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Film / Scream

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"Do you like scary movies?"

"Someone has taken their love of scary movies one step too far."
— Tagline

In 1996, director Wes Craven (of A Nightmare on Elm Street fame) and writer Kevin Williamson (who would go on to make Dawson's Creek and The Vampire Diaries) decided to make the ultimate slasher movie, Scream.

A peaceful town in California turns into a bloodbath when a masked killer begins to wreak havoc all over town. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), a young teenage girl whose mother was killed a year before, becomes a target of the masked killer; her boyfriend Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) and her father soon become the main suspects. Local tabloid news reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Woodsboro police deputy Dwight "Dewey" Riley (David Arquette) investigate and try to figure out the killer's identity - and if they killed Sid's mom the year before.

Scream and its sequels set themselves apart from other slashers. Instead of coming off just as straight-up horror films, they also served as dark, "meta" parodies of the slasher genre. The killers all deliberately invoked slasher movie cliches while their targets tried to survive by attempting to guess which horror movie tropes the killers would invoke next — a move that just as often got them killed as it did save them. 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 (though certainly not all) of the horror films that copied its formula in the ensuing years didn't understand this. A good number of filmmakers instead felt that the Scream franchise's success came as a result of its casting (which featured stars from hit TV series like Party of Five, Friends and Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and its "hip" dialogue. As a result, the original film has suffered from Hype Backlash since its release, since its own various tricks and tropes became more commonplace in the horror genre.

In addition to all the copycats, Scream initially spawned a trilogy with two sequels:

  • Scream 2, released in 1997, saw the surviving characters move on to college while dealing with their 15 Minutes of Fame thanks to both extensive media coverage of the killings and Stab, the Ripped from the Headlines slasher flick made about the event. Just as the original satirized slashers, the second film satirized the genre's obsession with sequels (and all their related tropes).
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  • Scream 3, released in 2000, concluded the original trilogy and moved the action to Hollywood, where a work on a third Stab film has begun. This film — the only film in the series not written by Kevin Williamson — targeted trilogies (and their associated tropes) as well as the inner workings of the film industry.

Due to less-than-positive reception of the third film, however, the franchise laid dormant for more than a decade until:

  • Scream 4 (or Scre4m), released in 2011, which brought the action back to Woodsboro as the surviving characters of the original trilogy dealt with the legacy of the events of those films. Scream 4 parodied the various trends in horror that cropped up in the decade between Scream 3 and Scream 4 — including, most specifically, the surge of remakes and reboots of classic horror franchises. While critics and fans gave it a decent reception, its disappointing box office returnsnote  may have short-circuited the film's attempt to restart the franchise with a new trilogy note .

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:

  • MTV's Scream, which debuted in 2015. 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:
  • VH1's Scream: Resurrection, which debuted in 2019 with a completely different cast and plot, executive produced by Queen Latifah. It only lasted for a single season, following a long scheduling delay because of the franchise's connection to disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein and the transformation of his company into Lantern Entertainment.

Shortly after Scream: Resurrection completed its run, however, it was announced that Scream would be returning to theaters:

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

  • Dead by Daylight. In 2019, Ghostface joined the roster of killers as Downloadable Content. While it's a original character rather then 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.

Tropers like us owe a substantial amount of our hobby to the film. Scream wholeheartedly lampshaded and deconstructed a large number of tropes — which made it one of the first major, mainstream films to do so since Airplane! — while it remained grounded in reality and exploring a whole new genre. The original film predates Buffy the Vampire Slayer by only a few months when it comes to having a story about sarcastic, Genre Savvy teenagers in a post-modern horror setting.

The Scream franchise provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Girl: Sidney, being a Final Girl, has her moments.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Stu laments not that the police are coming, but that his parents are going to find out he's a serial killer, anticipating their anger and disappointment. It's as if it's finally sinking in as to what he's done.
  • Anyone Can Die: Any character featured in the first ten minutes, regardless of the actor in the role, can (and will) die. With other characters, however, this trope is averted — Sidney, Gale and Dewey have survived all four movies.
  • Asshole Victim: Steven Stone and John Milton in Scream 3, Charlie Walker in Scream 4
  • Audible Sharpness: Used to gratuitous levels in the death scenes.
  • Better Than a Bare Bulb: These movies love to lampshade horror tropes.
  • Big Bad: Ghostface is the identity donned by every one of the series' antagonists; no matter who it is behind the mask, they always exhibit the same basic personality and physical attributes: taunts victims through phone calls, grunts and groans when injured, remains primarily mute while face-to-face with a victim, prolongs a kill when an advantage is gained, stabs victims with a hunting knife, switches from being quick and efficient to clumsy and accident-prone, outright ignores blunt trauma, stabbing wounds and gunshots, strong enough to physically overpower victims in a fight, prowls without being detected, and often vanishes from the targets' defense before taking them by surprise almost immediately thereafter.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: All but the third movie have two people alternating as Ghostface, though usually one of them has a more personal motive for the killings, while the other killer just goes along with it. Billy, Mrs. Loomis, and Jill all had their own reasons, while Stu, Mickey, and Charlie were somehow talked into being their respective accomplices.
  • Bittersweet Ending: All the films seem to end on this note, Ghostface's dead and the heroes have lived to go on fighting and living another day, but most of the characters you have cared about are now dead and aren't coming back... unless they're still alive but barely.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Discussed in the second film, but it actually used less fake blood and guts than the original. The fourth movie, however, is much bloodier than Scream 3, and possibly the rest of the series.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Billy and Roman. Sidney also shoots Mrs. Loomis in the head, but she was probably already dead.
  • Bound and Gagged: At least one character in every film: Steve Orth and Neil Prescott in the first, Derek in the second, Dewey, Gale and Milton in the third, and Charlie and Trevor in the fourth.
  • Brick Joke: One that occurs between movies. In the first, when Sidney is asked who she'd like to play her in the inevitable movie about the events, she says that she'd prefer Meg Ryan, but knowing her luck, she'd get Tori Spelling. Guess who plays her in Stab?
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Dewey, who depending on your point of view is either the unluckiest or the luckiest character in the series: he gets attacked and very badly sliced up in every film but also manages to survive them all.
    • Sidney as well, when you consider that she's 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.
  • 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.
  • Conversational Troping: All over the place.
  • 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
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Director Wes Craven has brief cameos in all the films. In the first, he's the school janitor Fred; in the second, he plays a doctor in the hospital; in the third, he's one of the tourists on the movie lot. 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.
  • 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 as well (i.e. Sidney), has backfired spectacularly because Sidney's constantly surviving the murder sprees has made her infamous, almost legendary, world-wide. Angered, he tries to finish what he started himself by killing Sidney, her friends, and the main cast and crew behind the latest Stab movie, the cult horror franchise he inadvertently spawned. By the end of the 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.
  • Damsel out of Distress: Sidney laughs at the Distressed Damsel trope!
  • Darker and Edgier: While being a horror series, and thus prone to being dark, Scream 4 is notable in being one of the most brutal. The deaths are more graphic and horrifying, especially Olivia's. Some of the characters aren't even killed instantly, but are left horribly wounded then either killed (Rebecca), or left to die slowly (Perkins, Robbie, Charlie, and potentially Kirby). Then there's the fight scene between Jill and Sidney at the hospital, which is just painful to watch. 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 say witty snarky comments, but Ghostface seems to be the biggest one when he taunts the victims. Gale and Randy are no slouch at this, either.
  • Dead Star Walking: A tradition for the films is to have a big-name actor in the opening scene, only to kill them off within fifteen minutes.
    • The first film had Drew Barrymore in this role. 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 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 expected her to voice a character which is expected to be killed on-screen, and being a Cruel and Unusual Death to boot.Explanation 
    • The second had Omar Epps and Jada Pinkett, which doubled as a case of Black Dude Dies First. Then, after the opening credits, the first victim was the Slayer herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar.
    • The third had Liev Schreiber, in a case of Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome.
    • The fourth started with a fake-out as Lucy Hale, Shenae Grimes, and Anna Paquin are knifed in the in-universe Stab films (which also featured 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 passed the torch to Bella Thorne, who specifically sought out the part of opening victim due to its iconic nature in the films. The season 2 premiere, meanwhile, had Vine star 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.
  • Death by Sex: 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 lead character, is the only one to escape this trope despite not being a virgin at the end of the first film.
  • 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, when she has to rebuild her life and cope with the loss of most of her friends, especially when it all starts happening 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. 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.
  • 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 went on, Ghostface's voice went 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 included a Time Travel plot).
  • Final Girl: Sidney and Gale are subversions; while they survive all three movies, neither of them (especially Gale) represents the ideals of purity that this trope upholds.
    • Sidney evolves into a deconstruction of this trope as the series progresses, what with her life coming to be defined by the trauma suffered by her and those close to her thanks to her "perpetual victimhood."
    • Jill in the fourth film is arguably among the greatest subversions ever. She masterminded the killings and planned to frame someone else for it so that she could play this trope and get her 15 Minutes of Fame, much like her cousin Sidney did.
  • Floating Head Syndrome: The first film helped to popularize the use of this trope with horror movies, and all of the sequels indulged in it as well. This trope is so attached to the series that, when the fourth film finally released a "floating head" poster (even if it's only the Mexican poster), the fans were ecstatic that it was following series tradition.
  • 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 killer's reasons, with Stu in the first film being the most notable examples. 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 was a total sociopath and had no Freudian excuse on why she killed. She even said it herself: "Sick is the new sane."
  • Four Is Death: The magic words that Randy says is verboten, "I'll be right back", is exactly four words/syllables long.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Arguably, Ghostface. Roman Bridger being the biggest one since he masterminded Billy and Stu into killing his own mom then in turn the Woodsboro murders and followed through his own killings by killing his cast and trying to kill Sidney, his half-sister, as well while appearing as their dead mom.
  • Freudian Excuse: Almost every Ghostface claims to have one. By the third film, Sidney has had enough of it and yells at the killer that they all have no excuse, they're all just that — excuses to kill people Forthe Evulz.
    • The exception to this being Jill, who openly admits that she's evil, citing that "sick is the new sane".
  • Genre Blind: Ironically enough, the killers. Each time there have been two killers, one has turned on the other. And yet they never see it coming.
  • Genre Savvy:
  • Ghostly Gape: The "Ghostface" mask, which was based off 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 being a little grossed out by the first two, almost to the point of docking the films for it.
  • Gutted Like a Fish: Trope Namer, and happens quite a bit in the series.
  • Harassing Phone Call: The killers love doing this to people they intend to kill.
  • 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 is shown to be a deranged teenager who talks Stu 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 granted 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.
    • Scream 2: Billy Loomis' mother turns out to be this, revealed to be the killer in this film. She tries to play for sympathy in avenging her sons death with a new killing spree, but quickly looses it when with her myopic view of things; she seems to be under the impression she and Billy are the real victims, with no sympathy or remorse over the people he killed, and refuses to own up to her own failures as a mother, or even to how Billy turned out to be. She was also the one who kills Randy.
    • Scream 3:
      • Sidney's half brother Roman Bridger, the killer of this film, is ultimately shown to be a self entitled Psychotic Manchild who directly or indirectly orchestrated the killing sprees of the first three movies. His reasoning to do so is because Maureen rejected him for being a Child by Rape, and a reminder of her trauma. After Sidney survives two killing sprees, at the expense of nearly having her life ruined by them, Roman goes on a final one in a bid, because he thinks he is owed Sidney's fame and life.
      • At face value, John Milton appears to be a representation of Horrible Hollywood. Then it's revealed that he participated in Maureen Roberts' gang-rape, traumatizing her into promiscuous behavior. The gang-rape also resulted in Roman Bridger, making Milton indirectly responsible for all the events in the series. This marks him as one of the few Asshole Victims in the films.
    • Scream 4, Jill Roberts is Sidney's sociopathic cousin who murders all her friends in a killing spree simply so she could gain 15 Minutes of Fame as a Sole Survivor. She even sadistically murders her own mother for good measure. Once Jill realizes that Sidney is recovering in the intensive care unit (after Jill mutilates herself to play victim), she tries to murder her herself so her secret won't be revealed.
  • 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.
  • 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 seven different killers in the films, and three on 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 masks, and not the genre's usual undead/supernatural/etc. figures. That said, it still takes a lot to kill them.
  • Meta Guy: Randy in the original trilogy, and Robbie and Charlie in the fourth film. See Genre Savvy.
  • Murder Simulators: Referenced several times with regards to violent horror movies. Considering that the director is a man who made his name with such films, this can easily be interpreted as a Take That! against fear-mongering Moral Guardians.
  • Not Quite Dead: In each damn one. The characters end up fully expecting it.
    • In Scream, Randy lampshades this with Billy, who promptly reveals himself to be not quite dead. Sidney very calmly shoots him in the head.
    • Subverted in Scream 2. Gale and Sidney expect Mrs. Loomis to be this, and then Mickey jumps up behind them screaming. They shoot and kill him, and then Sidney shoots the (probably already dead) Mrs. Loomis in the head, just to be sure.
    • Scream 3 has Roman play this straight, until Dewey shoots him in the head.
    • Scre4m shows Jill survive a defibrillator on full power to the head, and 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.
  • Once per Episode: There are a couple common elements regarding the victims.
    • A pair is killed in the opening of each film.
    • 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 the first).
  • 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 men and women wearing a crappy Halloween costume and their seemly supernatural abilities have mundane explanations (Offscreen Teleportation? There's more than one killer. 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 which 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.
  • 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.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • The Ghostface Killers, regardless whose behind the mask, are depicted as tripping and running into objects. Why? Well, the outfits are, in-universe, cheap-ass Halloween costumes consist of 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 contracts 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. Averted in the first Scream film although Billy and Stu do come close to killing each other after they can't handle the pain of giving each other staged injuries.
    • 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 intially trusted and had included in her social circle before they revealed themselves to be demented pieces of crap. As a result, she's has 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 for when they are disemboweled alive. Of course 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 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, such as fame. 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. On the same note, the killers 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. In fact, Tatum from the first movie straight up beats Ghostface in a physical confrontation and only gets killed due to her drunk, panic-induced stupidity.
    • Ghostface is always at the end of the day just a normal guy in a mask who went crazy, 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 Roman's case, since he was a truly solo killer, he lured his victims into isolated places and hid so he could 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 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, or a stab in the gut (lots of major arteries there).
      • Immune to Bullets: The fifth Ghostface invokes this by ultilizing a bulletproof vest. But an ice pick and a headshot ends up wounding and killing him.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The plot was loosely inspired by the Gainseville 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 character from the main cast who's killed off before the big reveal and final confrontation. A lot of these characters bring truth to one of Ghostface's lines in 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 and possibly Kirby. This is also slightly different since they're major characters from the "new generation", rather than the veteran cast.
  • Self-Referential Humor: The series' bread and butter.
  • Serial Killer: Needless to say.
  • 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, Shocking Swerves, 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 the body count for each film, which progressively 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 15 in the fourth. Roman Bridger holds the record with nine, with Jill and Mickey tied for second at seven.
  • 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.
  • 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 played pretty straight; there's at least one blonde victim in each film, with the fourth film taking the cake at three.
  • Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror: The first two films were roughly equal mixes of horror and comedy. The third film, which had a different writer 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. Finally, the fourth film, which brought back original writer Kevin Williamson, takes the middle position as it featured more brutal kills but had a few of the deaths, such as Deputy Perkins, Played for Laughs.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Wes Craven's New Nightmare, which was directed by Wes Craven, the same director of the Scream films. New Nightmare was a self-aware meta-horror film that deconstructed the slasher genre, so one can consider the Scream films as Wes Craven's second run at the idea.
  • Stopped Numbering Sequels: 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.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Four of the killers over the series are teenagers.
  • 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 used the words "scary movie" when discussing horror movies with his victims, not to mention that 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 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: Scream was the modern Trope Codifier for this in slasher movies, with both Stu and Billy as the Big Bad Duumvirate. Almost every film except Scream 3 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 there were several instances where she could have a) defended herself with any of the numerous objects lying around the garage and/or b) curb-stomped Ghostface to within an inch of his/her life after managing to knock Ghostface down not once, but twice, it becomes this trope.
      • Ironically enough, 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 are another example as they are police who are bad at their jobs.
  • Troperiffic: Lampshadedly the whole point of the series, especially the first film.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Maureen Prescott was probably unaware how her attempt to break into Hollywood would lead to all this, though a majority fault could also be laid to 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.
  • 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:
    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 their snarky remarks about their situation and about horror movies in general.


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