December 21st marked the 23rd anniversary of Wes Craven’s slasher satire Scream. The movie was a clever homage to the classic serial killer horrors of the 80’s, and opened the door for popular parodies to follow. It was thought to be too gory to sell at the time and surprised everyone with it’s success, especially for a Christmastime release, earning itself a re-release in theaters in April of the following year.
The story follows Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) who is tormented by a serial killer on the anniversary of her mother’s murder. The killer targets people close to Sydney and uses classic horror movie references to toy with his victims.
The script, originally titled Scary Movie, was written by Kevin Williams, who was inspired by the news stories of the Gainesville Ripper. In an interview, Williamson said he wrote the screenplay because it was a film he wanted to watch, but no one was making it. When the screenplay was sold to Miramax, much of the grislier content was removed, though once Wes Craven was selected as the director a fair amount of the discarded scenes were brought back. The now iconic “ghostface” mask was discovered hanging in a house that was used for filming the movie Shadow of a Doubt. It was originally owned by a costume store called Fun World. Production attempted to design a mask based on the Fun World mask, with enough differences so they could own it, but Craven was never satisfied with any of the masks they created. He eventually convinced the studio to approach Fun World and acquired the rights to use the mask for filming.
The music score was written by a fairly new composer, Marco Beltrami. It was his first time creating the score for a work of horror, and he chose to steer away from conventional horror music styles. Instead he was influenced by composers of westerns likeEnnio Morricone. He gained some acclaim for his theme song written for Sydney Prescott, titled “Sydney’s Lemant,” which was used later throughout the franchise.
Scream was critically acclaimed as witty and “cheeky”, with particular praise for the character of Sydney and Neve Campbell’s depiction of her. The movie remained the highest grossing slasher film until the release of Halloween in 2018, and is considered to be responsible for reviving the horror genre, inspiring an onslaught of new teen slashers in wake of it’s unexpected success.
It’s sequel Scream 2 was also a commercial success, though the third and fourth installments faired less favorably, with critics claiming the movies had become the very thing the original film poked fun at. The franchize inspired the successful spoof Scary Movie, and an MTV television show based loosely off the Scream series launched on MTV in 2015.