In this project I attempt to review the entire Scream trilogy scene by scene in chronological order. Click here to find out why. Please be advised that, quite obviously, this is as far from a spoiler free zone as you can get and there are spoilers for all three films from the get go. Also, please note that there will be gore throughout the series. That's a given.
Length: 12mins 46secs
Primary Characters: Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore), Steven Orth (Kevin Patrick Walls), Ghostface (voiced by Roger Jackson), Mr & Mrs Becker (David Booth and Carla Hatley)
Pop Culture References:
- Halloween (Casey's favourite horror movie, first trivia question, "Drive down to the McKenzie's")
- A Nightmare on Elm Street ("Is that the one where the guy had knives for fingers?")
- Friday the 13th (Second trivia question)
Notice up the top there in the title bar? It states the opening scene of Wes Craven's seminal Scream is only 12 minutes and 46 seconds long. For a scene that is, by all counts, relatively short, it sure has had a lot of impact. Much like the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, it is a scene of shocking violence that changed the way horror movies were made.
The first shot in Scream is of a ringing telephone, which is only apt since the audience has to get used to them. This being 1996 the use "cellular" phones (oh American lingo, you amuse me!) hadn't quite reached the level of ubiquity that we see later on in Scream 3. There's something so quaint about the use of a landline phone, isn't there? It sort of just makes the helplessness even stronger since the character of Casey is so tied down.
The sight of former child star turned drugged up disgraced turned respectable actress must have been a fascinating one to see. I find it amusing that a 12-minute cameo in a quote-unquote slasher movie is seen as a defining turn in her career, but it's a refreshing one (is Lindsay Lohan paying attention? It could be quite easy!) Being an original movie audiences really had no idea what to expect so it was a stroke of genius to not only cast Barrymore - who would expect her to meet such a grisly end in such a short amount of time? - but also to make the voice of "Ghostface" so nonthreatening with this back-and-forth of almost "make cute" banter. If this were a romantic comedy you would expect them to realise they're made for each other.
This moment is particularly good since Craven is quite obviously allowing audiences to get a feel for the location with those big french doors looking out onto nothing.
And here is, I think, one of the most interesting parts of the entire movie. At this moment Casey has begun to feel a bit creeped out by this mysterious caller and yet here she is just seconds later having a relaxed chat about horror movies. What I find interesting about it is that horror movies are designed to test audiences. We allow ourselves to be placed into a false sense of security so that when a cat jumps out from a box we feel that security threatened (obviously more so when the threat is a knife-wielding maniac and not a feline who enjoys coiling up in a box). So audiences let themselves feel complacent in a horror movie because when we get frightened it gives us that adrenalin that is what makes a horror movie so effective.
So here is poor Casey Becker and she herself is being lulled into a false sense of security when she really ought to freaking the fuck out and all because of horror movies. The killer here uses horror movies as a way to pull his (in this movie, "his" is appropriate) prey into a secure trap, let them think they have the upper hand (see the scene later on with Neve Campbell's immortal "stupid girls with big breasts" speech) before unleashing that menacing...
"You never told me your name."
"Why do you wanna know my name?"
"Because I wanna know who I'm looking at."
Bear in mind that we're not even three minutes into this movie and already so much as gone on. It's why this sequence is a classic. So much legwork is being done for the entire film, too.
"No you listen you little bitch, you hang up on me again and I'll gut you like a fish, understand? Hah. Can you handle that, Blondie?
Of course, what follows is a defining moment of the entire franchise. The willful acknowledgment of horror movie cliches - "You should never say 'who's there?' Don't you watch scary movies? It's a death wish. You might as well just come out here to investigate a strange noise or something!" - as well as the admitted knowledge of horror movie franchises, which is something that carries on through the entire trilogy.
The scene's trivia moment is a truly terrifying moment, isn't it? Can all of us - movie aficionados all - say we'd be able to keep our calm during such a moment and be able to answer the question "Name the killer in Friday the 13th" without hesitation? Would you, too, scream "JASON! JASON! JASON!"?
From here on out the final five minutes of the scene is a good ol' fashioned chase scene (oh and a gutting or two) that really is thrilling. It's here that the legwork of those opening few minutes really comes in handy. We've seen the layout of the house through those glorious early tracking shots, but curiously we haven't seen the upstairs. This is actually quite amusing because we see Ghostface immediately run to the staircase because, again as Neve Campbell's Sidney later tells us, stupid horror movie victims always run up the stairs when they should be going out the front door. Allowing Casey to make a run for it before... well, this.
Who exactly is the Ghostface in this scene? Obviously both Billy and Stu were involved, but the killer here seems almost too smart to be Stu.
Michelle Pfeiffer once said that she used this scene as a reference point for her own performance in What Lies Beneath, saying "I thought about Drew Barrymore in the first Scream - I mean, ultimately that movie was more funny than scary, but the opening sequence was quite terrifying, and she portrayed terror in a way I'd never seen an actress do." If that's not high enough praise for you then I don't know what is. Of course, we all know what happens at the very end here. Casey's parents arrive home to discover...
Not pretty, most assuredly, but as a purely eye-opening shocking moment to kick start your movie with it sure does pack a punch. "Ripped open from end to end" as one character calls it, which is an apt description. And such brings an end to all brief love affair with cutey pie horror loving bob haircut-having beige sweater-wearing Casey Becker. We barely knew you and then you had to go and get the question about Friday the 13th wrong. She has nobody to blame but herself, really.
One thing I do have an issue with about this scene is the moment where Casey states her favourite scary movie as "Halloween. You know, the one with the guy in the white mask who walks around and stalks babysitters." I have an issue because that is not the plot of Halloween. While, yes, Jamie Lee Curtis does play a babysitter, Michael Myers is hardly a slasher movie killer only targeting babysitters. In fact, as far as I can remember, it's only numbers one and four of the Halloween franchise that even has a babysitter character (and in the fourth, The Curse of Michael Myers, it is the child, not the babysitter, being stalked). /gripe.