Kirby Reed, played by Hayden Panettiere, is a character introduced in Scream 4 (2011). She is close friends with Jill Roberts (Emma Roberts), who is Sidney Prescott’s cousin, and Olivia Morris (Marielle Jaffe), the Roberts’s next-door neighbor. Her casting call described the character as “Cute and quirky, was a tomboy until a year ago, now she’s alternative, cool and sexy. Jill’s best friend. She’s a pop culture, horror aficionado, and a nerdy film geek.” On the fifteenth anniversary of the “Woodsboro massacre” (AKA the events of the original Scream), Sidney Prescott returns to the town of Woodsboro as the grand finale of her book tour. While in town, she stays with her aunt and cousin, Kate and Jill Roberts, which is how she meets Kirby.
Warning: this post contains spoilers for Scream 1-4.
From the first moment she appears onscreen, Kirby Reed is a joy to watch. She is fun and funny and bizarrely excited about all the murder happening around her while not venturing too far into creepy or tasteless territory. Kirby is starstruck by Sidney and obsessed with horror movies herself. She belongs to the Woodsboro High School film club and is friendly with the two horror buffs who run it: Robbie Mercer and Charlie Walker. Her character is meant to allude to Sidney’s best friend and Dewey’s younger sister, Tatum Riley, who was killed in Scream.
The finale of Scream 4 takes place at Kirby’s house where Kirby, Jill, Robbie, and Charlie congregate after the Stab-a-thon. At the after-party, Kirby confesses to Charlie that she’s always thought he was cute and asks him to “make a move,” but they are interrupted by Travis arriving. Later, Kirby receives her first call from Ghostface after finding Charlie tied to a chair in a scene that is meant to mirror the opening scene of Scream with Drew Barrymore answering horror trivia questions on the phone trying to save the life of her boyfriend Steve, who is tied to a chair on her patio.
Unfortunately, right after Kirby “saves Charlie’s life,” she discovers that he is one of the killers and he stabs her, saying, “Four years of classes together and you notice me now?” and then “You stupid bitch. It’s too late.”
This is where things get interesting.
In the original script for Scream 4, Kirby does not die. There is a scene that shows her moving after she is presumed “dead” that was meant to confirm she was not among the departed. This scene was cut for time. Wes Craven talks about the scene in the director’s commentary and confirms that the plan was to have Kirby live. While the scene that confirms Kirby’s survival was cut, we are never told or shown that she has died. Craven’s exact words were, “Here you can see Hayden is still moving…not saying that she is coming back for sure, though.”
Later, when Sidney is in the kitchen, she hears a door shut downstairs but is unable to investigate because Charlie grabs her. It is never explained who had opened the door. It’s entirely reasonable to think this was Kirby crawling back inside, looking for help.
At the hospital when Jill mentions Kirby’s name among the deceased, Dewey does not correct her. This could be because he is distracted by realizing Jill is the killer when she mentions Gale’s shoulder wound. It could also be because cops can’t always confirm whether someone has passed away to a non-family member. If Kirby was confirmed to be dead, Jill would not yet have that information as she just woke up in this scene. She does not have any more information than we do, which is that Kirby was stabbed but was moving afterwards.
A little-known fact about the original Scream is that Dewey (David Arquette) was supposed to die. However, Wes Craven made a last-minute decision to not kill Dewey off because David Arquette did such an incredible comedic job in the role, and his chemistry with Gale Weathers (played by Courteney Cox, the two met on set and would later marry and have a daughter together) was something special. Craven added a scene to the end of the movie that shows Dewey alive and being loaded into an ambulance. He’s seen in Scream 2 walking with a limp and saying he suffered a severed nerve.
All of this means that it’s entirely possible that Kirby Reed did not die in Scream 4.
As a horror fan who loves all things Scream, I’d love to see this effervescent character back for Scream 5. She deserves it! Hayden’s performance in Scream 4 was praised; for many fans she was one of their favorite parts of the reboot, and the character feels incredibly authentic to the Scream franchise. I say for her enthusiasm and passion for horror movies, which is one of the main values of the Scream franchise, Kirby should be spared and make at least an appearance in January’s Scream 5 so fans know she made it out alive.
Kirby truthers will have to wait to find out her fate until Scream 5 is released on January 14, 2022.