500 Days Of Film Revists Wes Craven’s Classic Horror, Scream, Starring Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette
After the grisly murders of Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) and her boyfriend, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) begins to wonder if she might be the next victim on the killer’s list.
Is It Any Good?
20 years ago, Wes Craven’s horror film, Scream, was released in cinemas. The movie became a world-wide sensation in 1996 - a time when horror had slumped to a series of sad, straight-to-video releases.
Reinvigorating the horror genre, Scream went on to become a hugely lucrative film franchise (and now a television series) and inspired a host of new scary movies.
I revisit Scream at least once a year. It never fails to impress - making me laugh and getting my pulse racing. Craven’s classic has aged remarkably well (apart perhaps from Sheriff Burke’s interrogation of Billy Loomis: “Let me ask you this, what are you doing with a cellular telephone son?”).
Of course, one of Scream’s greatest decisions was to cast A-List actor, Drew Barrymore, in the role of Casey Becker and then, well, brutally murdering her character. Killing off the biggest name in the cast within the first few brilliantly horrifying minutes (13 minutes to be precise - spooky) made you feel that anything could happen - to anyone.
Cinematic self awareness was a revelation in 1996. Movies are so self aware and knowing now it is hard to remember the thrill of having a character in a horror movie reference other horror movies.
For example, when Sidney receives her first threatening phone call, she explains (to our delight) why she doesn’t watch scary films: “What’s the point? They’re all the same. Some stupid killer stalking some big breasted girl who can’t act who is always running up the stairs when she should be going out the front door. It’s insulting”.
In addition, there is much fun to be had when Scream vocalizes the horror genre's key survival rules. During the film’s climatic party scene, Randy (Jamie Kennedy) explains: “There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to successfully survive a horror movie. For instance, number one: you can never have sex. Big no, no. Sex equals death, okay.
“Number two: you can never drink or do drugs. The sin factor - it’s a sin, it’s an extension of number one. And number three: never, ever, ever under any circumstances say ‘I’ll be right back’ because you won’t be back.”
We have Kevin Williamson (who also created Dawson’s Creek, The Following and The Vampire Diaries) to thank for Scream’s veritable treasure trove of rules and horror references.
It is fun to watch Scream just to spot the references to the following classic horror films:
A Nightmare On Elm Street
- Casey mentions A Nightmare On Elm Street to Ghostface at the start of Scream: “well, the first one was good but the rest sucked”. Craven was uneasy with this reference until it was pointed out to him that he had co-written the third film and wrote and directed the seventh.
- Wes Craven plays a high school janitor in Scream - wearing an outfit suspiciously like the one worn by Freddy Krueger.
- Joseph Whipp, who plays Sheriff Burke, also plays the sheriff in A Nightmare on Elm Street.
- Skeet Ulrich looks remarkably like a young Johnny Depp - who also liked to climb through his girlfriend’s open window at night.
- Casey Becker’s favourite scary movie is Halloween: “you know, the one with the guy in the white mask who walks around and stalks babysitters?”.
- When Casey’s parents return home and realise that something is very wrong, Mr Becker tells Mrs Becker to “drive down to the Mackenzies” - a quote from Halloween.
- Billy’s surname, Loomis, is the same surname as Donald Pleasence’s character in Halloween (Dr Sam Loomis).
- When Billy and Sidney have their “edited for TV” chat in her bedroom, we hear a cover of the song "Don't Fear the Reaper". The original was featured in Halloween.
- During the party at Stu’s house, the teenagers watch Halloween. The film then becomes part of a chilling “turn around, look behind you” scene.
- In Alfred Hitchcock’s film, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), dies early much like Casey Becker in Scream.
- When Billy shoots Randy he says "We all go a little mad sometimes - Anthony Perkins, Psycho".
- As well as having the same surname as a character from Halloween, Billy Loomis also shares a name with Marion Crane's lover in Psycho.
- Linda Blair, Regan in The Exorcist, plays the obnoxious reporter who accosts Sidney when she returns to school (“So how does it feel to be almost brutally butchered?”).
- When Billy climbs into Sidney's bedroom, he explains that he had been “at home watching television, The Exorcist was on - got me thinking of you.”
- After Billy shoots Randy, he tastes his own blood (having been stabbed by Ghostface minutes earlier) and states: “Mmmm… corn syrup, same stuff they used for pig’s blood in Carrie”.
In addition, many other horror films are mentioned in Scream including Candyman, The Howling, Prom Night, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Night Of The Living Dead, I Spit On Your Grave and Silence Of The Lambs. Phew!
Scream is also considered to be an important addition to the horror genre because it contains a powerful feminist message. Okay, so Sidney does run up the stairs but that is only after she gives Ghostface a severe kicking.
And, let’s not forget that it is Sidney and Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) who finally end the madness. They are both far tougher and more effective than any of the male characters.
Finally, I couldn’t finish this piece on Scream without mentioning Ghostface. Wes Craven believed that the success of his film hinged on finding the right mask. In an interview with Hollywood Reporter, the director explained "I knew it in my bones that [Ghostface] was a unique find, and I had to convince the studio that they had to go the extra mile to get it."
Of course, the horror of Ghostface was not created solely via the mask. The killer’s voice is also terrifying. This iconic voice came from Roger Jackson. In an interview with Fusion, he remembers that he “tried to make him silky smooth, but he also has to be able to shift into something darker. It’s nice and friendly in the beginning, kind of an interesting voice, and then suddenly it starts to grow teeth.”
20 years after its release, Scream remains remarkably relevant. This scary movie is a true horror classic. Don't answer the phone. Don't open the door. Don't try to escape.
Have you watched Scream recently?
If so, what do you think of this classic film? Also, what’s you favourite scary movie?
Let me know… you can leave a comment in the box below.