Horror fans love to imagine what they would do if they found themselves in a scary movie, but in 1996, Wes Craven’s SCREAM laid out the rules for survival and encased them in cement. With Michael Myers paused threateningly behind him on a VHS pilfered from his workplace, Jamie Kennedy’s film nerd Randy stated what we now refer to with a certain reverence as The Rules:
1) Never have sex.
2) Never drink or do drugs.
3) Never ever, EVER, under any circumstances, say “I’ll be right back.”
But is that really everything you need to know to live to see the end credits? Kevin Williamson’s script is sharp, but there are some major risks his rules ignore. Here are some massively important horror movie survival ground rules that SCREAM missed!
Please note, these rules primarily apply to the slasher subgenre, though there is some crossover. If you’re trapped in a vampire movie, please close this page and dial up Peter Vincent immediately.
Rule #1: Don’t pull pranks
Where This Could Have Helped: THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW, TERROR TRAIN, SLAUGHTER HIGH
One thing every good slasher villain needs is a revenge plot, and if you’re the pranking type, you’re just asking for a knife in the gut. Especially if you see the words “Five Years Ago” appear on the screen, please refrain from any sort of buffoonery involving open flames, psychological torment, or a gun you’re absolutely certain isn’t loaded. You’re about to cause major harm to someone who will pop up in the second reel with a Halloween mask and an axe to grind.
Rule #2: Don’t run from corpses
Where This Could Have Helped: FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise, HALLOWEEN
You’re running from a killer! You open a car door, but guess what? There’s a corpse in the driver’s seat! What do you do? If your answer was “run away,” then congratulations! You just made a classic Dumb Horror Movie Decision. Corpses can’t hurt you. Big guys wielding hedge clippers can. Dump that body, and step on the gas. You can make funeral arrangements after the killer has been safely decapitated.
Rule #3: Don’t trust the cop stationed at the curb.
Where This Could Have Helped: BLACK CHRISTMAS, SCREAM 4, STAGEFRIGHT: AQUARIUS
“Don’t worry,” says the police chief, “We’ll have an officer watching the house all night.” He points outside where a police car sits silently. Don’t trust him. That cop is already dead. I don’t care if you just saw him pull up; he’s currently being purged of his entire blood supply via a gaping neck wound.
Rule #4: Always have your keys on you.
Where This Could Have Helped: HALLOWEEN, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE II
You might not know you’re in danger yet when you step out to grab a beer from the garage, but it’s always wise to bring your keys along. You’ll save yourself valuable minutes if the moment calls for a swift escape.
Rule #5: Don’t lean up against doorways
Where This Could Have Helped: FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER, HATCHET III, HALLOWEEN
I get it. After a half hour running from the forces of evil, you need a break. However, when you’re catching your breath, leaning against a doorway is just an invitation for someone unsavory to come creeping up behind you.
Rule #6: Don’t open the door immediately after the killer vanishes.
Where This Could Have Helped: FRIDAY THE 13TH, SCREAM 4
So, you’ve found a hiding place. Good! You’re making great progress toward escaping this movie with your hide intact. You might hear the killer rustling outside the closet door, but you’re safe for the time being. Let’s keep it that way. I guarantee that if you step out mere seconds after the noises cease, he’s still in the room. I don’t know where you thought he might have gone in that time, anyway.
Rule #7: Don’t stay behind to pack your things
Where This Could Have Helped: BLACK CHRISTMAS, THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD
“Oh, I might have left when you guys get back. Have fun!” Don’t say that. That’s a death sentence. You’re already violating a core horror movie rule by splitting up with your friends, but implying you might not be there when they return is a one-way ticket to six feet under. Your friends won’t even know you’re dead for at least an hour! Don’t embarrass yourself by being stuffed into an attic.
Rule #8: Pay attention in class
Where This Could Have Helped: HALLOWEEN, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STEET 4
Remember, this is a movie. There’s no way they’d show something as boring as a high school classroom for no reason. Your teacher is for sure giving you important information about dream gates or moral challenges you’ll face later on, so stop staring out the window and jot down some notes.
Rule #9: Always double-tap
Where This Could Have Helped: HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13TH, literally anything
This is a rule from ZOMBIELAND, but it applies everywhere. If the killer looks dead, he’s not. Don’t tentatively kneel down to check his pulse unless you want him to grab your stupid, reckless hand. Kick the knife away, stomp on his throat, shoot him, or preferably all of the above. Make sure that sucker is dead unless you want to run through the woods, tripping over roots for another twenty minutes.
Rule #10: Don’t get a sequel
Where This Could have Helped: FRIDAY THE 13TH, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, HALLOWEEN, FINAL DESTINATION, ALIEN
So, you’ve survived your first horror movie. Congratulations! You’d better pray it flops at the box office, otherwise a sequel will be green-lit and your neck will be the first on the chopping block. If you follow the rest of these rules, you might even survive a Part 2, but eventually the grim specter of death will claim you in the name of profits. Good luck, and happy surviving!