I know when you hear people talking about very important films in their lives, films that hold a place in their hearts, you don’t expect to hear ‘Scream’ included. Though, as I sit here watching it for the who knows how many-enth time, absent mindedly reciting all of the lines as I work, I know that for me, it is true. Scream was released in 1996 when I was 11 years old and in the fifth grade. As I grew older I was widely known as a horror nerd, in college I was a member of only one club – The Horror Club, which members of my horror class started. My final paper in Study of Film was on the horror genre, which was a risk considering how our professor openly spoke about how he deplored horror. But, I had a mind to turn him around, to see the genre as more than just sickos who love blood and violence. I think I did a little something, he gave me an A on the final and wrote notes on how much he enjoyed and learned reading through it. I probably still have it packed up in a box somewhere. But I digress.
In 1996, when Scream was released and I was 11 years old, I was just starting to like horror movies, that is, not be scared of them and be really interested in watching them. That year I changed schools from public school to private school. Not just a private school, but a christian private school. Most of the kids seemed sheltered, and lived in stable households that had strict rules and regulations. Not me. I was living with my working class mom and step dad- one tended to work all day and slept all night while the other slept all day and worked all night. While my step siblings and I pretty much did what we wanted. We were allowed to listen to what music we wanted, watch what movies and TV we wanted, and the two older of us spent A LOT of time staying out with friends rather than at home (especially once we really got into middle/high school). It took mom, my stepdad (Kevin), my grandparents, and my Great grandparents pulling together to get me to Mobile Christian School. I had a hard time really relating to ANY of the kids, but I still made friends. I met one girl that year who would be my best and closest friend through middle school, into high school, and while we aren’t as close as we should be now, we keep in contact- Courtney. Courtney was also allowed to listen to what she wanted, watch what she wanted, and raised to be independent. I think both of us having young mothers probably also had something to do with that.
My birthday is in May, so by the end of the school year I had friends to invite over for a birthday party. I didn’t think about it at the time, but now that I am an adult, I am sure that mom and Kevin gave me such an extravagant party because I WAS at the private school with a lot of kids who came from families that had a lot more money than we did, and there was extra stress placed on my shoulders because of that. They booked us a suite at the Adams Mark Hotel (fancy) and let me invite a bunch of girls over for a slumber party. We swam, gossiped, ate pizza, got hyper and did stupid fifth grade girl things…..and Mom ordered Scream on pay per view for us. This again, is something that I look at differently now. At the time we were all excited and totally pumped (and many scared). But now I think to myself – how did we get AWAY with this?!?!?!?! This was a huge risk!! All of these little christian girls who were not allowed to watch these types of movies – and OMG its rated R! How did we not have moms calling to fuss later and banning their children from hanging out with me?! They must have been too afraid that they would get in trouble to mention it to their parents I guess. But we had a blast. I remember sitting with my friend Lauren, both of us clutching a pillow and hiding behind it together during the scariest parts, once both of us diving behind so fiercely that we knocked our heads together pretty hard! When the pizza man knocked on the door we all screamed that it was a killer and were scared to open the door. Good times.
When the movie came out on VHS I immediately begged my mother to buy it for me or bought it with babysitting money one. Courtney and I watched it a million times and would sit and both recite all of the lines together. I had two huge movie posters hanging in my middle school room – one was for Grease. The other? This right here. And it stuck around through college. (might I add I was already obsessed with Drew Barrymore before Scream, and stayed that way a long time after?)
After that I went to the theaters to see every sequel. I remember the next year when I was 12, I went to see the second one with my Uncle, who I have always been very close with, and his friends- a bunch of 20 somethings. I don’t clearly remember going to see Scream 3- though I’m sure it was with Courtney, and of course when 4 came out I went with my husband, Todd.
People who aren’t horror nerds just see these types of movies as trivial, though many of them aren’t. When Scream came out horror was seen as a dying genre. Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven created something fresh and smart. The writing was spot on- creating a world wherein the main characters were aware of horror movies and all of their laughable cliches, and openly referred to and made fun of them. The key was the self awareness. While this is normal in movies now, at the time this was NEW. The characters were relatable for ‘Generation X’. I related to Randy, crushed on Stu, and wished I could be Tatum. The casting was spot on perfect, and the soundtracks/score was really great too. (I also had all of the soundtracks, I have always been a soundtrack girl, if you would have flipped through my ginormous CD book there were definitely more soundtracks than artists albums).This movie is now known for breathing life into horror, and raising it from the brink of death. And hey, its always been there for me!