After years of bad slasher-movie sequels virtually ruined the genre, director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson revitalized it in 1996 with “Scream,” which turns 20 this week. But its tongue-in-cheek subject matter about killers and victims who know every movie trope inspired a generation of meta stories across genres. As we mark the 20th anniversary of “Scream,” let’s look at 10 reasons its a meta-horror classic.
Find more “Scream” trivia, quotes and goofs on IMDB.
Drew Barrymore, the most famous cast member at the time, was originally offered the role of protagonist Sidney (eventually played by Neve Campbell), but was drawn to the 12-minute opening scene because it established that anything could happen in the movie. Her quick death recalls Janet Leigh’s death midway through Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.”
In the famous opening sequence of “Scream,” Casey (Barrymore) says she thinks the sequels to “A Nightmare on Elm Street” “sucked” after the killer tells her his favorite horror movie. Craven directed the original “Nightmare on Elm Street,” but was uninvolved in its sequels. The line serves as a clever wink to fans of the genre and sets the tone for the film.
In another reference to “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” Craven briefly makes a cameo as a school janitor dressed in villain Freddy Krueger’s original costume.
Jamie Kennedy’s character Randy lists four rules of horror movies: (1) You will not survive if you have sex, (2) if you drink or do drugs, or (3) if you say “I’ll be right back,” and (4) everyone is a suspect. Williamson’s script both adheres to these rules and subverts them, with characters deliberately pressing their luck and Craven toying with audience expectations.
Randy at one point watches Jamie Lee Curtis in “Halloween.” He pleads with her, “Turn around Jamie! He’s right behind you,” just as Ghostface creeps up on his own character. The joke works on two levels, because Kennedy and Lee Curtis share first names.
Near the end of the film, Skeet Ulrich’s character Billy licks fake blood off his fingers, telling Sidney it’s just corn syrup. Of course, the movie actually used fake blood made from dyed red corn syrup, over 50 gallons in all during production.
As explained in the documentary “Scream: The Inside Story,” “Scream” was sent to the MPAA for review nine times in order to secure an R-rating over an NC-17. Producer Bob Weinstein personally had to lobby the MPAA in order to get the film the lower rating. He convinced the MPAA that the film was effectively a comedy.
Similarly, Dimension Films initially offered the project to a number of other directors before Craven stepped in. Weinstein had to ask Williamson whether the script he just bought was a “funny movie with scares” or a “scary movie with humor.”
Williamson was inspired by some real-life murder cases in his hometown to write the screenplay, but the story itself borrows heavily from an earlier slasher film, “When a Stranger Calls” from 1979. Carol Kane plays a babysitter stalked by a killer who turns out to be in the house after calling her on the phone.
“Scream” was the subject of much debate after real murders occurred in which the killers said they were inspired by Craven’s film. In fact, Williamson’s script appears to preemptively address this discussion. “Movies don’t create psychos,” Uhlrich’s character says. “Movies make psychos more creative.”
If this gallery filled you with ’90s nostalgia, you might also like this look at 10 Bizarre Details ‘The People v OJ Simpson’ Got Right.
And find more “Scream” trivia, quotes and goofs on IMDB.