Movies Don’t Create Psychos: A Retrospective Of Scream


The year was 1996, Freddy was dead, Jason went to hell. The horror movie industry seemed doomed to straight to video releases. Enter master of horror Wes Craven (Come on do I really need to list his contributions to the genre?) Wes had a new vision. By 1996 Mr. Craven knew horror fans were hip to the rules of a horror movie, and could predict the outcome fairly well. He had a plan to change all that.

Wes Craven along with writer Kevin Williamson unleashed a new horror phenomenon in 1996 that changed the horror genre forever. Horror got new life when Scream (originally titled Scary Movie, that went on to become the title of a horror parody film series,as we all know.) While on the home video front Leprechaun went to space, Scream was making horror movie history.

The town of Woodsboro is still in shock of the seemingly random murder of one of its residents, Maureen Prescott. Maureen’s daughter, Sidney (played by Neve Campbell) is grieving and cautious about her love life, thanks to some unflattering rumors about her mother. A day before the anniversary of her mother’s death two more shocking murders happen. This time it is fellow classmates Casey Becker, and Steven Orth.

Casey (Drew Barrymore)  was home alone, getting ready to watch a movie, and making popcorn on that fateful night when the phone rings. She answers and is the caller seems pleasant enough at first. Just a guy with a wrong number who strikes up a conversation. She quickly learns it’s not so innocent, as the guy keeps calling after she tries to hang up. The guy makes increasing threats before Casey desperately mentions she has a boyfriend who is big and plays football… The guy mentions the boyfriend’s name and tells her to turn on the patio light.

Casey sees Steve tied to a patio chair, she then finds out what the guy has wanted all along. A game, what seems like a simple game of horror trivia is really a game of life and death. Casey She gets a couple of the questions right. Sadly she is given a trick question (Who was the killer in Friday the 13th) she answers “Jason” (Apparently she wasn’t that big of a horror movie fan, as all horror fans know in Friday the 13th it was Mrs. Voorhees) Then she witnesses her poor boyfriend Steve gutted. She then misses the question “What door am I at” which results in a chase and her impending death.

After all is said and done her parents arrive to find the house full of smoke. They then find their daughter gutted and tied to a tree. This is significant in many ways. It resembles the opening murder of Suspiria. Also mimicking Psycho in the fact that a well-known actress at this point is the first to die. Another nod to a classic horror movie comes when her father tells her mother, go next door to the McKenzies. This is what Jamie Lee Curtis told the children to do near the climax of Halloween.

Just a few minutes later, Sidney sits at her computer (doing home work?) where she is startled by her boyfriend Billy (Skeet Ulrich). He was watching a movie, The Exorcist and thought of her. (Odd movie to make you think of your girlfriend huh?). He seems innocent enough, just hormonal. What Teenage guy isn’t?

That’s enough of the run down of the movie, just in case anyone reading this hasn’t seen it. If there, what’s stopping you?!

Scream opened in theaters December 20th 1986, and became one of the highest grossing slasher movies ever released.  It makes you wonder why these talented young actors/actresses didn’t go on to do more horror movies. Never Campbell was known for Party of Five, and of course Courtney Cox was known for Friends, the rest were pretty well unknown.  Neve Campbell, Skeet Ulrich, Jamie Kennedy, David Arquette, Courtney Cox, and Rose McGowan all went on to promising careers. Sadly Matthew Lillard kind of disappeared from the main stream after She’s All That, 13 Ghosts, and Scooby Doo. One has to wonder what happened there, he could have had a great career in horror.

I recently got to meet Skeet Ulrich and asked him a question about the cover of the movie that has bugged me since I first saw it. On the cover he has a goatee, but in the movie he doesn’t. He told me this is because he was filming As Good As It Gets at the time, and the posters are shot a few months after filming. So now we know.

Scream changed the horror industry forever. In many ways, Scream made me who I am today. As a child I was a wuss. I didn’t start watching horror movies until I was 11 years old. One day I faced my demons so to speak and put Scream in my VCR. The rest is history. It had many imitators (I’m looking at you I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legend) but none could touch what Scream had done.

With the recent trends and over saturation of zombie, ghost, and found footage films, we can only hope another film will come along and break the mold again.

Scream was a movie about teenagers who knew all the rules, talked about the stupid things people did in horror movies, and then did them themselves. It is a great homage to the genre.  Next in the saga will be a TV series, let’s hope it doesn’t crap on the legacy of this great franchise.

It is all the more frightening to know that this situation could really happen, impossible? No. Improbable, yes. The film was inspired by the Gainesville Ripper serial killer Danny Rolling.

Until next time folks, don’t forget the rules to successfully survive a horror movie. You can never have sex. You can never do drugs, or drink. You must never say I’ll be right back, or ask who’s there. As Randy says, follow the rules or you end up dead.


On a side note if by any chance Skeet Ulrich ever reads this, PLEASE do more horror movies.