Scream: 9 Things You Didn't Know About The '90s Horror Classic
Wes Craven's horror hit Scream might now be 24 years old, but the movie continues to be an influential slasher classic. The movie was released in 1996 and was followed by three sequel over the next 16 years, plus a spin-off TV show, which ran for three seasons between 2016 and 2019. Earlier this month, it was announced that the film was to be rebooted by Ready or Not directors Matthew Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett.
It's clear that Scream is a movie that continues to resonate with horror fans and filmmakers, and that it had a huge effect on the genre. The first half of the 1990s was not a particularly strong one for American horror, and it's hard to find many true classics in the six years prior to Scream's release. And on paper there was nothing to suggest that it would stand out from the pack. While director Wes Craven was a much-loved horror veteran who had previously given the genre classic movies such as A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Hills Have Eyes, it had been many years since his last hit. Screenwriter Kevin Williamson was a complete unknown, and the two biggest names in the cast--Drew Barrymmore and Courteney Cox--weren't exactly known for their work in the genre.
But somehow, everything worked. Williamson's script was an inspired deconstruction of the slasher movie, while Craven's experience ensured that while Scream was very clever and funny, it worked just as well as a straight-up scary movie. Established stars Barrymore, Cox, and Henry Winkler all subverted expectations in their roles, and the cast of young, upcoming actors were perfectly cast. And while the decision to release it a week before Christmas 1996 was seen as risky at the time, it totally paid off. The film was a smash, ultimately making more than $173 million at the worldwide box office.
So with Scream's 25th anniversary approaching, and with the reboot in development, we're taking a look back at this '90s classic. And after that, check out GameSpot's guide to the most underrated horror movies of the 1990s...
1. The screenplay was written fast
While the end result quickly became a box office hit and a hugely influential movie, struggling screenwriter Kevin Williamson wrote Scream very quickly with no intention beyond a quick sale to help his precarious financial situation. He loosely based the concept on a real-life murder case he had seen on TV, and then isolated himself in Palm Springs to get it finished. "I went off to the desert for 3 days, locked myself in the room, and pounded it out," he said in a subsequent making-of documentary.
2. Wes Craven wasn't interested at first
While many of the great horror directors that emerged from the 1970s either floundered in the 1990s or moved away from horror, Scream gave Wes Craven the biggest hit of his career. But although the Nightmare on Elm Street director was producer Bob Weinstein's first choice to helm Scream, Craven turned it down several times. At the time Craven himself was tired of making horror movies, describing many of them as "misogynistic", leading Weinstein to approach a variety of other filmmakers, including Robert Rodriguez, George Romero, and Sam Raimi. But they all turned it down too, and ultimately it was Drew Barrymore's interest in appearing in the movie that persuaded Craven that there was more to the project than he had initially thought.
3. Barrymore became Barry-less
Although Drew Barrymore was one of the first stars to sign on and helped get Craven on board, her role changed shortly before production. She was originally set to play the lead role of Sidney Prescott, but five weeks before filming was to start, commitments elsewhere meant that her shooting time would have to be reduced. Instead, she took on the role of Casey Becker, Ghostface's first victim. It wasn't the first time a big star had been unexpectedly killed off towards the start of a scary movie--Hitchcock pulled the same trick with Janet Leigh in Psycho--but it really worked in terms of subverting audience expectation in this scene.
4. Alternate casting
A variety of upcoming actors were considered for the roles in Scream. Alicia Witt and Brittany Murphy both auditioned for the role of Sidney after Barrymore left the part, and Reese Witherspoon was also considered. Brooke Shields and Janeane Garofalo were among the notable names who auditioned for the role of news reporter Gale Weathers, a role ultimately played by Cox. While the Friends actress was a huge TV star at the time, producers didn't believe she could play nasty as well as she played nice. "They didn't really see me as a b***h," she subsequently said, and it took her months to persuade them.
5. The actors never met the voice of Ghostface
The voice of Ghostface is one of the most iconic aspects of the movie--his taunting and terrifying phone call with Drew Barrymore's Casey is a big part of what makes the opening sequence so effective. While most directors would just dub his voice on afterwards, Craven decided that those scenes would be far more effective if the actors could hear the dialogue on the other end of the line. To add to the effect, he ensured that Barrymore and Neve Campbell didn't meet the man who performed the voice (actor Roger L. Jackson) before filming these scenes.
6. The Ghostface mask wasn't popular with everyone
very good slasher movie needs a memorable killer, and many of them are defined by their masks--think Jason, Michael Myers, or Leatherface. Ghostface wears a weird, white screaming mask that joins the pantheon of great slasher villain masks, but it almost didn't happen. The design was based on a Halloween mask created by a Fun World, who gave the filmmakers permission to use the design. It was then made even weirder and scarier by make-up effects designers KNB. Unfortunately, producer Bob Weinstein was less impressed and later stated that he thought the mask looked "goofy," demanding at one stage that Craven film each scene with four different masks so the issue could be decided later. Luckily, a screening of the footage shot convinced Weinstein that the mask (and the movie) was working well, and he backed off.
7. Scream originally had a different title
The original title of Scream was Scary Movie. Production on the movie had almost wrapped before Weinstein decided to change the name, choosing "Scream" because of the popular Michael Jackson song of the same title. The cast and crew weren't happy about the change--co-star Rose McGowan later said "I was really mad when they changed it," and in the movie's DVD commentary, Craven also states he didn't like the new title. Of course, Scary Movie was subsequently used as the title for the Wayans brothers' popular series of horror spoofs.
8. Cameos to watch for
There are a couple of cool cameos to look out for in Scream. Linda Blair, who became a horror icon for playing the possessed Regan in The Exorcist, appears as a reporter in the press scrum who shouts "people have a right to know!" at the police. And Craven himself appears briefly as a janitor in the high school, dressed amusingly in a jumper that is suspiciously similar to the one worn by his greatest creation--Freddy Krueger. The principal, played by Winkler, even refers to him as Fred.
9. Scream had trouble getting an R rating
The filmmakers didn't have an easy time getting Scream through the US censors. Craven had to submit it no fewer than eight times to get it passed with an R-rating by the MPAA. In the movie's DVD commentary, he reveals that he lied to them at one point, telling them that there was no alternative footage of the opening scene for him to use, instead of the gorier shots in the movie. In the end, it took a direct appeal from Bob Weinstein to the MPAA, who successfully argued that they were focusing too much on the horror aspects and not enough on the humour and self-referential storyline.