The Scream Files : Scream (1996)


Okay I think it’s going to go something like this, just stay with me. Hi, this is Gale Weathers with an exclusive eyewitness account of this amazing breaking story. Several more local teens are dead, bringing to an end the harrowing mystery of the masked killings that has terrified this peaceful community like the plot of some scary movie. It all began with the scream of a 911, and ended in a bloodbath that has rocked the town of Woodsboro. All played out here in this peaceful farmhouse, far from the crimes and the sirens of the larger cities that its residents have fled. Okay, let’s take it back to one. Come on, move it! This is my big shot. Let’s go.

With “Scream 4” opening across, well, most of the globe this week we thought we’d take a  ‘Stab’ at a “15 things you didn’t know about….” for each previous film in the series. Some bits will be known, some bits won’t be, and other bits will simply be recollections of rumours that surrounded the franchise – and believe me, having run this site for 13 years or so, I’ve heard them all when it comes to “Scream”.

So lets take a look back at the previous three films in the series- yes, there were three; oh I suppose “Scream 3” resembled a ‘Jay and Silent Bob’ movie more than it did the second sequel to one of the smartest horror films of the ’90s though so that’s likely why some may have unconsciously forgotten it exists, fair-as-muff -complete with fluffy facts and don’t-give-a-damn trivia.

We will likely do “Scream 4” at the end of the series so people have enough time to check it out before we potentially drop minor spoilers and expose technical gaffes.

Today, we remember “Scream”.


Scream (1996)

After a series of mysterious deaths befalls their small town, an offbeat group of friends led by Sidney Prescott (Campbell) become the target of a masked killer in this smash-hit “clever thriller” (The Washington Post) that launched the Scream franchise and breathed new life into the horror genre.

We said :Few genres of films have so many iconic markers of the passage of history as horror. Whether it was the 1930s Universal monster era, the video nasties born on the back of the VCR or the modern torture porn films, the mention of many horror movies can invoke not just the era but the socio-political mood at the time.

While not enjoying a particular renaissance in 1996, horror enjoyed a huge shot in the arm by the birth of the ‘horror aware’ horror film. On the surface, Wes Craven- responsible for, or at least having participated in several iconic horror milestones- looks to have simply been doing a slasher movie of the video nasty variety, albeit more slickly produced.

A killer is stalking teenagers of the small town of Woodsboro, attacking them with a huge knife and wearing a black cloak and ghost face mask, an image that’s as recognisable to filmgoers as Darth Vader’s helmet or Indiana Jones’ fedora.

Heroine Sidney (Campbell) lost her mother to a murderer years before, and when her friends start dying around her it looks like the same psycho has returned to Woodsboro to finish the job of wiping her family off the planet.

The plot is a by-numbers job, a rip off of every slasher that’s come before it, and therein lies the whole point. Jamie Kennedy explaining the horror movie rules to the group while they settle down to a horror video night is the focal point for Scream’s mission statement- the genre poking fun at itself. It makes it quite explicit that you never say ‘I’ll be right back’, but when Tatum (McGowan) scoffs at the silliness of it and says it anyway, she has no idea she’s going to be the next victim just for having uttered a line that’s almost a curse.

Tatum knows it doesn’t really work like that in real life, but only we know we’re watching a movie so we know she’s doomed. It seems other characters (even the movie itself) know it too, breaking the fourth wall by homaging, setting up and poking fun at it’s own silly conventions but sticking to them rigidly, an in-joke between Craven and the rest of us.

Of course, it might not be such high and mighty literary deconstruction that’s made Scream such a classic beyond the mandate of its plot but the confluence of history. In 1996, the video nasty era kids were growing up and the generation to follow didn’t have the slasher film education we have today.

It was before the age of DVD and Bittorrent, so not only were those films harder to get hold of, slasher-era fan directors like Tarantino, Raimi and Jackson weren’t quite holding the reins in Hollywood and making the genre cool. It simply may have been the first taste young filmgoers of the mid 90s had of anything like Halloween or it’s other contemporaries that Craven was spoofing.

But however it happened, Billy (Ulrich) was right when he said ‘Yes it is, Sidney. It’s all one big movie’, Scream breaking its banks and becoming one more signpost signalling the new direction of horror.
(Drew Turney)

Clint says : : The original and the best. Wes Craven’s follow-up to the equally brilliant horror pisstake” Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” was a breath of fresh air in a year that include the likes of” Jumanji”, ”The Birdcage”, ”How to Make an American Quilt”, ”Black Sheep”, ”White Squall”, and, er, that flick where Steven Seagal was sucked out to the bottom of a plane within the film’s first reel. Funny, scary, terrifically-cast (though I do recall some horror fans thumbing their nose up at the suggestion of a “horror movie starring that annoying chick from Party of Five”)  and most of all, different to everything else that’d come before it, “Scream” was the silent killer –  slowly drawing more and more crowds (I saw it opening night and there were like three or four people in the cinema), uiltimately culminating in a treasure chest-sized prize for the Weinstein Company.  For college kids like myself, it was the perfect film to break up those headache-inducing exams and research marketing lectures – though I’m not sure that one lecturer appreciated being stabbed in the eye the next day by a fellow classmate… but whatever! the film could’ve been a messy  caesaran, but instead was a beautiful, icky natural birth! “Scream” – well, and the re-release of the “Star Wars” trilogy – was the film that got many of us through college. Some even elementary school. (Clint Morris)

15 Things You [Possibly] Didn’t Know :

Scream started out as “Scary Movie” – not in the sense that Casey Becker was originally going to be killed by way of a dick through a bathroom wall, but title-wise speaking. “Scary Movie” was the name that Kevin Williamson gave his script but somewhere along the line – I remember it being not too far off the release of the film because up til then most of us had been referring to the movie as ‘Scary Movie’ – either Wes Craven or Bob and Harvey, or both, decided to go for something more snazzier, snappier and Screamier (what’s the bet they originally wanted to use “The Mask”, until someone realized Jim Carrey had whored the heck out of that designate already and the Weinstein’s didn’t want to disappoint audiences when they’d rock up to discover there’s no Peter Greene or Tango scene).

Wes Craven wanted Drew Barrymore to play the heroine of the film, Sidney Prescott. Barrymore, however, had a better idea – why doesn’t she play Casey Becker, Ghostface’s first victim… the film’s big opening kill! Nobody would see that coming! Brilliant, Gertie, Just Brilliant!

When it came to casting Sidney, Kevin Williamson was championing a personal favourite, Molly Ringwald – she was never really in with much of a chance; she was way too old to be playing a teenager –  but those with more sway decided to go for one of the big up-and-comers at the time, ultimately choosing TV star Neve Campbell (“Party of Five”) over Reese Witherspoon and Melissa Joan Hart.

Freddie Prinze Jr would ultimately landed the male lead in another Kevin Willamson written project, “I Know What You Did Last Summer”, but he also tested for “Scream”.  Producers didn’t think he made for a very convincing ‘Stu’ though and ultimately went with [Prinze’s real-life buddy] Matthew Lillard. We got to see Freddie work his magic on screen, that’s all that matters.

In order to evoke tears from Barrymore in her big scene, Craven would tell the sensitive animal-lover stories about dogs and cats being mutiliated. Those tears were sponsored by Fluffy.

When Melinda Clarke (pre-“OC”) passed on the role of sexpot Tatum and Rebecca Gayheart had to turn down the role due to a scheduling clash, Rose McGowan got the call. Once the “Doom Generation” actress arrived on set though, Craven noticed that her hair was a bit too similiar to their leading lady Neve Campbell – both were shoulder-length, brown trims – so aksed someone to rustle up a packet of blonde hair dye. Tatum’s nipples would remain dark.

Kevin Patrick Walls tested for the role of Billy, Skeet Ulrich’s character. He was apparently quite good and came close to snuggling Sidney but Ulrich was just that little bit more ‘Billy’ – and, of course, it didn’t hurt that Ulrich was a dead-ringer for Johnny Depp. Craven remembered Walls though so brought him back to play the small role of Casey Becker’s boyfriend in the opening sequence. “Here’s your consolation prize pal – featured extra!'”

Courteney Cox and David Arquette met on the set of the film, fell in love, got married and had kids. Ironically they separated whilst doing “Scream 4” (presumably because Cox got rid of that beautiful ‘Scream 3’ tan – – eeek)

That scene where the phone slips out of Billy’s hand and hit’s Stu’s head? That was an accident… Ulrich simply dropped the phone. Craven thought Lillard’s reaction was so gold though that he decided to leave it in the movie – in fact Lillard ad-libbed quite a bit in the movie, too. Dial-a-dork!

When the film returned from the MPAA, the board asked Craven to cut the scene of Casey Becker being stabbed directly in the chest – it was, they say, too violent. Craven said he couldn’t because it was the only shot of the stabbing that he had filmed. Craven lied. (As a result of the fib the MPAA went out and told everyone how shit “Cursed” was – – or not).

Dewey was originally a hunky leading man type, which is initially what attracted David Arquette to the role – in fact, he turned down the role of Billy so he could play the heroic police deputy.

Speaking of mortal wounds, Dewey (David Arquette) was supposed to die at the end of the film from his knifing to the back. Craven had filmed an alternate ending for Dewey, one in which he survives, and decided to use it after test audiences reacted so favourably to the character. (Look closely in the final-reel scene where Gale lands on Dewey – he’s not breathing because he’s supposed to be dead!).

Henry Winkler’s character Principal Himbry was originally going to survive… and possibly pop up in the preceding “Scream” sequels. ‘The Fonz’ has Bob Weinstein to blame for his short involvement in the popular film series; having noticed in the script that nobody gets killed for about 30 pages, he ordered the principal dead.  Betcha Winkler slapped a jukebox after getting the news..

There was only one instance where one of the actors in the film got to wear the costume – the scene where Ghostface is keeping up behind Randy? That’s Skeet Ulrich in the black get-up.  Jamie Kennedy returned the favour later that night by creeping up behind Ulrich wearing nothing but a hockey mask and modesty patch – – or so my sham tells..

You can thank the internet for the awesome “Scream” music score, Craven’s assistant was scouring for a composer with a new sound online, when someone in a chatroom suggested a guy named Marco Beltrami. He has since scored every “Scream” film. (Henry Mancini was discovered the same way; someone suggested him to studios via stone tablet)

Next : “Scream 2”

Let’s talk below – tell us when you first saw “Scream” and your reaction?

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