Trend > Culture > One Of The Scariest Scenes In Scream Is Its Iconic Cold-Blooded Open – /Film
One Of The Scariest Scenes In Scream Is Its Iconic Cold-Blooded Open – /Film
One Of The Scariest Scenes In Scream Is Its Iconic Cold-Blooded Open - /Film,What's your favorite scary movie? Scream changed the face of scary movies forever, and it's opening scene is a lot more brutal than you might remember.

One Of The Scariest Scenes In Scream Is Its Iconic Cold-Blooded Open – /Film

(Welcome to Scariest Scene Ever, a column dedicated to the most pulse-pounding moments in horror with your tour guides, horror experts Chris Evangelista and Matt Donato. In this edition, Chris asks “What’s your favorite scary movie?” with “Scream.”) 

“Scream” was a big deal. It cannot be overstated how much Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson’s meta-slasher changed the game for horror. The genre felt more than a little stale in the 1990s, and then along came “Scream” in ’96. The film was hip, it was bloody, it was scary, and it was funny. And it was a big damn hit, too, hauling in $173 million against a $14 million budget. In the aftermath, self-aware horror films with hot young casts became all the rage, all of them trying to ape what made “Scream” so special while never quite recapturing the magic of the original. It’s also important to remember that “Scream” is scary. It frequently gets incorrectly labeled as a comedy. But while there’s humor in the film, Craven often embraces cruel darkness — the kills aren’t fun, they’re downright brutal. None more so than the opening sequence that turned Drew Barrymore into a scream queen. 

The setup

Dimension Films

“What’s your favorite scary movie?” It’s a seemingly normal question that becomes ominous in the world of “Scream.” As the film’s tagline proclaims, someone has taken their love of scary movies too far. And now a killer (or killers?!) is stalking a bunch of teens in Woodsboro, California, using horror movies as inspiration. Everyone is a target, everyone is a suspect, and the killer — known as Ghostface — is lurking seemingly everywhere. Also, it’s the ’90s, so most people don’t have cell phones and have to deal with calls from the killer on their old-fashioned landlines. Talk about scary!

The story so far

Dimension Films

There actually isn’t a “story so far” since we’re tackling the first scene of the movie. But here goes! High schooler Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) is home alone one night, making some popcorn and getting ready to watch a scary movie. And then … the phone rings. The caller seems to be a wrong number at first, but he draws Casey into a conversation about horror movies. The call goes from harmless, to flirty, to threatening. And the caller means business, too — he has Casey’s football-playing boyfriend Steve duct-taped to a chair outside. Casey is frantically quizzed about her knowledge of horror movies, but when she gets an answer wrong, poor Steve is gutted. Yikes. 

The scene

Like a lot of people, I remembered “Scream” as being funny. But when I recently rewatched the film I was slightly taken aback at how brutal it all is, especially during the opening scene. Barrymore makes Casey a very likable character; we don’t want to watch her get butchered. Casting a recognizable face like Barrymore also lends itself to the character — we feel like we already know her! She’s Drew Barrymore! And she’s in danger!

The opening kill has become something of a cliche for the “Scream” franchise at this point, but in 1996, it felt fresh and different. Barrymore was featured on the poster, so it would be a good assumption that she would have a big part to play in the film. Not so — she gets bumped off before the title card. But it’s how it happens that really sets the stage for “Scream.” Casey is flirty with the killer at first — she doesn’t know he’s a killer, after all. And the mood of the sequence shifts subtly, growing more frightening with each passing moment. And then there’s the violence — poor Steve literally spills his guts, and soon Casey will meet the sharp end of the knife as well. To make matters all the more excruciating, she comes very close to getting away, sprinting outside of her house looking for help. 

But Ghostface tackles her outside, and here, Craven draws the kill out. The slasher is first toying with his victim before embracing savage violence, and we’re forced to watch each painful minute as Casey grows more and more bloody from her various knife wounds. Craven really twists the knife in by having Casey’s parents return home only to hear their daughter’s gargled, guttural death cries as the life drains out of her — and then find her body hanging from a swing set. It’s extremely upsetting stuff, not at all the type of fun, silly kill we usually associate with a slasher movie. Someone has taken their love of scary movies too far, indeed. 

The impact (Matt’s take)

Dimension Films

I once scripted an in-depth YouTube video addressing “The Art of the Jump Scare” that heavily features Casey Becker’s death in “Scream.” The way Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson orchestrated one of the most torturous long-scares in slasher history is sublime, teasing the audience while sustaining mouth-watering dread for so long. It’s a test of patience and willpower as Craven waits, waits some more, waits even longer, then finally goes in for the kill after playing Ghostface’s version of telephone. Tension mounts as Casey peers out windows and is taunted by her not-so-random caller, delivering horror ferocity like tiny but constant drips from an IV pouch. The entire cold open is a testament to the composition that goes into crafting the perfect scare, and that’s even before the opening credits hit the screen.