish horror buff who makes the first move on a timid boy she's into.
- Made of Iron: Holy crap, Jill. The girl scratches herself, pulls out her hair, stabs herself in the shoulder, runs her face into a glass picture frame, and then throws herself through a glass coffee table. At the hospital she's still able to start up another rampage, nearly killing Sidney and Dewey. A defibrillator to the head only momentarily slows her down. It isn't until she shot directly in the heart that she stops. She's probably the toughest killer yet.
- Moment Killer: Oh, Trevor, why did you interrupt the geek getting the girl?
- Near Villain Victory: Jill nearly gets away with her plan, except a) Sidney survives her attack and b) she mentions how she and Gale have matching wounds, despite the fact that she should have no way of knowing that.
- No Export for You: You want to hear more of Wes Craven, Hayden Panettiere and/or Emma Roberts? Luckily they're on the DVD Commentary track (as is Neve Campbell, who literally phones in her contribution)... what's that? You live in the UK? And it's not included on the Region 2 release, either on the DVD or blu-ray? Well, if you don't have a multiregion player...
- Not Quite Dead: A rare heroic example -- Sidney, who was presumed to have been killed, managed to survive after all. Wild Mass Guessing also claims that Kirby may have survived. There also seems to be hope for Robbie.
- Alas, Robbie is confirmed on screen to be with his ancestors, complete with body on view. Kirby, on the other hand, may indeed be just hiding.
- Offhand Backhand: Sydney pulls one by casually turning and shooting an attacking Not Quite Dead Jill with a handgun.
- Oh Crap: Gale and Dewey upon realizing that Jill is the killer.
- Outlaw Couple: Charlie thought that he and Jill were this. Unfortunately for him, Jill was looking to play the Final Girl instead. Emphasis on Final.
- Playing Against Type: Emma Roberts - and then some - as Jill.
- Plot Armor: Discussed in regards to Sidney. She still has it.
- Police Are Useless: Hoss and Perkins are nowhere to be found while Olivia is being stabbed to death. Really, any cop in this series not named Dewey is pretty much hopeless.
- They even note that police in horror films tend to be worthless, and die. Their right on both counts.
- Polish the Turd: Parodied in the cast/crew section on the film's website, where all of the actors' bios are heavily glowing, praising their careers. When you read the one for David Arquette, however, you realize that the whole thing's a joke.
David Arquette is an actor, writer, director and producer whose unique sensibility makes him one of the most versatile talents working in the entertainment industry today, able to segue from comedy to drama with extraordinary ease. This makes David Arquette extremely uncomfortable, because of the fact that he is writing this bio himself and it seems arrogant to boast about his incredible talents in such a way while also referring to himself in the third person.
- Red Herring: The movie likes to hint at Trevor. He really was just trying to protect Jill, after all.
- Sacrificial Lion: Kirby and, to some degree, Robbie and Charlie. Though in Kirby's case, she may be alive since unlike the other two they never confirmed she was dead. (While a lot of fans argue Miss Reed is dead, a lot of fans argue she isn't - and on the DVD/Blu-ray commentary track Hayden Panettiere and Wes Craven confirm that Kirby's fate is indeed left unclear, a rarity for a series that likes to make sure we know who's Killed Off for Real. Craven has subsequently Tweeted that he doesn't think Kirby's gone to the great big cinema in the sky.)
- Sequel Gap: It came 11 years after its predecessor (which incidentally is longer than the time it took to make and release all three previous films) and thus takes shots at basically everything that happened to horror films in-between.
- Shout-Out: One of the characters is named after Anthony Perkins, who played Norman Bates in Psycho.
- Something Only the Culprit Would Know: Jill and Gale's "matching wounds."
- With the invention of the internet and dozens of witnesses, nevermind a rather lengthy time between her attack and the events that led to the hospital scene (enough for a news report), was it out of the question that the details of the crime were already reported and she heard about them? Not hard for the news to say "this famous author got stabbed in the shoulder." Hello Fridge Logic. Possibly justified as Dewey from an earlier scene is clearly oblivious to how fast information spreads, and in this case he's right.
- However, the news report aired, presumably, after Kirby got Jill from the house (since Kirby left before the attack) and it's easy to assume they never saw the news report. Robby and Charlie were too freaked out from the attack, given that they believed their lives would go to shit thanks to the attack happening at an event THEY were throwing. They were right.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Subverted like there's no tomorrow. Characters are thrown at us as being replacements for the characters of the original film, but most of the new characters die, the apparent Sidney replacement turns out to be the killer, and we even get a Billy replacement who is almost successfully framed for all the murders.
- Hell, the entire new cast is built up as a counterpart to someone from the original:
- Jill: Sidney
- Kirby: Tatum
- Trevor: Billy
- Robbie: Randy
- Charlie: Stu
- Judy: Dewey
- Rebecca: Gale
- Hell, the entire new cast is built up as a counterpart to someone from the original:
- Those Two Guys: Deputies Anthony Perkins and Ross Hoss fall under this.
- Too Dumb to Live: Rebecca. After Ghostface appears on the hood of her car that she has locked herself in and reveals he cut the wires, he disappears when she tries to signal a car down. Instead of staying in the car and calling the cops to rescue her, she gets out of the car and runs for the parking garage exit. Take a guess as to how well that turns out.
- Robbie may count as well, considering that he went walking outside, alone, drunk, when he knew there was a killer on the loose. Though he may have thought he was safe due to the rules started in the film class scene. Not really the case, though.
- Perkins gets himself killed, along with Hoss, by choosing to joke around.
- Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer makes it look like they're spoiling Gale's death, but she survives yet again.
- It also makes it appear as if Ghostface is in Jill's closet. Not really the case, AT ALL. It did, however, spoil Robbie's death, Hoss' and Perkins's deaths, Rebecca's death, and Marnie's body crashing through the window.
- Trilogy Creep
- True Companions: Sidney, Gale, Dewey and Randy. Sidney and Gale are a particularly good example in that despite their long history together they never really become friends -- but have saved each others lives numerous times and know they can count on each other.
- Vasquez Always Dies: Averted by Hicks. "Wear the vest, save your chest.". It's worth noting that this is the only time this trope was featured in the Scream franchise.
- Villainous Breakdown: Arguably Jill goes through this in the end after her entire plan falls apart and basically turns to Taking You with Me.
- Where It All Began: Woodsboro.
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Jill's self-mutilation in order to make people think she was a victim.
- And unlike the last time it was tried, it succeeds.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Charlie.
- ↑ The three previous films took in upwards of $100 million each domestically, but this one didn't even reach that amount with domestic and overseas grosses combined. On the other hand, it only cost about $40 million to make.
- ↑ Warning -- both clips contains spoilers for, respectively, the first and second films.
- ↑ but not in the movie itself -- the two scenes aren't anywhere near each other
- ↑ and arguably Kirby