Written by: Thommy Hutson
Directed by: Daniel Farrands
Starring: The Cast and Crew of Scream
Reviewed by: Brett G.
“We took every single rule and broke it.”
Like any landmark film (and especially landmark horror films), the story behind Scream is nearly as interesting as the film itself. And what better time to tell the tale than now, with Scream 4 ready to slash its way into theaters and (hopefully) remind us of how great the series was in the first place? That’s what 1428 Films, the guys and gals behind last year’s fantastic Never Sleep Again, must have been thinking too. Thus, they have given us Scream: The Inside Story, a definitive look at the conception, production, and release of the first film in Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson’s genre-defining slasher.
The documentary brings together a lot of the principals in front of and behind the camera with both recently-conducted interviews and archival footage. We obviously have director Craven, screenwriter Williamson, producers Marianne Maddalena and Bob Weinstein, and even editor Patrick Lussier. Cast members Neve Campbell, David Arquette Jamie Kennedy, Matthew Lillard, and Rose McGowan are joined by bit players Joseph Whipp (Sherriff Burke) and W. Earl Brown (Kenny the cameraman). The cast and crew recount their experiences, particularly the arduous shoot that was beset with interference throughout, be it from the studio, a local school board, and, of course, the MPAA.
The Inside Story does a fine job with dispensing with the obvious right off the bat--it not only recounts the plot of Scream, but highlights what made it so special--the characters, the dialogue, the bending of genre rules, etc. All are requisite topics when it comes to discussing the film; the documentary also appropriately grounds it within its 90s context by explaining the horror dearth of the era and the preponderance of slasher films that preceded it in the 80s (it even features footage from the likes of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and The Burning). Initiated horror hounds will find this to be old hat, but it’s a good, quick introduction for those who haven’t spent a lot of time watching blood-thirsty psychopaths. There was one part that stood out from this section, though--the reference to John Hughes and his obvious influence on the script’s characters and dialogue. Arquette describes Scream as “a John Hughes movie gone to hell,” which is an interesting take I’d never considered before.
Things get more interesting when the documentary delves into the film’s production. It begins with the film’s conception, which sounds like an old Hollywood story we’ve heard a million times before: Williamson was a struggling screenwriter who found himself in the right place at the right time as he ended up watching a television special detailing the grisly exploits of a real serial killer. This inspired him to hammer out the film’s script (titled Scary Movie), and the documentary then details the very interesting process of getting it sold. If anything, Inside Story is a pretty fascinating look at how a script makes it all the way to the screen because we track Scream on every step of its journey from that one fateful night of conception to its success at the box office.
The film’s pre-production and shoot prove to be just as interesting and full of similar “right place, right time” stories, as we learn what other big-name horror directors would have taken the chair had Craven kept refusing (a refusal that Craven blames on his “usual stupidity”). Other interesting tidbits include those aforementioned scraps with both the studio and a local school board over locations, the search for the film’s iconic mask, and a twist of casting fate that is now one of the film’s legendary hallmarks. The documentary keeps the information flowing rather consistently, and though I consider myself a Scream fan, I found myself hearing some of these anecdotes for the first time. We even find out that another one of the film’s more infamous aspects (Rose McGowan’s prominent…pair) was even making the boys on the set giggle. Inside Story also gives us a decent idea of what was cut from the film’s initial NC-17 cut; it’s still edited here for television broadcast, but it’s possible that newer fans have never seen the footage at all, as it’s not shown up on a home video release in over 15 years.
It’s a lot of fun watching everyone look back longingly, especially some of the faces we haven’t seen in a while, like Kennedy and Lillard. Like they did in their previous Elm Street documentary, 1428 is able to not only inform but also entertain by showing just what a labor of love the film was for everyone involved. Arquette especially seems to be grateful for what the series has done for him professionally and personally; as a fan, it’s always nice to see a cast and crew that obviously appreciates the stuff that’s meant a lot to you. This documentary packs a lot into its 90 minute run-time, but nearly all of it bursts with enthusiasm. Whether it’s Kennedy gleefully recalling his newfound fame or Eli Roth detailing what Scream did for the genre, this is a documentary that clearly highlights both the importance of the film and the sort of nuts and bolts that went into making it.
I suppose hardcore fans will be disappointed to know that the sequels are sort of glossed over (which isn't necessarily 1428's fault, as they're working within A&E's Inside Story format). Lord knows that Part 3’s production would have been especially interesting to recount, and I hope that 1428 someday makes a follow-up to complement this fine offering. There’s also a token mention of the upcoming Scream 4, but this never feels like a puff piece made solely for promoting that new outing. Instead, this is a great look back on an important film in our genre; like Scream itself, it’s a nice gift to fans. There’s been no DVD release announced yet, but it has been airing on A&E’s Biography channel for the past week; your next chance to check it out will be April 13th at 10:00. Set your DVRs and check this one out--it’s a great primer that will remind you why you loved Scream and will make you even more excited for Scream 4. Hopefully it makes its way to DVD as well, as it’ll sit nicely on the shelf with your Scream DVDs and Blu-ray discs. Buy it!
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