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Film / Scream

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"What's your favorite scary movie?"

In the mid-1990s, 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 the ultimate slasher movie, Scream. Upon its release in 1996, the film was a massive (and unexpected) hit, becoming the single highest-grossing slasher of all time until Halloween (2018)note , and its success also turned the film into the first of a successful franchise currently consisting of six films and two TV series.

The Scream films had an ingenious means of setting themselves apart from other slashers of the time; instead of playing themselves as straight-up horror films, they serve as darkly comic, postmodern "meta" parodies of the slasher genre. The killers all deliberately invoked slasher movie clichés 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. The series was awash in Conversational Troping, as twenty years' worth of horror movie tropes got name-dropped, mocked, and then invoked anyway. To a generation that had grown up viewing slasher films as trite and cliched following the genre's burnout at the end of The '80s, Scream served as a breath of fresh air.

However, many 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.

Scream wholeheartedly lampshaded and deconstructed a large number of tropes — one of the first major mainstream films to do so since Airplane! — while also remaining grounded in reality and exploring a whole new genre. The original film predates Buffy by only a few months when it comes to having a story about sarcastic, Genre Savvy teenagers in a postmodern horror setting.

A notable trait of Scream is that it is not a Villain-Based Franchise; the villain, Ghostface, is an anonymous identity that is taken by various people throughout the series, although they use the same brand of voice changer, providing the illusion of a single person (voice-acted by Roger L. Jackson). By contrast, it has a consistent trinity of heroes who appeared in the first five films: Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), and Dwight "Dewey" Riley (David Arquette).

The series is also famous for turning the iconic "Ghost Face" mask into a perennial Halloween staple. Contrary to popular belief, however, the mask didn't originate in the series: the design was developed by costume company Fun World several years before the first film was released, and the studio had to get special permission from the company to use their mask (which is trademarked). Thanks to the film's success, however, its sales skyrocketed, and it's still worn by thousands of trick-or-treaters around the world every Halloween.

The Scream series comprises six films:

A seventh film is in development, with Christopher Landon (Freaky, Happy Death Day) set to direct.

When the fourth film failed to launch a new trilogy, Scream went the way of many movie franchises and spawned a pair of television series in the latter half of the 2010s.

  • Scream: The TV Series debuted in 2015 on MTV. A reboot completely unrelated to the films with all new characters, it was headed by Show Runner Jill Blotevogel (Harper's Island and Ravenswood) and notably did not use the iconic Ghostface mask due to copyright issues. The series ran for two seasons before being retooled into:
  • Scream: Resurrection debuted in 2019 on VH1 with a completely different cast and plot, executive-produced by Queen Latifah. Unlike its predecessor, it brought back the original mask, as well as Roger L. Jackson as the voice of Ghostface. It only lasted for a single season, following a invoked long scheduling delay because of the franchise's connection to disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein and the transformation of his company into Lantern Entertainment.

In addition to the films and television series, Ghostface has also appeared in:

  • A pair of novels written by R.J. Torbert of Fun World, the company that owns the rights to the Ghostface name and likeness (so while both books feature Ghostface, neither contains characters or elements from the Scream films). The first novel, The Face of Fear, was released in 2013, while the second, No Mercy, was released in 2016.
  • Dead by Daylight. In 2019, Ghostface joined the roster of killers as Downloadable Content. While it's an original character, rather than one from the movies, due to the developers only having the license for the mask, his style of play was based on how Ghostface operates in the movies.

The Scream franchise provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Girl: Sidney, being a long-running Final Girl, has her moments.
  • Anyone Can Die: Any character featured in the first ten minutes, regardless of the actor in the role, will likely die. By the fifth film, this expectation was so ingrained in the franchise that it was used for a fake-out by having the "opening victim" live. With other characters, however, this trope is averted — Sidney and Gale have survived all six movies (though Sidney is Put on a Bus for the sixth), and Dewey made it through four.
  • Asshole Victim: Mostly averted, as most of the cast in any given film are generally likable and even the ones who are jerks either have a good side or otherwise don’t deserve the deaths they receive. However, being a horror film franchise, there are some straight examples: Steven Stone and John Milton in Scream 3, Rebecca Walters and Charlie Walker in Scream 4, Vince Schneider in Scream 5, and Jason Carvey and Greg Bruckner in Scream VI.
  • Audible Sharpness: It's basically an unwritten rule at this point; every time a knife is pulled out to be used, a very distinct sound is used. Used to gratuitous levels in the death scenes.
  • Better than a Bare Bulb: These movies love to lampshade horror tropes. It's practically the franchise's signature trope.
  • Big Bad: Ghostface is the identity adopted 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, taller than most victims, prowls without being detected, and often vanishes from the targets' sight before taking them by surprise almost immediately thereafter.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: All but the third and sixth movies have two people alternating as Ghostface, though usually, one of them has a more personal motive for the killings and is in a clearly dominant position over the other, who they often betray. Billy, Mrs. Loomis, and Jill are the driving forces behind the plots in their respective films, while Stu, Mickey, and Charlie were somehow talked into being their respective accomplices. Richie and Amber in the fifth film are a more even pair; while Amber tries to claim that she was manipulated, this is heavily implied to be her desperate attempt to bargain with the protagonists and brush aside her own culpability.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Kirsch/Bailey family, consisting of four murderers. There’s Richie Kirsch, who alongside Amber Freeman committed a killing spree that left six people dead. Then, a year later, Richie’s father Wayne and siblings Quinn and Ethan commit another one to avenge Richie’s death.
  • Bittersweet Ending: All the films seem to end on this note. Ghostface is 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. And of course, there's always the looming threat of the next copycat murderer...
  • Blame the Paramour: Both Billy Loomis and his mother blame Sydney's mother Maureen for having an affair with Billy's father which resulted in him and Mrs. Loomis getting a divorce. Neither of them acknowledges Mr. Loomis's part in the affair.
  • 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 Loomis, Roman Bridger, Trevor Sheldon, Liv McKenzie, Amber Freeman, and Quinn Bailey. 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, Charlie and Trevor in the fourth, and Tara in the fifth.
  • 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?
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Two Gender-Inverted examples:
    • In Scream 2, there is Sidney, who is still trying to get over the events of the last movie plus her mother’s death from three years ago and her Nice Guy boyfriend Derek, who acts as a calm and supportive Understanding Boyfriend.
    • In Scream VI, there is Sam, who is dealing with a lot with issues like psychological problems, being disowned by her mother, being falsely accused of being behind the murders of the last movie and having to live with the fact that her biological father is a serial killer and Danny who (similar to Derek) acts as an supportive secondary character to our main heroes and Understanding Boyfriend towards her.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Imagine hearing about two Ax-Crazy horror fanatics who killed six people in their home town. Now imagine hearing that a plucky high school girl took those two psychos down and killed them by herself. Would you decide to mess with that girl? Well, two people did. Granted, one of those people was a batshit on the rise active serial killer, and the other was the mother of one of the original killers who wanted revenge. But, guess what, she killed those two people too. Would you mess with a two-time Action Survivor? Someone did that too. Okay, it was her long-lost evil brother, who's also crazy. She killed that guy too. So now she's a three-time massacre-surviving Action Girl who's become a living legend and killed five dangerous people. Surely no one is stupid enough to do this shit again and pull her into this, right? Wrong. Her own cousin and some film nerd who couldn't get a girlfriend thought they'd succeed where so many others failed. They didn't, and now they're dead. So that's a four-time mini-massacre survivor who's killed several dangerous people. Twenty-five years have passed, and two whole generations of horror fans have grown up on stories of her triumphs. None of them would be stupid enough to try this again... right? They did, and they did worse than anyone else. Seriously, why would anyone try to fuck with Sidney Prescott? It's like watching a tiger maul every poacher who comes near it and thinking "Yeah, now it's my turn!"
  • 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...until the fifth.
    • Sidney as well, when you consider that she's 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.
    • Chad seems to have taken up the mantle from Dewey: he gets stabbed over half a dozen times in both the fifth and sixth films but nevertheless survives in both instances.
  • Catchphrase:
    • "Hello, Sidney..."
    • "Do you like scary movies?"
    • One of Randy's rules for surviving horror movies that isn't related to sex, booze, or drugs is never saying the classic catchphrase "I'll be right back", because you won't be back.
  • Cheap Costume: The fact that the Iconic Outfit of Ghostface is a cheap, mass-produced "Father Death" Halloween costume in-universe is actually a plot point. Namely, it shows that, unlike Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, Ghostface is an ordinary person beneath the mask and also that Everyone Is a Suspect. The opening scene of the second installment is even set in a theater full of people in Ghostface costumes, with the killer hiding among them.
  • Conversational Troping: All over the place.
  • Covers Always Lie: The official poster above emphasizes Drew Barrymore as if she's the lead (she dies in the first scene). Skeet Ulrich has no goatee in the movie, and doesn't wear a leather jacket, while Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox have their hairstyles from Scream 2.
  • Celebrity Paradox: As to be expected from a series that focuses so heavily on film culture, the fact that the cast is full of big-name actors is lampshaded by saying that (at least in Carrie Fisher's case) the real-life actors do exist, and the characters in the film just happen to look exactly like them.
  • Characters Dropping Like Flies: Satire aside, the franchise is still slasher at heart. Sidney, Gale, and Dewey are the only consistent characters of the series, which is surprisingly generous, considering slashers generally only leave one woman (or rarely, man) standing.
  • Crapsack World: It’s guaranteed that every few years a copycat killer will terrorize Sidney, Gale, Woodsboro, or usually all three.
    Samantha Carpenter: Every decade or so, some idiot gets the bright idea to put on the mask, kill his friends, and get famous too!
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Director Wes Craven has brief cameos in all the films that he was alive to see. 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. He would've 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.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: So much that it has its own page
  • Crossover: Ghostface is now a Dead by Daylight killer.
  • Cycle of Revenge: The whole series, to a degree.
    • To start with, Roman wanted revenge on his biological mother, Rina Reynolds (real name Maureen Prescott), for abandoning him. He led Billy (who also had a grudge against Maureen for breaking up his parents' marriage) and Stu to murder Maureen and frame Cotton Weary, setting up the events of the first movie.
    • After Billy and Stu's plan ended with both of them dead, Billy's mother orchestrated the murder plot of the second movie as a means of killing Sidney and avenging her son's death. This fails as well.
    • By the third movie, Roman's original plan to get revenge on not only his birth mother, but the family she replaced him with (i.e. Sidney), has backfired spectacularly, because Sidney's constantly surviving the murder sprees has made her infamous, almost legendary, worldwide. 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 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 her own nefarious plot to not only get revenge on Sidney, but to claim her celebrity status as a Final Girl. Even though Jill dies and Sidney, Dewey, and Gale still survive, it is made clear that this probably will never end. Yeesh.
    • Eleven years after that, Richie and Amber, two disgruntled fans of the Stab franchise, start up another round of Ghostface killings simply because they think that it'll fix all the sins of the latest entry in the series. Their motive is the least connected out of any so far to Roman's revenge, but that only goes to show that the cycle may never truly end, no matter how far it strays from its origins.
    • Another year later, Wayne Bailey and his children Quinn and Ethan go on a killing spree and intend to frame Sam for the new murders. This time, it is a revenge plan mostly geared towards Sam because she killed Richie, the eldest son of the Bailey family and they want to “prove” that Sam is the real killer.
  • Damsel Fight-and-Flight Response: A staple of the series. Ghostface is regularly knocked down by the female victims he is chasing, but they never capitalize on it and he almost always ends up catching/killing them.
  • Damsel out of Distress: Sidney laughs at the Distressed Damsel trope!
  • Darker and Edgier: While being a horror series, and thus naturally prone to being dark, Scream 4 is notable for 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). Then there's the fight scene between Jill and Sidney at the hospital, which is just painful to watch. This actually comes up in the film's discussion of how remakes often have to up the ante versus the originals.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Most of the characters often make 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.
  • 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 has Drew Barrymore in this role. Notably, she suggested the idea herself, having originally been cast as Sidney. At the time, it was a major shock, as Barrymore had been heavily featured in the ads and promotional material and was easily the biggest name in the cast.
    • The Japanese dub of the first film did the same, at the time, with a very popular voice actress, as Megumi Hayashibara voiced Barrymore's Casey, and very likely the Japanese audience didn't expect her to voice a character which is killed on-screen, and in a Cruel and Unusual Death to boot.Explanation 
    • The second had Omar Epps and Jada Pinkett, which doubles as a case of Black Dude Dies First. Then, after the opening credits, the first victim is the Slayer herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar.
    • The third has Liev Schreiber, in a case of Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome.
    • The fourth starts with a fake-out, as Lucy Hale, Shenae Grimes, and Anna Paquin are knifed in the in-universe Stab films (one of which also features Kristen Bell as Ghostface), before the events of the film proper kick off with the deaths of Aimee Teegarden and Britt Robertson.
    • As for the TV series, the season 1 pilot passes the torch to Bella Thorne, who specifically sought out the part of the opening victim due to its iconic nature in the films. The season 2 premiere, meanwhile, had Lele Pons getting killed off in a cheesy fake slasher movie being shown at the theater Audrey works at, before subverting it in the 'real' world by having the Ghostface attacking Audrey turn out to be a harmless prankster. The Halloween Special had season 2's killer Kieran (Amadeus Serafini) killed off in prison, in a case of Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome. Finally, the first episode of Resurrection did a fake-out, with Paris Jackson's character looking like she'd be the opening victim, only to be left unharmed — and for the kid in the Ghostface mask, who is the protagonist's twin brother, to get killed instead.
    • The fifth film subverted this with Jenna Ortega's character Tara, who takes a brutal beating from Ghostface in the opening, but survives, albeit spending much of the movie hospitalized. She goes on to survive the entire film.
    • The sixth film played it straight with Samara Weaving as the first victim, then pulled a Meta Twist by having another opening victim in the form of the decoy Ghostface who killed her, played by Tony Revolori.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: As the series goes on, Sidney demonstrates just what a Final Girl would look like in real life after the credits roll, as she has to rebuild her life and cope with the loss of most of her friends, especially when it all starts happening again, and again, and again. The short answer: an Iron Woobie.
  • Defictionalization: Some fans of the movies took the Stab series, Scream's in-universe version of itself, and made them — with permission from the rights holders to the Ghostface mask — for real as fan films. (Only films 4-7 were made, however, as they decided that the first three would be little more than poorly-made remakes of the actual Scream films they correspond to.)
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Gale over the course of the series.
  • Determinator: Ghostface is really driven when it comes to killing his intended victims.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Maureen Prescott's affairs with Cotton Weary and Billy Loomis's father ended up creating massive harmful repercussions for her family and many others. Still, she did not deserve to get viciously murdered for it. In fact, her murder inflicted much deeper wounds on her family than the affairs alone would have, and they may well have prevented her from making any amends with her husband and daughter.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The title aptly describes Ghostface's victims, who scream in fright when he attacks, and Ghostface himself, whose mask resembles the Edvard Munch painting "The Scream".
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Roberts and the Loomises.
  • Evil Phone: The killers are quite fond of messing with their victims over the phone.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: As the series goes on, Ghostface's voice gets deeper in tone, possibly as a result of the voice actor (Roger L. Jackson) getting older.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: All the films take place over only a couple of days. For example, the first film takes place over three nights (the night of Casey and Steve's death, the night of Sidney's first encounter with Ghostface, and the night of the party) and three days.
  • 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 includes a Time Travel plot).
    • On top of that, there's also (the presumably non-canon) Stab 8, which was featured on the Terror Tram at Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights 2011. It incorporated found footage elements so as to keep the series relevant, earning the ire of a film geek who hacks into the tram's video feed while dressed as Ghostface to complain about it (before getting messily offed by the real Ghostface).
    • The fifth film reveals that Stab 8 was eventually made in the ten-year interim between it and Scream 4. Apparently, the villain is Ghostface In Name Only, hence why the film isn't particularly well-received by fans. Including the new Ghostfaces, Richie and Amber.
  • The Family That Slays Together: An unusual example, as only the sixth film contains an explicit example of family members working together as Ghostface, but to date every movie contains at least one Ghostface who's related by blood to another Ghostface. Billy and Mrs. Loomis are parent and child, Roman and Jill are technically first cousins despite never meeting, and Wayne Bailey and all of his children have donned the mask. In addition to that, both Sidney and Sam, relatives of Roman and Jill and Billy and his mother, respectively have both worn the mask heroically. In fact, unrelated Ghostfaces are a minority in the series, with only five people not confirmed to be related to another Ghostface Stu, Mickey, Charlie, Jason, and Amber.
  • Final Girl: Sidney and Gale are subversions; while they survive all five movies, neither of them (especially Gale) uphold the ideals of purity that this trope typically represents.
    • 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 to get her 15 Minutes of Fame, jealous of her cousin Sidney's victimhood earning her the same.
    • The fifth film introduces Sam and Tara. Tara is a more conventional version of the trope, as she is a kindhearted teenager who, despite all of the injuries and traumas the killers inflict on her, survives due to her resourcefulness and determination. Her sister Sam is a darker version of this trope, as she is a good-hearted woman with a Dark and Troubled Past and psychiatric issues (including dealing with her father being Billy Loomis and the fear that she will turn out to be like him), who nevertheless turns the tables on the killers.
  • Floating Head Syndrome: The first film helped to popularize the use of this trope with horror movies, and all of the sequels have 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 was only the Mexican poster), the fans were ecstatic that it was following series tradition.
  • Formula with a Twist: A Slasher Movie in which the characters are fully aware of the rules of a Slasher Movie. This started its own trend of post-modern slasher movies.
  • For the Evulz: Many of any Ghostface killers' reasons, with Stu in the first film being the most notable example. He really had no reason to help Billy, but did just because he wanted to. The third film has Sidney's Shut Up, Hannibal! speech to the killer insinuate that everybody who ever donned the Ghostface identity was like this, their Freudian Excuses being just that, excuses for them to get their rocks off killing people. Jill is a total sociopath, and has no Freudian excuse for why she killed. She even says it herself: "Sick is the new sane."
  • Four Is Death: The magic words that Randy says are verboten, "I'll be right back", are exactly four words/syllables long.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Arguably, Ghostface. Roman Bridger is the biggest one, since he masterminded Billy and Stu into killing his own mom then in turn committing the Woodsboro murders, and followed up with his own killings by killing his cast and trying to kill Sidney, his half-sister, as well, while posing as their dead mom just to mess with her mind.
  • 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 good explanations for their actions, and all their excuses are all just that — excuses to kill people For the Evulz. The exception to this is Jill, who openly admits that she's evil, saying that "sick is the new sane".
  • Genre Blind: Ironically enough, the killers. Each time there have been two killers (with the exception of the fifth film), one has turned on the other. And yet they never see it coming.
  • Genre Savvy:
  • Ghostly Gape: The "Ghostface" mask, which was based on the Edvard Munch painting called The Scream. Said painting, along with the Michael Jackson song of the same name, inspired the name of the franchise, which was initially called Scary Movie.
  • 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 to being a little grossed out by the first two, almost to the point of docking the films for it.
  • Gutted Like a Fish: The Trope Namer, and this happens quite a bit in the series.
  • Hand of Death: The franchise has many shots of a raised hand with a knife in it.
  • Harassing Phone Call: The killers love doing this to people they intend to kill.
  • Hate Sink: Each of the Ghostfaces, once their identity is revealed, are revealed to be detestable creatures with little to no redeeming qualities.
    • Scream (1996): Upon being revealed to be one of the killers, Billy Loomis is shown to be a deranged teenager who talked Stu Macher into being his accomplice in terrorizing and murdering their friends. He also turns out to be a manipulative creep of a boyfriend, as he gets Sidney to sleep with him shortly before revealing he and Stu are the ones who murdered her mother. Not even Billy's issues with his mother and his family breaking apart grant him sympathy, as he's seen by the survivors with nothing but disdain. Ironically, the only one who still cares for him is his mother, as the second movie shows. The fifth film throws hypocrisy onto the pile as well, as it's revealed that he cheated on Sidney and fathered an illegitimate child in the process.
    • Scream 2: Billy Loomis' mother turns out to be this, as she's revealed to be the killer in this film. She tries to play for sympathy in avenging her son's death with a new killing spree, but quickly loses it with her Moral Myopia and refusal to own up to her failures as a mother, seeming to be under the impression that she and Billy are the real victims with no sympathy or remorse for the people he killed. She's also the one who killed Randy.
    • Scream 3:
    • Scream 4: Jill Roberts is Sidney's sociopathic cousin who murders all her friends in a killing spree simply so she can gain 15 Minutes of Fame as a Sole Survivor. She even sadistically murders her own mother for good measure, and mutilates herself to play victim. Once she realizes that Sidney is still alive and recovering in the intensive care unit, she tries to finish her off to prevent her secret from being revealed.
    • Scream (2022): Richie Kirsch and Amber Freeman are Stab fanatics who were so incensed at the latest Stab film for deviating a lot from the series formula that they met up online and decided to make a “film” of their own. In the process, they kill several of their friends and lovers, injure many others, and attempt to frame Sam Carpenter because she is the daughter of Billy Loomis in order to “reboot” the franchise. Richie and Amber’s motive is especially petty, even in comparison to other Ghostfaces’ motivations.
    • Scream VI: Jason Carvey and his friend Greg Brockner were friends of Richie Kirsch, as well as equal-minded psychos that wanted to finish the ”requel” plan that Richie and Amber started in the last film, intending to start by going after the Carpenter sisters. Unable to wait for his comrade, Jason gives into his psychopathic urges and ends up murdering his film teacher, Laura Crane, as revenge for giving him a C minus on a horror film essay. After doing the deed, he ends up receiving a phone call from who he believes is Greg playing around with the voice changer; as he talks with "Greg", he’s asked how he felt about killing Laura, to which Jason replies that it felt “like killing an animal” and that at the end, “all that was left was just meat”. "Greg" turns out to be another Ghostface (the true antagonist of this film), who is revealed to have murdered the real Greg and then proceeds to to brutally finish off Jason, while mocking latter’s disregard for human life and his and his partner’s motive of killing because of horror movies. Though Jason and Greg’s deaths were mostly because the "requel" plan interfered with their own motives, its telling that the real killer/s thought that Jason’s motives and attitude towards murdering innocent people was disgusting, despite being insane murderers themselves.
  • Horror Comedy: The first two films were roughly equal mixes of horror and comedy. The third film, which had a different writer and was dealing with the aftermath of Columbine, downplayed the violence in favor of comedy, with more of the humor coming from the characters rather than from jabs at the genre. The fourth film, which brought back original writer Kevin Williamson, takes the middle position, as it features more brutal kills, but has a few of the deaths, such as Deputy Perkins, Played for Laughs. The fifth film returns to the first two films' sense of humor, but is also Bloodier and Gorier. The sixth film leans into even more Black Comedy, while also upping the ante in terms of tension and kills.
  • Iconic Sequel Character:
    • Jennifer Jolie only appears in Scream 3 but is frequently rated almost as highly as the main Power Trio by people discussing great characters in the series.
    • The killer from Scream 4 made enough of an impact to eventually get a character page all to herself on this website.
    • The Carpenter and Meeks siblings don't appear until Scream (2022), but quickly became some of the most praised slasher Spin-Offspring characters in a long time.
  • Inevitably Broken Rule: Every entry has a character list rules in order to survive the type of horror film the killer is basing the current killing spree. However, these rules aren't completely infallible, and are prone to aversion, subversion, and everything in between.

  • If It Bleeds, It Leads: Personified with Gale, although she gets better in the sequels.
  • Large Ham: Every actor who's been in the killer's shoes is clearly having a good time. Also counts as Evil Is Hammy.
  • Lack of Empathy: As soon as the second film, Stab fans seem to either neglect the fact that these movies are based on a real-life killing spree that took the life of several kids. or simply don't care. A generation after the killings, most of the youth of Woodsboro see the movies as staples in the horror genre and celebrate them, even though most of them know people involved in the original killings.
  • Last-Second Villain Recovery: Defied in the first film. After the Big Bad (Billy Loomis) is shot repeatedly with a gun and falls down, Sidney Prescott puts a bullet between his eyes the moment he reveals himself to be Only Mostly Dead.
    Randy Meeks: [looking at Billy's supposedly dead body] Careful. This is the moment when the supposedly dead killer comes back to life for one last scare.
    [Billy wakes up to try to attack. Gale Weathers screams, but Sidney shoots Billy in the head, killing him instantly.]
    Sidney Prescott: Not in my movie.
  • 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: The Ghostface identity has been worn by nine different killers in the films, and three in the TV series.
  • Made of Iron: Averted. Ghostface is clumsy, falls down, and gets smacked around quite a bit, because it's normal folk under the mask, and not the genre's usual undead/supernatural/etc. figures. That said, it still takes a lot to kill them.
  • Masked Villains, Unmasked Heroes: The films have the unmasked heroes (usually Sidney Prescott) fighting a killer (or in most cases, a pair of killers) who uses the masked identity of Ghostface.
  • Menacing Mask: The masked killer wears a white ghost-like Halloween mask with hollowed-out eyes, a pained expression, and a perpetually open mouth hole. The killer's name is given as Ghostface, probably due to the mask they wear.
  • Meta Fiction: They're slasher movies that are about slasher movies, in which the characters, heroes and villains alike, have all grown up watching them on home video, and know all the tricks, tropes, and clichés.
  • Meta Guy: Randy in the original trilogy, and Robbie and Charlie in the fourth film. In the fifth, the role is taken by Mindy Meeks-Martin, Randy's niece. Also see Genre Savvy.
  • Murder Simulators: Referenced several times with regard 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.
  • Not Quite Dead: The climax of every film thus far has ended with the return of a killer previously thought dead before being put down for good. Randy lampshades it in the first one as "the moment when the supposedly dead killer comes back to life for one last scare", and the characters end up fully expecting it. Many of the films employ this rule so that one killer is killed very climactically, with their death seeming to represent the film's horrors coming to an end, only for another killer to reveal themselves and charge at the protagonists, getting killed shortly thereafter.
    • In Scream, after Randy does the aforementioned lampshading while he, Gale and Sidney are standing over Billy's body, Billy promptly reveals himself to alive, and Sidney immediately shoots him in the head.
    • In Scream 2, there's a switcheroo in which killer comes back for the "last scare". Gale and Sidney expect it to be Mrs. Loomis, as they've just taken her down and she's in front of them; however, the second killer 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.
    • Scream 4 shows Jill survive a full-power defibrillator applied to her head, after which she gets up and attempts to stab the characters in the back with a shard of glass. Sidney, fully expecting it, turns around and shoots her in the heart, killing her.
    • Scream 5 has Sam killing Richie and double tapping him with Sidney's help, specifically because "they always come back". Silence follows, after which the second killer Amber — surviving several gunshot wounds, head injuries, and being burned alive — charges at them and Gale from the kitchen screaming before finally getting a bullet to the head from Tara.
    • Scream 6 has the emphasis of its climax put on Sam killing Detective Bailey. Afterwards, she and Tara sit on the theater steps and have a moment of reconciliation — after which Ethan, one of the killers (who was stabbed multiple times in the chest by Sam, then impaled through the mouth and jaw with the same knife by Tara), charges at them before finally getting his head crushed with a TV (the same TV that killed Stu Macher, no less) by Kirby.
  • Once per Episode: There are a couple common elements regarding the victims.
    • A pair is killed in the opening of each film. The fifth is a subversion, as only one person is attacked in the opening, and survives. The sixth film plays around with this by having one person getting killed by her student, followed by a pair of wannabe killers (the aforementioned student and his roommate) who are murdered by the actual Ghostface.
    • A blonde is the third victim of Ghostface in each film (Casey Becker is the third victim of the first killing spree, as Maureen Prescott is technically the first). The fifth film plays around with this: The third person to get attacked is the brunette Sam, who survives, but the third person to die is the (dyed) blonde Wes.
  • Our Slashers Are Different: The franchise is a deconstruction-reconstruction of slasher movies and clichés; the killers aren't supernatural monsters, but merely evil, mortal people wearing a crappy Halloween costume, and their seemingly supernatural abilities have mundane explanations. (Offscreen Teleportation? There's more than one killer, usually. The killer keeps returning for each sequel? It's not the same person/s; once the killer/s in the movie are killed, they don't come back for the sequel.) However, the Ghostface killers are still dangerous enough to rack up a high body count. and while most everyone is genre savvy, people still get killed by being overpowered or by making poor decisions. This is also played with In-Universe with Randy's "Rules for Surviving a Horror Movie", suggesting that slashers are bound by specific laws, such as not targeting virgins or the uninebriated, a list which also changes in subsequent movies. In the third movie, it's pointed out that the killer will be almost supernatural, and in the Soft Reboot, the rules are reversed so that now Anyone Can Die.
  • Plucky Girl: Sidney initially, being an average teenage girl dealing with her problems as best as anyone can, before the trauma of surviving so many massacres wears her down.
  • Postmodernism: 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.
  • Psycho Knife Nut: Ghostface uses a hunting knife based on the Buck 120. Wes Craven wanted a weapon that the killers might have taken from their dad's garage, something sturdy and intimidating that was meant for cutting through flesh, rather than just grabbing a butcher knife from the kitchen like Michael Myers did. Ironically, at the time the film was made, the Buck 120 had been discontinued because hunters thought it was too big for its intended task of gutting and skinning animals. The TV series used the shorter 119 model that replaced the 120 instead.
  • Recycled Title: The fifth film lacks a number and/or subtitle, sharing the exact title of the original (à la Halloween) as many long-running franchises tend to do. And it wouldn't be Scream if it doesn't poke fun at this; one of the characters surmises that an installment of a long-running franchise eventually tends to drop its number, much like the actual film itself.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The plot was loosely inspired by the Gainesville Ripper, Danny Rolling, who murdered five students in Florida in the early '90s.
  • Sacrificial Lion: While most of the murder victims are minor characters, in each film there's at least one member of the main cast who's killed off before the big reveal and final confrontation. A lot of these characters bring truth to the Ghostface line from Scream 3, "When you're friends with Sidney, you die."
    • Scream: Tatum.
    • Scream 2: Randy. To a lesser extent, Derek and Hallie.
    • Scream 3: The character who comes closest to this trope is Jennifer. Though she lacks a connection to Sidney, she does have a significant relationship with Dewey and Gale.
    • Scream 4: Robbie is a downplayed example, since he's a character from the "new generation" rather than the veteran cast. Kirby was also attacked and left for dead, though the fifth film reveals that she survived.
    • Scream 5: Dewey is the biggest one of all.
  • Self-Referential Humor: The series' bread and butter.
  • Sequel Escalation: Discussed with regards to sequels, Grand Finales, and remakes over the course of the series.
    • Randy's rules for horror sequels in the second film include an increased body count and more brutal and elaborate deaths, while his rules for trilogy closers and final chapters in the third involve the killer being superhuman, Plot Twists, and main characters now being on the chopping block. In the fourth, Robbie and Charlie's discussion of horror remakes emphasizes that they not only have to be way more brutal to appeal to desensitized modern audiences, they also have to put twists on old tropes and plot turns so as to subvert the expectations of those who have seen the originals.
    • For example, take a look at Ghostface's body count for each film, which generally rises as the series progresses. Ghostface claims five victims in the first film (six if you count Maureen Prescott), eight in the second, nine in the third, and ten in the fourth. On the other hand, the fifth film's Ghostface only has six kills, but the blood and gore are heavily cranked up, and the survivors are badly injured. The sixth film escalates once more and features a no-bullshit Ghostface, who murders nine people and comes close to killing off most of the returnees.
  • Serial Killer: Ghostface, needless to say as a slasher villain.
  • Sex Signals Death: This is by far the biggest no-no for dealing with these movies. Virtually every single character that has ever had sex (including Randy) will be sliced and diced by Ghostface at some point. This is outright stated as Rule No. 1 by Randy: Sex = Death. Sidney, being the franchise lead, was the only character to be explicitly confirmed to have had sex to survive for the first four films. It would not be until the fifth film where another character, Sam Carpenter, was explicitly confirmed to have had sex (offscreen) and survived the entire film.
  • Shout-Out: There are so many that it has its own page.
  • Shown Their Work: It sure sounds stupid that Stu Macher killed all those people out of 'peer pressure'. But he's portrayed as tactless, without sympathy for the victims, and of below-average intelligence, all signs of a low-functioning sociopath. Billy Loomis is much more intelligent, confident, and stronger-willed, making him capable of manipulation.
  • Sins of the Father:
    • Poor Sidney has to survive five (and counting!) films worth of Ghostfaces because of something her mother did.
    • The fifth film has Sam Carpenter, who is revealed to be Billy Loomis' illegitimate daughter. The Ghostfaces, Richie and Amber, want to pin the blame of the murders on her, because being the daughter of a serial killer, she will be Defiled Forever in the eyes of Woodsboro.
  • Slasher Movie: Despite the director's initial intentions, the films are well-accepted members of the genre.
  • Slashers Prefer Blondes: This trope is one of the few that isn't commented on and is played pretty straight; there's at least one blonde victim in each film, with the fourth film taking the cake at three (not counting Anna Paquin in the opening scene).
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Randy in 2, Cotton in 3, and Judy and Dewey in 5. Notably, despite the possibility being teased, this is completely averted in 6, though Kirby, Gale, Chad, and Mindy all come close to dying.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • The Ghostface killers, regardless who's behind the mask, are depicted as tripping and running into objects. Why? Well, the outfits are, in-universe, cheap-ass Halloween costumes consisting of a spandex robe and a rubber mask with eyes covered by black sheer material attached to a hood. These features makes running after people difficult because you can barely see out of the mask at night, and the skirt constricts your movements.
    • Whenever there are two Ghostfaces, a lot of the time, one of them attempts to kill off the other to further their own goal—the obvious result of two mentally unstable, cold-blooded, self-preserving psychopaths working together.
    • The exceptions to the above rule come in the first, fifth and sixth films. In the first, Billy does come close to killing Stu, but mainly by accident, as the staged injuries Billy gives Stu as part of their coverup wind up cutting deeper than expected, causing severe blood loss that leaves Stu feeling faint. Another case of reality throwing a monkey wrench in a plan: a Wounded Gazelle Gambit can leave you actually wounded if you try to deliberately injure yourself without knowing what you're doing. The fifth and sixth films are more straightforward exceptions, as neither of the killers betrays or injures the others, even by accident.
    • As a deconstruction of the horror genre, a lot of character archetypes are played rather realistically:
      • The Final Girl and our heroine, Sidney, is worse for wear at the end of each of the films, mainly because she's being personally targeted by a serial killer, her friends are brutally murdered all around her, and the killer is someone who she initially trusted and had included in her social circle before they revealed themselves to be demented pieces of crap. As a result, by the third film she's become a burnt-out, depressed, traumatized wreck who's very paranoid that another killer will pop out and fuck up her life once more.
      • The victims of slasher films are usually overlooked, dull, and uninteresting, compared to the killer and his brutal slayings of them. But, for the most part, the victims of the series are established as people. People with lives, people with personalities, people who are mourned when they are Gutted Like a Fish. There are some Asshole Victims mixed in, but the fact that Ghostface is murdering innocent people takes some of the joy out of his kills. The reaction that Casey's parents have to her murder immediately sucks the morbid fun right out of the room and turns it into a tragedy.
      • The killers are at first presented as unstoppable, mysterious forces of nature, but when they shed their masks, they are revealed to be petty, immature, vile monsters who kill for very selfish reasons, from fame to jealousy. Even killers with tragic motives, like Billy Loomis whose mom left him because of an affair his dad had with Sidney's mom, are still horrible, horrible people who only kill because they want to. The killers also are not invincible like their favorite movie slashers, so their victims can easily fight back against them, especially if said victims are equipped with firearms. Tatum from the first movie actually beats Ghostface in a physical confrontation, and only gets killed due to her drunken, panic-induced stupidity.
    • Ghostface is always at the end of the day just a normal guy in a mask who went crazy, with emphasis on "normal". That said, several slasher tropes are deconstructed, since our killer in this series doesn't have superhuman aid:
      • Offscreen Teleportation: Ghostface isn't Jason Voorhees, he can't just disappear and reappear in another place. So that's why he usually has a partner in a similar costume to corner his victims. In the third film, where Roman Bridger is the films' only solo killer, Ghostface lures his victims into isolated places and hides so he can ambush them. The party near the end of the movie was deliberately planned to be set in John Milton's mansion, which has multiple secret entrances and passageways, allowing him to reappear and pop up somewhere else when hunting everybody down.
      • Made of Iron: Ghostface can survive beatings, shit thrown at him, and nasty falls. But he cannot survive severe head injuries, a headshot, a shot to the heart, a Slashed Throat, or a stab in the gut (lots of major arteries there).
      • Immune to Bullets: In the third and fifth films, Ghostface invokes this by utilizing a Bulletproof Vest. Which isn't enough to stop an ice pick and/or a headshot. In the fifth, Dewey even recognizes this and goes back just to shoot Ghostface in the head, though it ultimately does him no good.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Five of the killers in the films are teenagers, and three others are college students. On the TV series, three of the killers were teenagers, including both of the killers from Resurrection.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • 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...
    • Sidney, why did you even mention the idea of Tori Spelling playing you in the movie?
  • Title Drop: There is a Double Subversion for the first movie. Throughout the movie, Ghostface constantly uses the words "scary movie" when discussing horror movies with his victims, and the last line of the film is Gale describing the events as having unfolded like the plot to some "scary movie". Scary Movie was the working title of the original film, with the aforementioned lines intended as examples of this trope, but this was subverted when the title was eventually changed to Scream. That said, the word "scream" is used throughout the film as well, with Ghostface mentioning that the final twist was going to be a "scream", and Gale describing the entire killing spree as beginning with "a scream over 911".
  • Two Dun It: The first film was the modern Trope Codifier for this in slasher movies, with Billy and Stu as the Big Bad Duumvirate. Almost every film except Scream 3 and Scream VI followed suit.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Sidney makes fun of this trope in the first movie ("...some stupid killer stalking some big-breasted girl who can't act who's always running up the stairs when she should be going out the front door"), but there are multiple straight examples throughout the franchise.
    • 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 that 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 their life after managing to knock them down not once, but twice, it becomes this trope. (To be fair, she was drunk.)

      Ironically enough, Tatum's actor Rose McGowan discovered that she could fit through the pet flap and would fall out when the door started rising. If the scene had been played for any degree of reality, this trope would not have happened with Tatum. They had to staple/nail her shirt to the garage door so she couldn't get out.
    • Officers Ross and Perkins from the fourth film are another example, as they are police officers who are responsible for protecting the film's main cast, yet spend their time fooling around and pranking each other pretending to be Ghostface. Naturally, Ghostface promptly offs them.
  • Troperiffic: The whole point of the series, especially the first film, and thoroughly lampshaded.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Maureen Prescott was definitely unaware that her attempt to break into Hollywood would lead to all this, though the majority of the fault can also be laid at the feet of John Milton, who chose to rape her.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: In-universe, the Stab movie's portrayal of Casey's murder at the start of Scream takes a few liberties with the facts, most notably the gratuitous Shower Scene.
  • Video Credits: All the films have them. The fifth is the first to include Roger L. Jackson, accompanied by footage of Ghostface in costume (as, of course, only his voice is used for the 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: Between Casey and Ghostface in the first film.
    Casey: "Why do you wanna know my name?"
    Ghostface: "Because I wanna know who I'm looking at."
  • White Mask of Doom: Ghostface.
  • World of Snark: Most of the main characters, good and evil alike, are known for snarky remarks about their situation and about horror movies in general.


Video Example(s):



The Scream franchise is a deconstruction-reconstruction of slasher movies and cliches. The killers aren't supernatural monsters, but merely evil, mortal men and women wearing a basic Halloween costume, and their seemly supernatural abilities have mundane explanations. Offscreen Teleportation? There's more than one killer. Immune to Bullets? He's wearing a bulletproof vest underneath his cloak. The killer keeps returning for each sequel? Ghostface is a Legacy Character, and once the killers in the movie are killed, they don't come back for the sequel; somebody else puts on the mask and cloak. The creepy voice on the phone? They're using an electronic voice changer to mask their identity. However, the Ghostface killers are still dangerous enough to rack up a high body count, and while most everyone is Genre Savvy, people still get killed by being overpowered or by making poor decisions.<br><br>

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Main / OurSlashersAreDifferent

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