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Scream, Directed by Wes Craven

Dimension Films, December 20, 1996 (US)

Screenplay: Kevin Williamson

Starring: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Skeet Ulrich, and Drew Barrymore

The following which you are about to read is an account of the tragedy which befell a group of youths, in particular two boys with a rabid obsession for horror movies. It is all the more tragic in that they were young. But, had they lived very, very different lives, they could not have expected nor would they have wished to see as much of the mad and macabre as they were about to witness. For them, their idyllic suburban PG world was on the verge of turning decidedly and gruesomely Rated R. The trail of their stolen youth was to lead to the discovery of some of the most bizarre and horrifying films in the annals of American cinema, including but certainly not limited to, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich): I was home watching television and uh, The Exorcist was on. It got me thinking of you.

Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell): It did?

Billy: Yeah, it was edited for TV all the good stuff was cut out. And, it got me thinking of us. How two years ago we started off hot and heavy. Nice solid R rating on our way to a NC-17. And now, things have changed and, lately were just sort of edited for television.

Sidney: Oh so you thought you would climb through my window and have a little raw footage?

Spoiler alert! Something tells me that things are not going to end well for our horror fanboys, at least not for the one whose parents were steadfast in their refusal to let their preteen see Rated R films.

Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy): Because, he’s probably dead. His body will come popping up in the last reel somewhere! Eyes gouged out! Fingers cut off! Teeth knocked out! See, the police are always offtrack with this shit. If they’d watch Prom Night they’d save time. There’s a formula to it! A very simple formula!

I get it. Scary movies are all the same. Except when they’re not. Horror movies are too cookie-cutter. Except when they’re a cut above the rest. Slashers are a dime a dozen. Except when they kickstart a franchise or reboot a genre previously left for dead by the Hollywood machine.

Phone Voice (Roger L. Jackson): What’s your favorite scary movie?

Easy. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It’s not only my favorite horror movie of all time but one of my favorites from any genre. You’ll have to excuse my exuberance but the Tobe Hooper classic has been on my mind quite a bit lately, ever since I heard that it had undergone a painstaking restoration that set it up for imminent rerelease. I was over the moon at the prospect of seeing it on the big screen, something not possible during its 1974 run when I was a victim of age, still a decade-and-change away from getting into such movies without requisite adult accompaniment.

At the other end of the spectrum, G-rated films like Bambi, The Black Stallion, The Apple Dumpling Gang, Escape to Witch Mountain, The Love Bug, and Benji were certainly wonderful initiations into big screen magic. But tastes evolve, even intensify. Like any good addict, I wanted more. I wasn’t even sure what it was I was looking for but I was fairly certain that George Burns playing God wasn’t what I had in mind, although truth be told, I enjoyed that one too.

The first scary movie I saw on the big screen was in Addison, Illinois in 1979 when, during its second run, a film about a great white shark changed my world forever. Other than developing a lifelong fear of swimming in oceans, I rather enjoyed—understatement—the feeling of sitting in a dark theater and being afraid. Very afraid. We were definitely going to need a bigger boat.

I flash back to arguments with my parents that started in earnest one year later in sixth grade when my newfound love of horror was still relegated to novels (with special thanks reserved for authors Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Peter Straub, and Claire McNally). It was only natural that my obsession would graduate to film, a fate certainly sealed by Jaws. Consequently, when it came to be that a new movie about an axe-wielding maniac was set to open, it was obvious what I needed to do. Like any good brat, I pleaded my case relentlessly, begging my parents to give me their consent to allow me to go with my friend and his mother to see Friday the 13th. But as the aforementioned spoiler might suggest, as a general rule things were not exactly destined to end well for me. My pleas subsequently fell upon deaf ears, leaving me equal parts furious and shit out of luck. I guess my parents were apprehensive about what effect a horror movie might have on a young, impressionable mind.

Sidney: You sick fucks. You’ve seen one too many movies!

Billy: Now Sid, don’t you blame the movies. Movies don’t create psychos. Movies make psychos more creative!

Every week, I was routinely taunted by the Chicago Tribune’s Entertainment section when advertisements of the forbidden fruits would appear, each new horror film more enticing than the previous. I remained enchained by rules that I refused to try and understand. I felt like a caged animal. I was Every Which Way But Loose despite so desperately wanting to be free and out in the wild like in the forests of Camp Crystal Lake. And if forced to stay in the suburbs, I would have certainly settled for Amityville, New York or Haddonfield, Illinois, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Billy: It’s like Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs when she keeps having flashbacks of her dead father.

Sidney: But, this is life. This isn’t a movie.

Billy Loomis: Sure it is, Sid. It’s all, it’s all a movie. It’s all … one great big movie, though you can’t pick your genre.

If I couldn’t go to the movies, there was only one other way. The movies would have come to me. As luck would have it, this was right about the time that VCRs burst onto the scene, and also luckily for me, the family of my cohort in horror just so happened to be an early adopter of the exciting new technology. Thus began our secret lives (my secret life anyway, with my parents having no idea what I was doing or watching on the other side of town). My foray into horror had officially begun. I was free. I had made it to Haddonfield after all. But would I escape?

Stuart Macher (Matthew Lillard): My mom and dad are gonna be so mad at me.

I justified my transgressions under the guise that I was somehow educating myself. Who could argue? I would be well-prepared in the event I ever suffered the misfortune of coming face-to-face with evil. Like Sally Hardesty and her brother Franklin. Like Laurie Strode and pal Annie Brackett. But unlike some of the other poor helpless victims that seemed like such easy prey in the films I came to adore, I would be privy to the most important secrets of survival of them all.

Randy: There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to successfully survive a horror movie. For instance: 1. You can never have sex. The minute you get a little nookie—you’re as good as gone. Sex always equals death. 2. Never drink or do drugs. The sin factor. It’s an extension of number one. And 3. Never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, say ’I’ll be right back.’

Life isn’t always that generous when it comes to offering second chances (a rule that certainly applies to bit characters in horror movies), but at the end of sixth grade, I was given just that, a rare second chance to experience my first Rated R movie on the big screen. I knew right away that I was not going to risk missing out as I had with Friday the 13th. And although I am in no way proud of the scheming it took for me to be able to see The Shining, I certainly couldn’t have asked for a better initiation than to have my youth officially obliterated by the likes of the master of mindfuck himself, Stanley Kubrick.

Looking back at it now as a middle-aged adult, I can laugh about my less than proud introduction into the genre. I am fan, what can I say? I even stuck it out through the lean years when an onslaught of copycat slasher flicks saturated the industry to the point where it looked as though nothing ever could be released that would even qualify as being halfway decent. Happily, that wasn’t the case. There is always an exception to the rule. I remember how excited I was in 1996 when I first saw Scream—such a wonderful homage to the same genre that it simultaneously and good-heartedly pokes fun at.

There was even a nice bit of symmetry regarding Scream as a bookend to the story of two friends who shared a love for horror movies. Despite living at opposite ends of the country, we were both in Illinois when Scream was released and so we saw it together. It was as if we were back in junior high or high school, covered in pig’s blood all over again. And by the way, he would also be in Chicago for the midnight showing of the newly restored The Texas Chain Saw Massacre as well, a film we watched together as two ridiculously young wide-eyed young kids sitting side-by-side on a carpeted living room floor.

I will say this about the lies and sneaking around it took to forge my way into the world of horror: The saddest thing about telling a little white lie is that the next one (or the one after that) becomes easier and easier still. But in the end, the most important thing I take from it all is this … oh wait, you’ll have to hold that thought for just one second. Someone is knocking at the front door.

I promise. I’ll be right back.