Monday, December 19, 2016

An Open, Unapologetic Love Letter to "Scream"

"Movies don't create psychos.  Movies make psychos more creative."
--Billy Loomis

On December 20, 1996, Dimension Films released Scream.  Written by a then unknown Kevin Williamson and directed by genre master Wes Craven, this little horror film that could broke box office records and continues to be widely considered as one of the all-time greatest horror movies.  But most of you reading this already know that.  If you didn’t, stop reading this now and go watch Still Screaming.  I’m not here to talk about the behind the scenes or offer trivia that you might not have otherwise known.  You can find that anywhere.  What I want to do here is get naked.  Not really naked. But transparent.  I want to tell you what this franchise, but more particularly, the first film, has meant to me on a personal level.

Some of you won’t remember what it was like to go to school without any kind of internet.  It was a brand new thing when I was growing up.  There was no social media.  My space (see what I did there?) was my bedroom.  Like most boys at 15, I had posters of sports stars, super models and music icons on my walls.  I also had a TV and a VCR.  These were my window into the outside world.  I was not a very popular kid.  I had a handful of friends, but I was definitely not part of the “in” crowd.  I didn’t go to parties or hang out at the mall.  When I wasn’t working part-time at my local grocery store, I was at home.  I started gaining a voracious appetite for movies.  My mom was happy to oblige, taking me to Blockbuster nearly every weekend.  Most R-rated movies were frowned upon in my household in my early years, and for good reason.  I was an impressionable youth.  But one day, I finally grew a pair and asked my mom if I could rent Scream.  It was one of the only titles in the horror section I recognized.  I had seen the trailer time and time again.  I knew I wanted something scary and this seemed the best route to go.  Scream 2 was on its way to home video, so I knew if I liked this, I wouldn’t have to wait long to see the sequel.  I got home, ran upstairs, and popped it into my VCR.  On screen was Drew Barrymore, a face I’d known my whole life.  From E.T. to everything after, I’d seen her smile as much as I’d seen my own.  But she wasn’t smiling long and, before I knew it, she was dead.  Casey Becker was hung from a tree because she didn’t know the answer to a question that, at that point, I would’ve gotten wrong too.  And that was the moment I became a horror fan.  It was instantaneous.  Not because of the gore, although that was cool.  But because these people were, for all intents and purposes, my age.  They were in high school, just like me.  They liked watching movies and going to the video store, just like me.  Scream became a gateway drug.  It even was nice enough to act as a to-do list of what to watch next.  Name dropping flicks like Halloween, Psycho, Hellraiser and A Nightmare on Elm Street.  After I finished it, I rewound the tape and watched it again.  Pouring over every detail.  I realized that I was the Randy of my friends.  I saw my high school crush in innocent Sydney Prescott.  I didn’t wish death on my bullies, but I got a sick sense of satisfaction knowing that no one at Woodsboro High was safe, regardless of so called status.  When Billy and Stu reveal themselves, I almost didn’t fully understand.  They were hurting their friends.  Why would Billy want to kill his girlfriend?  Then everything was put out on the table and I was blown away.  I watched that tape so many times that weekend, I’m shocked I didn’t wear it out.  I almost didn’t want to take it back to the store.  But then my birthday came around and I asked my parents for a copy of my own.  And they came through.  I got the special edition that featured Courtney Cox on the box art.  A behind the scenes feature after the credits was just icing on the cake to having a copy of my very own.  Then to watch it and discover that it had additional gore added back in was a dream.  That was when I became a gore hound.

As my appetite grew, so did my VHS collection.  As did my radar for new films.  I Know What You Did Last Summer came out and it became the first R-rated film I saw theatrically.  Fun fact, my wife was supposed to be in one of the parade scenes in IKWYDLS, but her middle school band was replaced last minute.  When the Scream trilogy came to a lackluster close in 2000, my love for the genre, much like a horror franchise with too many sequels, never died.  My attention may have turned towards all kinds of movies, but I never forgot where my roots were planted.  When Scre4m was released in 2011, I was there opening weekend.  I was even working at a movie theatre at the time, so I saw it as often as I could.

Scream to me is almost like Star Wars.  It opened my eyes to a different kind of film.  It turned my attention towards not just what a good movie was, but how a good movie was made.  The importance of a solid director, clever writing and a capable cast.  I am not just a watcher because of Scream.  I am a writer.  Everything I am today as a movie buff and as a writer is because of Scream.  This website never happens if Ghostface hadn't happened.  I owe this movie quite a bit, hence this letter.  I wish I could say more, but it would just be overkill.  It's been said enough that I love this movie and its sequels.  Happy 20th Birthday Scream.  Here's to twenty more years of making psychos more creative.

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