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Scream Discretion Shot
Another of the Discretion Shot siblings, the Scream Discretion Shot is when something horrible and/or unspeakably painful is done to a character (whose significance to the viewer varies but is important at some level to the heroes or the plot), but the viewer doesn't get a direct view of the horror (such as Cold-Blooded Torture, Rape as Drama or Cruel and Unusual Death) visited on them. The viewer gets visuals of other things, such as a villain's sinister grin or other expression of delight in what's going down or the hero or other sympathetic character looking on in horror, accompanied by the audio cue that lets us know it's something terrible — a protracted scream that goes on for several seconds.

Additionally, it's not always horror in the classic blood and gore sense. Sometimes it's a horror that exists in the mind of one person, and the scream is their reaction to perceived or imagined situations or consequences. But don't confuse it with Distant Reaction Shot.

In Comedy, it is often parodied with strange items flying at the onlookers and odd noises. Chainsaw sounds are especially popular. That Poor Cat is related to this.

A subtrope of Sound-Only Death and The Scream.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime 
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, we have these starting from the very second episode. Typically Shinji Ikari, the protagonist, screams at some Nightmare Fuel he has just witnessed, as the camera pans away or the screen blacks out. When his screams are due to "physical" injury, however, this trope is averted.
  • In the first episode of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, after joining an after-school club that formerly consisted of four girls, Keiichi loses a game where the stakes were that the winner could do whatever they wanted to the loser. As a result, three of the club members grab him and hold him still while the winner Mion approaches, slowly and mock-sinisterly, while holding a marker. The scene changes to outside of the school and we hear Keiichi scream. In the next scene, we see that Mion drew black circles around his eyes and nose, as well as whiskers on his cheeks. In the last episode of the first chapter, something similar happens, but it isn't played for laughs. Mion and her friend Rena are in Keiichi's bedroom, and Rena is holding Keiichi still again. Mion approaches sinisterly while holding what Keiichi suspects is a hypodermic syringe filled with a drug that causes suicidal insanity. One Scream Discretion Shot later, Keiichi realizes he's just beaten two people to death with a baseball bat and he has no idea why.
    • It gets worse when in Tsumihoroboshi-hen, we discover that Keiichi has been hallucinating all along, and the syringe was a marker.
    • Towards the end of the last episode of Yakusamashi-hen (the anime-only arc at the start of Kai), Ooishi visits Satoko in the hospital, and talks at length about the Hinamizawa disaster, and eventually hands over Rena's hat, covered in blood. Then we're treated to a flashback, where we see Rena running through the mountains. When she is inevitably cornered by several men with knives, we see a final look of fear on her face, and then we cut to her blood-stained hat falling down towards the river while she gives off a blood-curdling scream.
  • In Fushigi Yuugi, when Miaka is shown Yui being supposedly raped through a magic mirror, all we see is Miaka, Tamahome and Chichiri's horrified reactions as Yui screams for Miaka.
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Kamina's fatal injuries are portrayed in this way. It's a Tear Jerker, especially when his adoptive brother sets off a VOLCANO with his anguish. That's hardcore.
  • Axis Powers Hetalia has this when Japan stabs China In the Back.
    • Don't forget his "private lesson" with Greece, which doubles as Sexy Discretion Shot.
    • On a different note, America screams when Russia's scarf starts to strangle him.
  • In Naruto's Three-Tails arc, after Hinata realizes that her attack against Nurari was ineffective, Nurari counterattacks, and the scene pans upward as only her screams are heard, and she is next shown seriously injured.
    • In addition, this is used twice in Itachi and Sasuke's final battle, the first of which during a flashback of Madara taking his brother Izuna's eyes, and the second being when Sasuke gets his eye ripped out by Itachi. It was All Just a Genjutsu though.
  • Black Lagoon has this, most noticeably in the vampire twins story arc.
  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga, only shadows are shown when Dark Marik skins his father alive.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima! has a comedic one here, when Asuna goes after Negi during the aftermath of a Forceful Kiss incident.
  • Allen Walker from D.Gray-Man fits this trope when Road messes with his mind before stabbing him in the left eye with a really sharp-ended candle. Instead of showing the real action, we see Road laughing with a huge speech bubble of Allen screaming his head off. Luckily, it's toned down in the anime, where Road commands a candle to shoot straight at Allen's eye. Still, we see a bunch of floating toys while we listen to poor Allen screaming.
  • Partial case in Code Geass, with the Emperor giving Lelouch his Fake Memories.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS there is a scene where you only see the gloating of the big bad and then one of his minions cringing while the screams of the victim resound. To make it more terrifying, the victim is Vivio, a five year old girl.
    • Hardly the first time Nanoha had this. In the very first season, the really cruel scene where Evil Matriarch Precia Testarossa viciously whips her (nine year-old) daughter Fate for failing a mission takes place almost entirely offscreen. In the Compilation Movie, it takes place entirely offscreen, so we only hear the whip and Fate's screams. To make matters worse, we are given to watch Fate's familiar Arf sitting outside, jerking painfully with every scream — and it's not their magical bond that makes her feel Fate's pain.
  • In Noir, Silvana aka Intoccabile has a treacherous underling's wife and baby daughter executed in a neighboring room, so we only hear their screams, shots, and the poor guy's face at that moment. While this was allegedly done to avoid offending the network censors, the end result was much more horrifying than any graphic death they could give them.
  • Oto x Maho, where Jou, off-panel, after refusing to give Kanata what he wants, screams "Ahhh! Don't make my arm turn 360 degrees! Gyaaaaaaaaah!"
  • This is how a monster in Devil & Devil is introduced : It sneaks behind a young woman who's about to go back home, then attacks her and regresses her into an infant as we hear her scream (Well, not really "hear", since it's a manga) and see a close-up of the monster's eye. It is properly seen some time later as it regresses a young girl into another baby, on-screen this time.
  • The flashback to Czeslaw Meyer being tortured in the Baccano! anime uses this trope.
  • In Dragon Ball Z when Piccolo finishes off Raditz after mortally wounding him, all we see is Piccolo thrusting his hand towards his head and it cuts away as he screams.

    Comic Books 
  • Though we don't get it as it is happening, in Sin City, we see Marv get caught near the farmhouse where Kevin, the farm boy cannibal who murdered Goldie lives, and thrown into a dungeon with Lucille, his parole officer, who already lost her right hand to Kevin, and the stump sewn shut. We leave the scene on a bloodcurdling scream from poor Lucille: "HE MADE ME WATCH!"

    Film 
  • Star Wars
    • A New Hope: Darth Vader and a torture droid enter Leia's cell, and then the door slams shut, and the camera follows a guard walking past.
    • The Empire Strikes Back: When Han is being tortured, we can still see him when it just starts - resisting. Then flinching, then trembling and gasping in pain, and then, just before he loses control, it cuts to the passageway, where Lando Calrissian and Boba Fett can now hear him screaming through the walls.
  • The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension: When Lizardo puts a lectroid taser at Buckaroo's crotch, the shot pulls back to Buckaroo's wide eyes and his screaming mouth.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street does this with the rape of Lucy Barker at the climax of the "Poor Thing" scene, not showing us anything beyond Judge Turpin descending upon her with the big cloak, showing us instead the nightmarish image of the masked crowd surrounding them and laughing at her, as well as the Beadle's sinisterly grinning face. We do get to hear Lucy's screams as the flashback/musical number concludes, as well as Sweeney's Big "NO!" when the scene snaps back to the present.
  • The Apocalyptic Log on Miranda from Serenity ends with the speaker trying to shoot herself before the Reavers get her. She's not quick enough. We don't see what happens next—but the Serenity crew does.
  • In Jurassic Park, when Dennis dies in the Jeep, the camera pans toward the ground as the Jeep is shaking wildly and he's screaming.
  • Serves as a crucial moment in the film Mr. Frost, starring Jeff Goldblum. A psychiatrist treating a patient/Serial Killer (Goldblum) who claims to be Satan is approached by a former police officer who apparently believes the same. He gives her a video that the killer gave to him — a "home movie" he shot of his crimes. She watches the video, but we never see it. Instead, we hear screams in the background as her face contorts in horror.
  • In Reservoir Dogs the camera "looks away" as Mr Blonde hacks off Marvin's ear. Quicky subverted though, as the camera cuts right back to show the after effects.
  • Used for comedic effect in The Birdcage when Albert walks into the apartment which has been emptied in his presence.
  • Alien features this at the death of Lambert. The camera cuts away from the Alien doing horrible things, to Ripley who reacts to Lambert's lingering death scream.
    • There's another death wherein the camera cuts away from the death to the cat, who is curled up cringing in fear but unable to look away from the horror.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark has a comedic example on the ship out of Egypt. Marion rotates a mirror — banging Indy in the face. Hard. Cut to a shot of the ship from the outside with Indy's scream audible.
    Marion: What'd you say?
  • Madison's death in My Super Psycho Sweet 16.
  • The famous scene from Ferris Buellers Day Off when Cameron finds out that the valet stole his dad's car.
    • The scene would be parodied on Family Guy with Brian being the one who screams.
  • The Blob in it's original 1958 version. Admittedly this was because technology was limited at the time, so it couldn't show too much skin corrosive gore without, y'know, actually torturing the actors with acid. Where as it's 1988 remake left nothing to the imagination. But surprisingly enough, it actually works for the 1958 version in hindsight, because the viewer never seeing the blog eat it's victims, makes it feel alot more unknown and sinister. I.e. is it quick, is it painful? You don't know.
  • A particularly frightening example occurs in the notorious 1977 public information film Apaches, when Sharon wakes up screaming and crying in pain and calling for her mother in the middle of the night as the effects of the weed killer she accidentally swallowed earlier that day, which would end up killing her, kick in. The only thing the viewer sees during that scene is the outside of her house as the lights turn on. This particular scene is one of the film's most nightmarish moments.

    Literature 
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Bellatrix throws Harry and Ron in the dungeon while she personally tortures Hermione. All the boys can hear are her screams. But before this, there is a strong hint that Greyback will get Hermione when Bellatrix finishes with her. Try not to think about what this sounds like.
    • His favorite targets WERE children.
    • And during the entire scene, Ron is about to go berserk which shows just how much he cares for her.
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel First & Only, Ghosts infiltrating the Patricians' quarters learn that Rawne is being tortured by his screams.
  • Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart has a scene where Phèdre is drugged and then tortured by Melisande Shahrizai. It's described by Phèdre as not being rape because Melisande would have heeded the signale. We only hear Phèdre's very short and non-explicit summary of it, which is bad enough.
  • Used at the end of the first scene of the Conan story "A Witch Shall Be Born," when Queen Taramis's Evil Twin Salome, before throwing the queen into the dungeons and taking her place, hands her over to her Dragon, Constantius, to be raped. Here, the audience is shown Salome's expression of sadistic delight as she leaves the scene.
    Constantius smiled with a glint of strong white teeth under his thin mustache. "Very good; but you would not deny me a little—ah—amusement first?"
    "Not I! Tame the scornful hussy as you will." With a wicked laugh Salome flung her sister into the Kothian's arms, and turned away through the door that opened into the outer corridor.
    Fright widened Taramis's lovely eyes, her supple figure rigid and straining against Constantius's embrace. She forgot the men marching in the streets, forgot the outrage to her queenship, in the face of the menace to her womanhood. She forgot all sensations but terror and shame as she faced the complete cynicism of Constantius's burning, mocking eyes, felt his hard arms crushing her writhing body.
    Salome, hurrying along the corridor outside, smiled spitefully as a scream of despair and poignant agony rang shuddering through the palace.
  • In the third book of A Song of Ice and Fire, this is played completely straight when Jaime Lannister's hand is cut off. You "see" the knife flashing through the air, and the chapter ends with his scream.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Anointed One's death.
  • In Heroes when Sylar kills someone for their powers he opens their heads, but we almost never see this, instead the camera shows us Sylar and we hear the victim scream.
  • Subverted in the Babylon 5 episode "Falling Toward Apotheosis". G'Kar has been stubbornly refusing to give Cartagia the satisfaction of hearing him scream; the episode ends with Cartagia ordering a guard to pluck out one of G'Kar's eyes, followed by a long silent view of G'Kar's cell door.
  • Done twice in I, Claudius. First with Caligula's attempted abortion on his sister's baby where we only see a bit of blood around Caligula's face when he leaves the room and Claudius' reaction to what he sees. And then when Macro orders the rape of Sejanus' daughter, which we never see but only hear her scream. These were cut for American audiences.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Resistance", the audience never sees the bad guys torturing Tuvok, but Torres realises she should be more worried about him after she hears his screams through the cell walls.
  • This is done a lot on Supernatural.
  • Season 5 of Dexter introduces Lumen, who spent some time being raped and tortured by 5 men. They were also responsible for the rape, torture, and murder of at least 11 other women. In one episode it's revealed one of the men made DVDs of it. Mercifully virtually nothing is shown, but you can hear the victims screams just fine. Played with in that all of them, especially Lumen's, are terrifying.
  • In a season 2 episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, after Hilary spends way too much after spending way too long without a job, Philip demands her credit cards. She hands them over, and he snaps them in half. The camera then cuts to a scene outside the house — and Hilary's piercing scream is heard.
  • In an episode of BBC's Jekyll, Tom Jackman wakes up in an almost totally empty apartment shortly after his son was nearly fed to the lions, only to discover Christopher (the mook that put said son in the lion's den) is in the next room, all tied up. After a couple of questions from Tom to Christopher, Hyde "calls" Tom, convincing him to set an example to their enemies by basically unleashing Hyde on Christopher. The phone is hanging on its chord, all we see is Jackman's/Hyde's back, Christopher begins to ask nervous questions... then Hyde turns around, grins widely while the camera focuses on his eyes, and Christopher screams. Cut to Hyde walking in a hospital with a very deformed and bloody bundle.
  • Justified in that the action takes place entirely in one shot, and the characters are all silhouettes: in one episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, when a Shadow Archetype that Crow accidentally let on board the Satellite sneaks into the theater and bothers Tom Servo, he gets increasingly annoyed and attacks the creature. A few moments later, judging by speculative commentary, Tom is clearly losing the fight and we hear his muffled sobs and screams for help coming from under the seats. The next thing we know, he's encased in a pseudopod on the bridge.
  • Done at the climax of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "Never Again", when the protagonist discovers that she killed her boyfriend during an alcoholic blackout.
  • Doctor Who: When the Cybermen are created and when they "upgrade people", which involves Unwilling Roboticisation.
  • Subverted in Helix. When Dr. Peter Farragut, a research scientist infected with The Virus, breaks into a lab full of his fellow researchers to attack them, the viewer only sees what seems to be a sudden blood spatter on the glass of the lab door, accompanied by a woman's scream. But the subsequent episode's opening scene shows no one is wounded, and reveals Peter's Bad Black Barf as the method of viral transmission.

    Manhua 

    Theatre 
  • The ballet Fall River Legend has a famous version of this, in which the Accused (Lizzie Borden), just about to hack her father and stepmother to death, mimes an agonized, protracted scream. Cut to Dream Ballet.

    Video Games 
  • In the latest TombRaider reboot, when Lara Croft has to cauterize a deep torso wound using a red-hot arrowhead.
  • Eversion: Why this happens in the good ending as well as the bad one is anyone's guess...
  • Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII does this once, the main difference being that Vincent's screams are a reaction to past torture; the player only sees his reaction to what's already been done to him.
  • Averted in Heavy Rain: As Ethan cuts off his finger, the camera stays focused on him, even as he's screaming in agony.
    • And on Madison, should she be killed by any of the various means which do her in. Played Straight if Jayden is dumped into the car crusher.
  • THAT scene in the Keterburg hotel in Tales of the Abyss.
  • In Tekken Tag Tournament 2, both Paul Phoenix and Feng Wei's endings end this way.
    • In Paul's ending, after Paul beats the crap out of a large bear cub that was attacking him and the Laws, an even bigger bear shows up and prepars to beat them up. Cue black screen and Paul and the Laws screaming.
    • In Feng's ending, we see him training in his dojo, when Asuka shows up. She challenges him to get her own dojo's sign back, but Feng easily dodges all of her attacks without dropping the sake cups he was holding, though Asuka does eventually manage to break them. Cut to her about to leave with her sign, when she bumps into a pissed-off Feng who's slowly approaching towards her. The scene ends with poor Asuka screaming as Feng is about to attack her.
  • "Handcuffs? Why, we hardly know each other...Wait...what are you doing? No! Please! ''AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!''"
  • In one death scene of Brain Dead 13, at the sound of a gong, Lance looks up and becomes shocked as Fritz pounces on him and they both go offscreen. Fritz's arm is then raised up onscreen before it turns on the egg beater, and Lance's scream is heard before Fritz's arm goes back offscreen. The scream is still heard as bits of Lance's hair fly up before fluttering back down. When all of the screaming is done, Lance gets back up heavily damaged and battered, his shirt ripped up, and going bald in black eyes, lasting for a few seconds before Fritz's hook pulls him back down offscreen to finish the job.
  • In BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, Relius Clover's Astral Finish has him restraining the enemy in several different ways inside his laboratory, so he can subject them to his experiments. Then the doors of said lab close, and we hear the victim scream...

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender : In addition to an inverted Shadow Discretion Shot, the audience also gets to hear an agonized scream of pain from Zuko at the tragic ending of the Agni Kai against his father in "The Storm".
  • Ben 10: Alien Force: A prisoner gets forced into the ranks of the bad guys. We get a shot of the toothy squirmy thing about to be applied to him; then the shot changes to the closed door of the room he's in, and we hear him screaming.
  • The 1990s Spider-Man had a big moment in the "Mutagenic Nightmare" storyline as a Scream Discretion Shot done one second too late. We actually see Peter Parker abruptly (but bloodlessly) sprout four additional arms. Then the shot pulls back to the house and we hear not one, but two BigNos.
  • Lemongrab gets one in the Adventure Time episode "Too Young", after Princess Bubblegum fires him and calls him a butt.
  • Justice League Unlimited: At the end of the episode "For the Man Who Has Everything," Mongul's mind gets trapped in the Black Mercy plant, which lets him dream of his heart's desire. As Wonder Woman wonders what he's dreaming about, the camera zooms in on his smiling face — to the sounds of horrific screaming.
    • Another one from JLU was when Lex Luthor tried to resurrect Brainiac. He did this by hooking Tala up to a machine that sucked the life out of her, which given the timbre and volume of her scream, was exceedingly painful. Bruce Timm has stated in several interviews that Juliet Landau (Tala's voice actress) literally scared him with her performance.
    • In Superman's nightmare during "Only a Dream", Lois' death takes place this way. The audience hears her scream, but the focus is on Superman's face, Eye Beams shooting out. It's subverted when he accidentally crushes Jimmy in the next portion of the nightmare.
    • Also from the DCAU, Lois Lane has quite the reaction to find that that something (a giant chimpanzee) had totalled her apartment. Done for laughs.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog: In "The Magic Tree of Nowhere", Courage climbs into a hornets' nest. The camera pans left, showing a picturesque sunset and a remarkable specimen of butterfly flying past, as the sounds of chirping birds and a loud, agony-filled scream are heard.
  • Happened a couple of times in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, usually to Baxter Stockman or Hun, after they failed the Shredder again.
  • Invader Zim pulls this a few times, such as when Zim decides to test which one of the schoolchildren is most suited to be his friend. To do so, he measures their absorbency, electrical conductivity, and then holds up a beaver and a toy taxi while smirking ominously. Cue the camera shifting over to the clock and the horrified screaming.
  • Played for Laughs on Jimmy Two-Shoes, where Beezy and Heloise have one thanks to an Accidental Kiss.
  • Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers: Scarecrow attacks a local sheriff and deputy. After the entity grabs both of them, the scene cuts to their patrol car, and all you hear is the Scarecrow laughing and the poor bastards screaming. They're never seen again onscreen, and Goose states they were "found" on the side of the highway the next morning.
  • Rugrats: "That's okay, Uncle Stu. I'm not hungry anymore."
    • What about when Stu and Chaz encounter a skunk?
  • Played for Laughs in Lilo & Stitch. Pleakly gets attacked by a giant swarm of mosquitoes. When he finally figures out what is going on, the camera cuts away just in time to hear a yell loud enough to be heard across the island. When shown again, everything except his eyeball is covered in bandages.
  • The Powerpuff Girls The girls and Bellum turn the tables on Sedusa. We get a shot of Sedusa begging for forgiveness as Bellum brandishes the scissors. Then we get a silhouette of them all, and the shot pulls away to the night sky, with Sedusa's screaming ringing out.
  • Subverted in Transformers Prime, when Starscream offs the last of his clones. There is a scream, but since Starscream feels the pain of his clones, it's almost immediately followed by him complaining "that hurt!"
    • Used more straightforwardly with the death of Breakdown. Airachnid moves in for the kill and we cut to a shot of some Disturbed Doves as Breakdown screams.
  • Played straight in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, during the Citadel arc. A clone is literally cut in half by a slamming door. Another door slams in front of him right before his gruesome death.
  • Used in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated when Professor Pericles kills Ed Machine to "deliver a message" to his former companion Mr. E. Yes, Scooby-Doo played it straight.
  • In the Sponge Bob Square Pants episode "Clams", SpongeBob accidentally rips off Squidward's nose with his fishing hook. It cuts to a far shot of the ocean with the boat in the middle of it while we hear Squid's scream. It's obviously Played for Laughs.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic plays this for laughs in "Pinkie Apple Pie". The Apple family's raft is about to go though a cave which Granny Smith thinks is not the scariest cave in Equestria. Turns out it was, but as the raft goes though the cave, we only see the outside of the cave, and hear the Apple family's screams of terror. We never get to see what made the cave so scary, outside of a brief glimpse at a picture Pinkie took of some of the monsters in the cave.
  • Played for laughs in the Gravity Falls episode "Dipper vs. Manliness". The first test of manliness the manotaurs offer Dipper is to put his fist in "the Pain Hole". Dipper works up the nerve to do so, and doesn't see what the big deal is at first. Cue Smash Cut to another part of the forest as Dipper screams in pain.

    Real Life 
  • The Real Life documentary Nine Eleven, which contains the only footage from inside the World Trade Center before they collapsed: When Jules enters the lobby a woman was screaming, on fire.
    Jules Naudet: There was a person that was on fire just out of shot, and I decided that I didn't want to film that. I said, "No one should see this".


Title ScreamScreaming TropesScreamer Trailer
Relax-o-VisionDiscretion ShotSexy Discretion Shot
Sexy Discretion ShotThis Index Happened Off ScreenShadow Discretion Shot
Runaway TrainFilm TropesScreamer Trailer
Round Table ShotCamera TricksScreen Shake
Room 101A Tortured IndexShake Someone, Objects Fall

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