"Don't Answer The Door, Don't Leave The House, Don't Answer The Phone, But Most Of All, Don't SCREAM."
In 1996, director Wes Craven (of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) 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: Scream.A peaceful town in California turns into a bloodbath when a masked killer begins to wreak havoc all over town. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), a young teenage girl whose mother was killed a year before, becomes a target of the masked killer; her boyfriend Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) and her father soon become the main suspects. Local tabloid news reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Woodsboro police deputy Dwight "Dewey" Riley (David Arquette) investigate and try to figure out the killer's identity - and if they killed Sid's mom the year before.Scream became a big success - and, in the process, gave new life to the genre it intended to kill in the first place.Scream and its sequels set themselves apart from other slashers. Instead of coming off just as straight-up horror films, they also served as dark, "meta"parodiesof the slasher genre. The killers all deliberately invoked slasher movie cliches while their targets tried to survive by attempting to guess which horror movie tropes the killers would invoke next — a move that 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, Scream served as a breath of fresh air.However, many (though certainly not all) of the horror films that copied its formula in the ensuing years didn't understand this. A good number of filmmakers instead felt that the Scream franchise's success came as a result of its casting (which featured stars from hit TV series like Party of Five, Friends and Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and its "hip" dialogue. As a result, the original film has suffered from Hype Backlash since its release, since its own various tricks and tropes became more commonplace in the horror genre.In addition to all the copycats, Scream spawned three sequels of its own. While fans don't remember them as fondly as the original, they all have their fans:
Scream 3, released in 2000, concluded the original trilogy and moved the action to Hollywood, where a work on a third Stab film has begun. This film — the only film in the series not written by Kevin Williamson — targeted trilogies (and their associated tropes) as well as the inner workings of the film industry. Fans generally treat this as the Black Sheep of the series, as it features weaker writing and less of the series' trademark humor.
Scream 4 (or Scre4m), released in 2011, brought the action back to Woodsboro as the surviving characters of the original trilogy dealt with the legacy of the events of those films. Scream 4 parodied the varioustrends in horror that cropped up in the decade between Scream 3 and Scream 4 — including, most specifically, the surge of remakes and reboots of classic horror franchises. While critics and fans gave it a decent reception, its disappointing box office returnsnote 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 - though it only cost about $40 million to make. may have short-circuited the film's attempt to restart the franchise with a new trilogy.
Tropers like us owe a substantial amount of our hobby to the film. Scream wholeheartedly lampshaded and deconstructed a large number of tropes — which made it one of the first major, mainstream films to do so since Airplane! — while it remained grounded in reality and exploring a whole new genre. The original film predates Buffy the Vampire Slayer by only a few months when it comes to having a story about sarcastic, Genre Savvy teenagers in a post-modernhorror setting.This series has a Character Sheet and a sypnopsis sheet.
What with Jill turning on him and killing him ("This isn't what we rehearsed..."), Charlie could almost qualify as well, except for the whole "rewarding his girlfriend for 'rescuing' him by stabbing her in the stomach and leaving her there" thing. Add to this said girlfriend being played by Hayden Panettiere and it's less Alas, Poor Villain and more Serves You Right, You Bastard. (See also Alison Brie fans after Rebecca's trip off the roof.)
Much like with the Roman example above, the final moments of Scream 4 have been seen as an attempt to cast Jill off in a tragic light, with a final shot of her face as the press are waiting to talk to her like she wanted.
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.
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.
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... some of whom she's related to in some way or another.
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.
Cycle of Revenge: The whole series to a degree. Roman wanted revenge on his biological mother, Rene Reynolds (Maureen Prescott), for abandoning him. He led Billy (who also had a grudge against her for causing his mother to abandon him) and Stu to rape and murder Maureen, frame Cotton Weary, and set up the events of the first movie. After Billy and Stu's plan ends with both of them dead, Billy's mother orchestrates the murder plot of the second movie as a means of avenging her son's death by killing Sidney. This fails as well. By the third movie, Roman's original plan to destroy not only his birth mother but the family she replaced him with as well (Sidney) has backfired spectacularly due to the fact that Sidney's constantly surviving the murder sprees has made her infamous, almost legendary, world-wide. Angered, he tries to finish what he started himself by killing Sidney, her friends and the main cast and crew behind the latest Stab movie, the cult horror franchise he inadvertently spawned. By the end of the third movie, Sidney and her friends have killed him too. For eleven years it looks like it is all over and the characters can move on with their lives... Until the fourth film comes around, in which we find out Jill Roberts, Sidney's own cousin, has plotted an EVEN MORE nefarious plot to not only get revenge on Sidney, but to claim her celebrity status as a Final Girl. And even though Jill dies and Sidney, Dewey and Gale still survive, it is made clear that this probably will never end. Yeesh.
Darker and Edgier: While being a horror series, and thus prone to being dark, Scream 4 is notable in being one of the most brutal. The deaths are more graphic and horrifying, especially Olivia's. Some of the characters aren't even killed instantly, but are left horribly wounded then either killed (Rebecca), or left to die slowly (Perkins, Robbie, Charlie, and potentially Kirby). Then there's the fight scene between Jill and Sidney at the hospital, which is just painful to watch.
Deadpan Snarker: Most of the characters often say witty snarky comments, but Ghostface seems to be the biggest one when he taunts the victims. Gale and Randy are no slouch at this, either.
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 15 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.
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.
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.
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.
Though it should be noted that it still takes a lot to killthem.
Meta Guy: Randy in the original trilogy, and Robbie and Charlie in the fourth film. See Genre Savvy.
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.
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.
The phrase "I'll be right back" is treated like this. Stu makes a point to say it multiple times, apparently jokingly. Considering he's one of the killers, though, he knows things the rest of the cast don't...
In the first film, 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. When one considers there were several instances where she could have a) defended herself with any of the numerous objects lying around the garage and/or b) curb-stomped Ghostface to within an inch of his/her life after managing to knock Ghostface down not once, but twice, it becomes this trope.
Officers Ross and Hoskins are another classic example... see Too Dumb to Live under Scre4m.
In the first movie, Ghostface told Casey to choose a door to escape the house through. Instead of taking the risk of Ghostface being behind the door she chose she could have taken a third option and gone out a window.
Troperiffic: Lampshadedly the whole point of the series, especially the first film.
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.
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.
Enforced Method Acting: Craven made 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.
Being Billy's motivation for the murders.
Everyone Is a Suspect: Randy makes a scene yelling out this exact phrase word-for-word in the video store.
Gale Weathers states that she thinks that Cotton Weary was framed for murdering Sidney's mother. Turns out she's right; Billy did it.
Randy thinks that Billy is the biggest contender for murderer in a video store.
Stu celebrates the closure of his school after the principal is murdered.
After the rules speech, Stu's mocking "I'll be right back!" and Randy's response "I'll see you in the kitchen, with a knife!" foreshadow that Stu is able to break Randy's rules for survival because he's a killer, and guess what he's holding in what room a short time later?
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.
Oh Crap: Randy's reaction after realizing that Sydney just handed the gun to one of the killers.
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.
Saw Star Wars 27 Times: Played for Drama - Casey angrily declares that she's seen Friday the 13th (1980) "20 goddamn 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.
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.
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.
Title Drop: Subverted. The original title of the movie was Scary Movie, and there are several lines that are clearly, knowing the context, meant to be Title Drops, but thanks to the changed name, they no longer are:
Casey: Oh, just some scary movie.
Ghostface: What's your favorite scary movie?
Gale: Several more local teens are dead, bringing to an end the harrowing mystery of the masked killings that has terrified this peaceful community like the plot of some scary movie.
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.
Two Dun It: Billy and Stu, as it happens. This is also true in later films but is less of a twist after this first film set the pattern.
Viewer Stock Phrases: "Look behind you!" is played with in the sequence where Randy watches Halloween (1978) 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 moviethey'rewatching. 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?
Wham Line: In the intro, the phone call starts off like a friendly chat between two strangers, until...
"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.
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.
This might have been an in-universe example of Creative Differences. Mickey wanted to create a Real Life sequel to the Woodsboro murders but Mrs. Loomis was only doing this to avenge her son's death.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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).
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 who they are) Roman Bridger, director... (uses the voice changer) and brother.
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.
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.
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.
"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).
This is played straight by Trevor, who is mentioned to have had sex with Jill (the killer!). This one is especially ironic, given that Trevor and Jill are Billy and Sidney expies, respectively, and Sidney survived having sex with Billy (also the killer) in the original.
Downer Ending: Yes, in the end, Jill and Charlie's plans are foiled. However, all the new characters, save for Judy (and arguably Kirby), 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.
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.
Executive Meddling: It apparently underwent a lot of this from the Weinsteins before its release, including most of the script changes. The DVD Commentary alludes to this on several occasions, particularly on noting that the movie was originally due to end with a "We got a heartbeat!" scene involving Kirby.
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.
"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 Macaulay 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 Lad-ette: 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?
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 there, either on the DVD or blu-ray? Well, if you don't have a multiregion player... or if you can't be bothered to import the French R2 release (which does have the commentary - and an English language track)...
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.
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. They're 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. Too bad she didn't need protection.
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.
The film also has several events (seen and/or referenced) that are ShoutOuts to previous films in the series. For example, Jenny's chase scene echoes both Sidney's first encounter with Ghostface in the original, and Tatum's death by garage door.
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 replacementturns 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:
Those Two Actors: This marks the third film Emma Roberts has made with Rory Culkin (after Lymelife and Twelve). And the second film where they become a couple - this is also the case in Lymelife, although her character doesn't kill his there.
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.
Another trailer shows Ghostface attacking Olivia from her closet. And you can throw in Kate's death having been spoiled as well.
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 other's 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.