While the 80s had no shortage of truly great horror movies, the 90s didn’t produce quite so many classics – but there can be no doubt that Scream was one of them. Released in 1996, the slasher from legendary director Wes Craven and up-and-coming screenwriter Kevin Williamson changed the way audiences looked at horror movies forever.
Scream may have produced five sequels (to date) as well as a TV spin-off, but nothing can beat the original. Did you know the following 10 facts about what many consider their ‘favourite scary movie’…?
10. The film was inspired by a real-life serial killer known as the Gainesville Ripper
Real-life murders have always inspired horror stories. Three of the most influential horror movies ever made drew from the life and crimes of Ed Gein: 1960’s Psycho, 1974’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs. When Kevin Williamson penned Scream, he was inspired by the real-life killer Danny Harold Rolling, otherwise known as the Gainesville Ripper.
Rolling murdered five students over five days in Gainesville, Florida in August 1990, leading to a state-wide panic that saw many parents pull their children from campus. Rolling eventually confessed to killing a total of eight people, was sentenced to death in 1994 and was executed by lethal injection in 2006.
9. It was originally going to be called Scary Movie
Scream is the perfect title for a horror movie. Like the film itself, it is a little bit tongue-in-cheek and self-referential, whilst also sending a chill down the spine. However, it originally had a much different name, one that we now associate with a far less genre-defining and high-quality horror-comedy series.
Scream was originally going to be called Scary Movie, a name that was eventually taken by a spoof series that first came out in 2000. The script was written in three days by Kevin Williamson, who in the same time frame also wrote two five-page outlines for potential sequels, which at the time he named Scary Movie 2 and Scary Movie 3.
8. Drew Barrymore originally signed on to play Neve Campbell’s role
When Scream was released, Drew Barrymore was by far the biggest star on the cast, which led audiences to make the reasonable assumption that she would be the movie’s final girl. Her early death shocked crowds, and set the trend of Scream movies killing off a recognisable star in the opening sequence. However, that wasn’t always the plan.
Drew Barrymore was actually set to play the lead role of Sidney Prescott, but unknown circumstances meant that she couldn’t commit to it, so she instead took on the all-too-brief role of Casey Becker. Sidney Prescott was of course eventually played brilliantly by Neve Campbell, although Brittany Murphy and Reese Witherspoon were both also considered.
7. Courteney Cox was desperate to play a character who was a ‘b**ch’
Second to Barrymore, Courtney Cox was the biggest name on the Scream cast list when it was released. However, unlike Drew Barrymore, the studio was not exactly thrilled with the idea of hiring the Friends star. It was Cox’s sheer determination to resist typecasting and play different types of characters that eventually won her the role of Gale Weathers, but it didn’t happen without a fight.
Then at the height of her Friends fame, Cox was reportedly desperate to play a character who was a ‘b**ch’, the opposite of her ‘nice’ Monica character. Producers initially refused to even consider Cox for the part, but she lobbied the studio who eventually gave her a shot.
6. Wes Craven lied to the ratings board to get the opening scene approved
Scream is packed full of iconic moments that went on to change the course of horror history, none more so than the opening scene. The movie begins with Drew Barrymore’s character being seduced over the phone by a mysterious stranger who quizzes her on her horror knowledge, before brutally killing both her boyfriend and her.
The shocking opening proved difficult to pass through the Motion Picture Association of America film rating system (MPAA), who demanded cuts be made due to the scene’s ‘intensity’. In response, the movie’s director Wes Craven told the MPAA he had only filmed one take of the sequence so was unable to make changes. It was a complete lie, but the ratings board believed him and approved the scene.
5. Craven was angry that the movie had to be heavily censored
Even though the movie’s opening scene made it all the way through to the theatrical cut, a number of other scenes had to be altered to appease the MPAA before Scream was allowed to be released. This led to a lot of bad blood between them and director Wes Craven – who had already had his share of clashes with ratings board on such earlier films as The Hills Have Eyes and A Nightmare on Elm Street.
“I’m a director who can do something very well but am not allowed to put it on screen,” Craven was quoted as saying. “And they ultimately get you, as they did on this one, on intensity. They say, it’s not a specific shot, it’s not blood, it’s just too intense.”
4. The film has been accused of inspiring copycat crimes
Over the years, Scream has been accused of inspiring a number of violent copycat crimes, including the 1998 murder of Gina Castillo by her son Mario Padilla and nephew Samuel Ramirez. The case became known as the ‘Scream murder,’ because the boys admitted to being inspired by Scream and Scream 2, and even purchased two Ghostface costumes and a voice changer like those used in the movies.
However, a study by prominent economists Gordon Dahl and Stefano DellaVigna showed that for every million people who view a violent film on a given day, violent crime decreases across America by 1.2%. Not only that, but countless other studies have shown that watching horror movies does not make you any more likely to commit violent crimes.
3. The voice of the killers never actually met the cast
Roger L. Jackson, a famous voice actor who also brought The Powerpuff Girls villain Mojo Jojo to life, was responsible for the silky smooth yet extremely sinister voice of Ghostface. To ensure his voice kept its menacing but seductive quality, Jackson really phoned the cast and spoke to them from a hidden spot on set.
As of 2023’s Scream VI, Roger Jackson is one of only two actors to feature in every entry in the long-running horror franchise, the other being Courteney Cox as Gale Weathers.
2. The film singlehandedly revived the slasher genre
It’s impossible to overstate the impact that Scream had on the horror genre. By the time the 90s rolled around, the horror heyday of the 70s and 80s was long over, with iconic slasher franchises like Halloween and Friday the 13th having become bloated and tired. Scream’s self-aware references to the cliches of horror movies was refreshing, and a whole host of other horror comedies followed in its wake.
This led to the release of many movies that followed a similar template, including the I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legend movies. Scream also inspired further, more self-aware sequels to older horror franchises, including Bride of Chucky and Halloween H20.
1. It was the highest-grossing slasher movie ever made for 22 years
Scream received positive reviews almost across the board, and proved so popular (with both horror devotees and more mainstream audiences) that it became the highest-grossing slasher movie ever. The film’s final box office earnings came in at $173 million worldwide – a good return on a $14 million budget.
Scream remained the most financially successful slasher movie of all time until 2018. Its record was broken by director David Gordon Green’s legacyquel Halloween, which took just shy of $260 million around the globe.