I don't know about you, but somewhere between 25%–40% of the reason I watch horror movies is to take notes — just in case I find myself in the sort of situation Hollywood might make a horror movie about.
This is especially true for the Scream movies. I've probably watched each of the first four around a dozen times, give or take a few, and as a result, I like to think I'd stand a fighting chance in the face of a killer (or at the very least manage to get a few good jabs in there).
Courtesy Everett Collection / © Dimension Films/Everett Collection / Everett Collection
To gear up for the latest entry in the franchise, here are some of the things I've learned from watching (and rewatching) the Scream movies over the years.
Brownie Harris / © Paramount Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection
1. Never be alone in a giant house with no neighbors within walking (or running) distance.
I like a little isolation as much as the next person, but as soon as I saw what looked like a cornfield separating the Beckers' house from their neighbors I was like, "Why are you home alone??"
2. Never answer the phone.
The possibility that a murderer is calling you aside, why would anyone want to talk on the phone ever?
3. Always assume the killer is in the house.
Whenever I watch that first attack on Sidney in the original Scream, I find myself shaking my head when she fastens the chain lock. I know, I know — two locks seem better than one, but that flimsy little thing didn't look like it actually would've slowed down Ghostface that much more than the doorknob lock on its own. Meanwhile, it kept her from making a speedy escape out the front door, forcing her to the last place she wants to go: up the stairs.
4. If there's a killer on the loose, it's not the time to party.
The idea of strength in numbers has been dispelled in horror movie after horror movie, and Scream is no exception. I like to think if her dad had been home (and not stuffed in Stu's closet), Sidney would've just skipped the party, but who knows? Teens in horror movies make very bad choices.
5. If you are going to party, don't go wandering off by yourself.
I love Tatum and was bummed when she bit it, but if someone's going around murdering (and attempting to murder) people, you couldn't pay me to go play beer wench all by my lonesome.
6. Always make sure the safety is off.
Am I a gun person? Absolutely not. Have I done extensive research into how to make sure the safety is off on a gun in the hopefully slim chance I'll ever need to defend myself against a murderer? Yes.
7. Don't eavesdrop on people in the bathroom.
Honestly, Ghostface probably would've gotten Phil Stevens in Scream 2 one way or another, but Phil made it too easy for him by deciding to snoop on whatever he thought was happening in the stall next to his.
8. Suspect everyone.
Especially if they're going around trying to plant the seeds of doubt in your mind. Looking at you, Mickey! Short of planting a bloody knife in Derek's backpack, he did everything he could to make Sid think history might be repeating itself in Scream 2.
9. If you have a chance to unmask the killer, just go for it.
When Sidney and Hallie are escaping the crashed police car in Scream 2, there's a moment where Sidney goes to take Ghostface's mask off. She hits the horn and scares the hell out of herself and Hallie, and proceeds to climb on out. It's not until she and Hallie are both safely out of the car and halfway down the street that Sidney decides to turn back to unmask the killer. Of course, by then he's gone, hiding feet away from Hallie, who he then kills.
10. Forget unmasking and just kill him.
Not only could Sidney have easily taken off Ghostface's mask once she and Hallie were both out of the car, but she could've gone the whole nine yards and just killed him right then and there. There was plenty of debris lying around — grab something sharp and go for it!
11. If the killer is trying to make you do one thing, do the opposite.
As Gale put it in Scream 3, the killer wanted her, Dewey, and the cast of Stab 3 inside, so pretended to be outside.
12. Always keep an extra weapon handy.
One of the best moments in Scream 3 is when Sidney, having already surrendered her gun after using a metal detector on herself, pulls out a second gun, and says, "It's your turn to scream, asshole," and shoots Ghostface a dozen or so times. It's also a great reminder that one weapon is easy to lose, so you should always have a backup.
13. If you're playing with guns, use a bulletproof vest.
Even though Ghostface's weapon of choice is a knife, the killers in the Scream movies always seem to end up with a gun. On top of mirroring Roman's big "look at my bulletproof vest" reveal in Scream 3, Sidney's decision to grab one of the vests from the police station is just common sense.
14. Just because you can go home again doesn't mean you should.
Phil Bray/©Dimension Films / courtesy Everett Collection
I get that Sidney's return to Woodsboro in Scream 4 is, as Kirby puts it, "the first stop on her road to a new life," but I'm not sure anything could get me to go back to the town where my ex-boyfriend butchered my mom and friends, especially on the anniversary. Personal growth be damned.
15. Never, ever, ever under any circumstances say, "I'll be right back."
You. Will. Not. Be. Back!
16. And last but not least: Don't assume the killer is dead.
They always come back for one last scare, and if this is your third go-around, remember: "Stabbing him won’t work; shooting him won’t work. Basically in the third one, you gotta cryogenically freeze his head, decapitate him, or blow him up."
Share some of your favorite lessons from the Scream movies in the comments!
The fifth installment takes place 25 years after the original and finds Sidney, Dewey, and Gale teaming up with a new generation to take on a new Ghostface. See Scream in theaters January 14.
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