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Copycat (1995) is an American psychological thriller, starring Sigourney Weaver, Holly Hunter, Dermot Mulroney and Harry Connick, Jr. The film was directed by Jon Amiel, with a score composed by Christopher Young.

San Francisco-based criminal profiler and psychologist Dr. Helen Hudson (Weaver) becomes entangled in the deadly mind game of a vicious copycat serial killer, Peter Foley (William McNamara). Due to the horrific attack Helen suffered in her past, she is now an agoraphobe confined to her apartment. The killer uses this against her in his murderous attempts to become a famous serial killer. Detectives M.J. Monahan (Hunter) and Reuben Goetz (Mulroney) have the challenge of trying to capture the killer before he kills again.


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Copycat contains examples of:

  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Nicoletti very matter-of-factly tells MJ "I love you" just before she leaves for the raid on Foley's house.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Foley looks and acts like a cute, quiet, unassuming lab tech—and is a psychopathic Serial Killer.
  • Bookends: The movie starts and finishes with Helen being attacked in a bathroom.
  • Break-In Threat/The Villain Knows Where You Live: How Foley begins terrorizing Helen. She comes out of the shower to find the suit she was wearing when she was attacked draped over the bed. The message is doubly frightening, as he's not only showing that he can get to her, he's telling her that he's going to finish the job that Cullum couldn't.
    • Another scene has her finding a dismembered finger under her mattress.
  • Broken Bird: Helen goes from a talented and popular psychologist to a nerve-wracked agoraphobe dependent on alcohol and anti-anxiety medications following a vicious attack.
  • Bury Your Gays: Helen's gay pal ends up as one of Foley's victims. Justified in-story because Foley sought him out while copying Jeffrey Dahmer's MO.
  • The Can Kicked Him: Two very long scenes take place in a large public bathroom. Traumatic is the word.
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  • Catapult Nightmare: After the prologue, Helen awakens from yet another dream about her attack in this manner.
  • Character Name Alias: Peter Foley uses the names of serial killers as his aliases.
  • Chekhov's Classroom: Helen gives a lecture on serial killers and at one point asks all the men in the audience to stand. Several of the men's faces are then projected on the screen behind her as she explains that white men of a certain age are more likely to be serial killers, and how they look just like everybody else. Naturally, the movie's villain (a serial killer himself) is one of the men projected on the screen.
    • This turns out to be just the first example of He Was Right There All Along found in this film. The serial killer in question can be found in pretty much every crowd scene in the movie, watching the cops try to find him.
    • The cops are perplexed by the killer's changing methods, until Helen and MJ recall this lecture in which Helen listed several different serial killers and they realize that the guy is following the order that Helen listed.
    • At the beginning of the movie, while at a shooting range, MJ is teaching Reuben on how to aim for a criminal's shoulder rather than his chest so as to disable but not kill him. Later in the film, she uses this very tactic on a criminal. . .who then uses his uninjured arm to pick up the gun and kill Reuben.
    • She learns her lesson at the very end of the film when she shoots the killer multiple times without hesitation.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Nicoletti removes his weapon while at his desk and fails to lock it. Within minutes, a gang member grabs it and takes Reuben hostage.
    • MJ dons a bulletproof vest for the raid on Foley's house. It saves her life when he shoots her later.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: A woman is seen jogging in a park... and is soon seen dead in her bathtub. Another woman is seen dancing at a festival... and is soon found dead on a hillside. And the movie's killer is visible in the audience as early as the prologue.
  • Consulting a Convicted Killer: Helen and M.J. consult with convicted serial killer Daryll Lee Callum - the same killer who had previously attempted to kill Helen - in order to gain insight into the copycat killer's mind. In the very end it turns out that his role in the events was much more prominent than that.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Nicoletti, a fellow detective who MJ either had a relationship or Unresolved Sexual Tension with, is continuously nasty to Reuben, assuming that the two are sleeping together, even telling him, "If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her..." at one point. After Reuben is killed, he tearfully admits that there were times that he even wished for this.
  • Crazy-Prepared: When replicating Cullum's attack on Helen, Foley installs a motion detector in the hallway to warn him of MJ's approach, outright saying that he doesn't want to make the mistake that Cullum did by not anticipating the second police officer.
  • Disposable Woman: It seems Reuben's sole reason for existing is to end up as MJ's Dead Partner. To make matters worse, he's not even killed by the murderer that they're hunting for to make it personal for her.
  • Distant Prologue: The lecture Helen is giving and the subsequent attack take place 13 months before the story proper.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Reuben gets killed by some random suspect that breaks out of his handcuffs and tries to shoot his way out of the police office about halfway into the film.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Daryll Lee Callum and Peter Foley are Ax-Crazy Serial Killers, but nonetheless charming towards their enemies and victims.
  • Fingore: Helen finds a dismembered finger under her mattress.
  • Foreshadowing: Look carefully during the opening sequence and you'll notice Peter Foley among the lecture attendees. Is he already obsessed with Helen?
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Daryll Lee Callum. Peter Foley, the actual copycat of the title, is a fan of Serial Killer Callum who is committing his killings in an attempt to impress the imprisoned Callum. In the end it is heavily implied that he might have consciously instigated Foley into killing Helen.
  • Gunman with Three Names: Daryll Lee Callum.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Foley disguises himself as a dead police officer, enabling him to elude detection by MJ even she's right next to him.
  • Hope Spot: M.J. manages to shoot the madman who's holding Rueben hostage in the hand, and he drops his gun. He then picks up the gun with his other hand and shoots Rueben dead.
  • Impersonating an Officer: How Foley gets into Helen's apartment and how he avoids detection by MJ.
  • It's Personal: Downplayed. While clearly devastated that her friend Andy has become one of the killer's victims, Helen's determination to catch the bastard isn't really ratcheted up in the typical way for this trope.
  • Jack the Ripoff: Peter Foley's M.O. is copying the crimes of famous serial killers.
  • Licking the Blade: Done by both antagonist killers, though it's less licking the blade and more running the spine of the knife over their outstretched tongue.
  • Likes Older Women: Despite them being respectively 5 and 16 years his senior, Reuben is clearly attracted to MJ and Helen.
  • Murderer P.O.V.: Several times—one of a woman jogging in a park, who ends up as a victim, another of a woman dancing at a festival, who also ends up dead, and one of Helen as she sits in her apartment.
  • Noodle Incident: Nicoletti and MJ either had a relationship or Unresolved Sexual Tension prior to the film's story, but no other details are given.
  • The Not-Love Interest: MJ and Reuben, even though Nicoletti clearly assumes otherwise, given his nasty attitude.
    • Though a comment that Reuben makes to Hudson implies that he is romantically interested in her, he just hasn't made his move yet.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Reuben looks a bit rumpled after a night guarding Hudson, and MJ assumes they slept together. Hudson corrects the misunderstanding after Reuben gets killed.
  • Off with His Head!: When Andy's body is found, he's been decapitated.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Near the beginning of the film, MJ is seen at a shooting range with Reuben, actually lecturing him on aiming for a criminal's shoulder rather than the torso. As stated in the trope's description, this would be extremely hard for even an experienced cop to do, and it's also completely the opposite of what's taught in the police academy. To make matters worse, she suggests that he do this so as not to kill the criminal (but still disable him so that he's no longer a danger to others)—when a shot to the shoulder is almost guaranteed to hit the brachial artery, which would be fatal within minutes. It comes back to bite her in the ass later in the film when she attempts to disable a suspect this way—and he's able to use his uninjured arm to pick up a gun and kill Reuben. She makes sure not to make this mistake at the end of the movie when she shoots the killer multiple times in the torso without hesitation.
    • MJ herself is shot in the shoulder by Foley, but survives.
  • Phone-In Detective: Hudson is an agoraphobic shut-in who never leaves her apartment.
  • Rewatch Bonus: If you watch Copycat all the way through, and then start the movie from the beginning and watch carefully a second time, you'll be amazed at how many times the serial killer in question is right there all along, watching the heroes try to find him.
  • Shoot the Hostage Taker: Played with. M.J. shows off the Chekhov's Skill early in the film: shoot the hostage taker in the right place on his shoulder, the nerves go haywire, and they automatically drop the gun. Later, it's foiled when he uses his uninjured hand to pick up the gun.
  • Shout-Out: Foley disguises himself as a dead/injured police officer to avoid detection, much like Hannibal Lecter did in Silence of the Lambs. Could he be so obsessed with serial killers that he'll even imitate fictional ones?
  • The Shut-In: Helen is agoraphobic thanks to her ordeal. It's so bad that she can't even flee the apartment for her own safety after Peter breaks in.
  • Survival Mantra: Helen recites the names of the presidents in chronological order to give herself the courage to set one foot outside her door to retrieve her newspaper. It fails miserably when she's trying to escape from the killer.
  • The End... Or Is It?: In the very final scene it is revealed that Darryl Lee Callum from his prison cell tries to manipulate another man into killing Helen. It is heavily implied that he communicated with Foley as well.
  • Themed Aliases: Peter Foley uses the names of lesser-known serial killers as aliases.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: Foley looks and acts like a cute, quiet, unassuming lab tech, a completely normal guy—and is a psychopathic Serial Killer.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The trailers make it appear that Daryll Lee Callum (Harry Connick, Jr.) is the Big Bad of the movie and the copycat of the title; its even him on the poster above. In reality, aside from the prologue, Callum spends the entire movie in prison. He is the Greater-Scope Villain, though, since it turns out Foley is one of his fans. One gets the impression that they were trying to evoke Silence of the Lambs (or more likely, Red Dragon) with Callum as a Lecter-like figure.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: MJ and Nicoletti either had this or a prior relationship, and Reuben and Helen only get to flirt before he's killed.
  • Villainous Legacy: Daryll Lee Callum is this. Peter Foley, the actual copycat of the title, is a fan of serial killer Callum who is committing his killings in an attempt to impress the imprisoned Callum.
  • Wham Shot: Foley bids goodnight to his nagging, bedridden wife, heads downstairs to the basement, whistling cheerfully all the way—-and we see that he has tied to a table the young woman we saw dancing at a festival, thus revealing him to be the killer the cops are hunting for.
  • Working with the Ex: MJ and a fellow cop either had a relationship or Unresolved Sexual Tension prior to the film's story, as evidenced by his jealousy over her and Reuben and her rebuffing his advances.

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