About the Movie "Scream"

by Petra Turnbull
Neve Campbell got her first lead role in

Neve Campbell got her first lead role in "Scream."

Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

"Scream" is a gory but funny horror movie that revived the slasher genre when it was released in 1996. The movie features Neve Campbell in the lead role, with Drew Barrymore, Courteney Cox and David Arquette among the large supporting cast. The movie not only received better reviews than expected for the genre, it was a considerable box office success.


When the first anniversary of her mother's murder draws near, teenager Sydney realizes that not all is well in the town she's living in. Her friends are butchered one after the other by a mysterious mass murderer, soon dubbed "Ghost Face" in reference to his spooky mask. She barely gets away after an attack on her life, but she still joins the rest of her friends for a party when news breaks that also the headmaster has fallen victim to the killer. When the group at the party reduces significantly in numbers with astonishing speed, it becomes apparent that more than one insane killer might on the prowl.


"Scream" is the brainchild of writer Kevin Williamson, who later move on to create television series "Dawson's Creek" and "The Vampire Diaries." Williamson based his script loosely on some real events in Gainesville, Fla., where Danny Rollings murdered five students before grotesquely mutilating their bodies. The movie was produced by Dimensions, a subdivision of independent New York based production company Miramax, for an estimated budget of between $14 million and $15 million. Miramax hired experienced horror director Wes Craven to direct. Although the movie focuses a good deal on satirizing other horror movies, including some of Craven's, it also displays an unprecedented amount of blood and gore. According to Craven's comments on the DVD box set, he had to negotiate heavily with the Motion Picture Association of America to receive an R rating for the movie to allow the important high school crowd to leave its money at the box office.

Box Office

Before the release of "Scream," movies in the horror genre were usually released straight to video. Unlike the few horror other flicks that made it to the cinema at the time, "Scream" was released not at Halloween but as a Christmas movie. It opened Dec. 20, 1996 and grossed more than $12 million during the first week. Also contrary to movies whose box office tends to drop once the first week of screening is over, "Scream" increased its box offices figures the two following weeks, which is attributed to excellent word-of-mouth recommendations by the audience. The movie remained in theatrical release for 22 weeks and grossed $102 million in the United States.


"Scream" was generally well received by critics, who appreciated the filmmakers' attempts to give the horror genre some humor, dialogue and content. The Washington Post pointed out that the movie "deftly mixes irony, self-reference and wry social commentary with chills and blood spills." The Los Angeles Times called it "sensational in both senses of the word: a bravura, provocative sendup of horror pictures that's also scary and gruesome, yet too swift-moving to lapse into morbidity."


"Scream" won the MTV Movie Award for Best Movie and received Saturn Awards for Best Horror Movie, Best Actress and Best Writer. In addition, it won the International Horror Guild Award for Best Horror Movie.


About the Author

Based in the U.K., Petra Turnbull has been working as a journalist since 1989. Her articles on the film and book trades have been published in "Screen International," "Dagens Naringsliv," "Film Magasinet" and other Scandinavian newspapers and magazines. She now manages her own book shop. Turnbull holds degrees in law and economics from Goethe University, Germany and Oslo Business School in Norway.

Photo Credits

  • Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images