Do Knife Wounds In The Scream Universe Even Matter Anymore?

When watching a "Scream" film, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. The first is that you shouldn't worry about forensics in this universe; they basically don't exist. Most of the killers' plans involve them wiping their knife off with a cloth and inserting it into a dead person's hands, and we're all supposed to accept that a competent forensics team wouldn't be able to see through this. You also have to accept that Ghostface's height has no bearing on who the killer will turn out to be, just as you should accept that every given friend group will have one or two murderous psychopaths hiding within. 

The biggest thing to keep in mind is that injuries in this universe don't work like regular injuries. Here, getting stabbed in the stomach is a lot like stubbing your toe in the real world: very painful for a few moments, but you'll be fine. The absurdity of all this has hit its high point with the last-minute reveal in "Scream 6" that Chad — who was stabbed at least a dozen times all over the place by two Ghostfaces at once — is still alive. Admittedly it's hard to complain too much about Chad's survival (he's part of the Core Four!), but still: this is a problem, right? If Chad's able to survive something this brutal, what will kill him? If "Scream 7" decides to kill Chad off for good, the only way any of us will believe it is if the killer shoots him in the head. Even then, I'll still be half-expecting another last-minute scene of him being carried out on a stretcher again.

Scream's history of questionable survivals

It didn't used to be this way, of course. The first movie features the survival of multiple presumed-dead characters, but those examples are far less egregious. Dewey gets stabbed once in the back and passes out, while Gale suffers a car crash and gets kicked into a wall; it's perfectly plausible that both would survive.

It's in "Scream 2" that audiences' suspension of disbelief is forced to work overtime. There, Dewey is stabbed at least five or six times, his blood getting all over the place. From Gale's cries to Dewey's body going limp to the sad, dramatic background music, everything about the way this moment is filmed implies it's supposed to be Dewey's death scene. But sure enough, we still see him at the end getting carried away in a stretcher, beaten up pretty bad but already on his road to recovery. The same film also has Gale getting shot in the stomach and walking it off. "Just bounced off my ribs," she says later, but it certainly looked a lot worse than that at the time. 

Luckily, most fans were quick to forgive "Scream 2" for all this, because the earlier murder of Randy (not to mention Derek and Hallie) had already proven that this series hadn't gone soft. We'd experienced a ton of loss by the end of this film, so Dewey and Gale's survivals were not something to argue with.

A temporary reversal in the trend

Despite how it might seem, the Scream franchise's lack of realism with its stabbings did not get worse and worse over time. "Scream 3," for all its faults, is a return to form when it comes to this issue. Besides the usual running gag of the killer coming back to life at the end, the only ridiculous thing that happens here is the way the movie treats bulletproof vests like they're magic shields. (This is easily forgiven though because nearly every action movie is a little guilty of this.)

"Scream 4" also takes it easy in this regard. Like "Scream 3," this is a movie where most of the victims are one-off characters we aren't meant to care much about; they don't have the plot armor relegated to recurring survivors. Among the original trio, Sidney's survival is the hardest to believe, but at least she doesn't regain consciousness until she's back at the hospital. 

The real culprit here is Kirby; she's stabbed worse than Sidney, and has to wait a lot longer before any paramedics can help her. It's hard to tell if we should hold this against "Scream 4," however, because "Scream 4" never confirms that Kirby's alive or dead. When Jill wakes up in the hospital later, Dewey tells her about how Sidney's pulling through, but he never mentions Kirby. Why wouldn't he tell Jill (who he still thinks is an innocent victim) that her best friend might still be alive? 

Rather, the blame (and credit) for Kirby's survival should rest firmly on the writers of this new trilogy of "Scream" films, as they were the ones who retconned her death. It's fitting, because it's only with these new "Scream" films the lack of realism starts spiraling out of control.

New trilogy, new rules

It all starts with Scream 5's opening scene, in which Tara gets repeatedly stabbed like a pin cushion and still manages to be the first opening victim to survive. It's a nice subversion of expectations, but also a troubling sign of what's to come. The third act of this movie has Sidney getting stabbed and Gale getting shot in the stomach; both of them walk it off like it's nothing. This is also where Chad gets his first proper brush with death: he's stabbed repeatedly, left for dead on the ground, then shows up again half an hour later in a stretcher, giving Mindy a thumbs up as the paramedics take him away. 

This all feels grounded compared to "Scream 6," however, a movie where characters get impaled by massive knives and still live to tell the tale. Gale, Mindy, and Chad each get brutal moments that play out as death scenes, where the music and acting seem to imply that this is their final moment. But with Mindy and Gale, their scenes keep going. The moment the paramedics show up at Gale's apartment or when Ethan takes Mindy out of the subway, it's clear that both of them are going to make it out of this after all.

Chad's fake-out, meanwhile, is on a whole other level. He gets stabbed a whole bunch of times, falls over dead, and the movie moves on. Nobody comes to help him for at least half an hour. Whereas Mindy and Gale's survival kind of makes sense in that horror movie logic sort of way, Chad's recovery is the most blatant screw-the-audience reveal in the series so far. It's the sort of thing that makes you wonder if anything that happens in these movies actually matters.

A little too absurd

The movie plays Chad's survival as a comedic beat — it seems clear this is meant to be a funny homage to Dewey's miraculous "Scream 2" recovery — but it's a funny moment that severely damages the sense of stakes these movies have. "Scream 2" gets away with Dewey's recovery because this is a film where important, loveable characters actually died, but everyone we love going into "Scream VI" comes out of it in one piece. You can have Gale, Mindy, or Chad survive their severe injuries, but you can't have all three of them cheat death in the same movie. It makes it feel like the franchise is too afraid to kill its characters anymore.

That's not even mentioning how Tara gets stabbed in the back and Kirby gets shot with a gun in the final act, and neither characters seem all that concerned about it. This is particularly egregious in the climactic scene where Detective Bailey gets knocked unconscious for an indeterminate amount of time. While he's out, Tara and Sam don't just kill him; they hide, wait for him to wake him up, taunt him for a while, and then kill him. 

Thematically, it's a mostly fitting conclusion, but if you think about it literally for a second, it's ridiculous: so, our heroes decided to take their sweet time in getting back at Bailey, even though both Kirby and Tara were dealing with injuries that needed medical attention as soon as possible? Chad was bleeding out in the other room while Sam and Tara were just waiting around for Bailey to come to? The Scream franchise may have always played fast and loose with reality, but this is too much. 

What does this mean for Scream 7?

Again, it's difficult to bash these movies too hard for all this, because our growing familiarity with them is a large part of what keeps us coming back. If Dewey had died back in "Scream 2," he likely wouldn't have gone on to become one of the fandom's most beloved characters. Likewise, in order for this new generation of survivors to properly step out of the shadow of the original trio, audiences need to be given time to get to know them. When it looks like Chad and Mindy are goners in this film, that already hurts way more than it did when they seemed like goners in "Scream 5," because they've already wormed their way into viewers' hearts through the sheer power of familiarity. 

By the end of "Scream 6," the series has developed the Core Four enough to the point where they can no longer be accused of being generic replacement characters. If they were to die in "Scream 7," it would genuinely sting in the same sort of way Gale or Sidney's death would sting. Going into "Scream 7," we've got a potential cast of seven main characters that have all survived at least two movies. That's seven main characters we'll genuinely care about whenever they're in danger, providing the movie can make us believe that danger still matters.

If "Scream 7" has the guts to let knife wounds be lethal again, it's got the potential to be the most thrilling (and most emotionally devastating) of any of these films. As long as these movies knock it off with the fake-outs and miraculous survivals, the series still has plenty of life left in it.