The Horror Film Project
©2019, by M. Keith Booker
Scream and its sequels have probably been mentioned more in critical discussions of the postmodern horror film than have any other films or franchises. And rightfully so—Scream I draws extensively on tropes from previous slasher films (as all slasher films tend to do), but Scream does itin a way that is so overtly self-conscious of its replication of material from past slasher-film that it is clearly operating in a mode of postmodern pastiche. Scream has an impressive pedigree as a slasher film, given the credentials of its director. By the time he directed Scream in 1996, Wes Craven had established himself as one of the leading figures in the genre of horror film, in a career that saw him become the leading creative force behind films ranging from the gritty and violent The Last House on the Left (1972) and The Hills Have Eyes (1977), to the often hilarious, but politically-charged The People Under the Stairs (1991), to the comic Eddie Murphy vampire vehicle Vampire in Brooklyn (1995). But Craven, a former high-school and college English teacher, was best known as the writer and director of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), which inspired one of the major slasher-film franchises of subsequent years. Craven himself had dismantled the conventions of that franchise in his own postmodern pastiche of it with New Nightmare in 1994. But it was with Scream that he took the slasher film into the realm of pure postmodern self-consciousness.
The opening scene of Scream is one of the most famous in the history of horror film. It begins as a phone rings, to be answered by young Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore). It appears to be a wrong number, but the caller keeps calling back, trying to convince Casey to talk to him. She initially blows him off, but eventually begins to be drawn into conversation, confiding to him that she is making popcorn in preparation for watching a scary movie. Halloween is her favorite scary movie, she reveals, then guesses, when prompted, that the caller probably likes Nightmare on Elm Street. He agrees that’s a great movie, but she suggests (in an amusing nod to Craven’s initiation of the series) that only the first one in the franchise was. The conversation then takes an ominous turn when the caller reveals that he is looking at Casey as they talk. Frantically, she hangs up and locks all her doors. The caller becomes more aggressive and abusive, threatening to gut her like a fish. After he suggests the he would like to see what her insides look like, a now-frantic Casey warns the caller that her big, football-player boyfriend is due to arrive at any second. Then the caller reveals that he knows her boyfriend’s name and suggests that she turn on the patio lights. Predictably, a bloodied Steve is out on the patio, tied to a chair, his mouth taped shut. The caller insists that he wants to play a game, with Steve’s life hanging on the outcome. He challenges her to name the killer in Halloween, which should be easy, given that she has already identified that film as her favorite. Rattled, though, she can’t think—foreshadowing the way in which survival for characters in this film will depend both on keeping cool and on their knowledge of slasher films. Finally, she answers, “Michael,” correctly indicating Michael Myers, the slasher in Halloween. Now the caller asks her to name the killer in Friday the 13th, thus introducing the third of the major 1980s slasher franchises. When she gives the obvious answer, “Jason,” the caller reminds her that the real killer in the original Friday the 13th was actually Jason’s mother, not Jason himself. As a result of her wrong answer, Steve is killed. The caller breaks into the house; Casey grabs a kitchen knife and slips outside. Hope flares briefly, as Casey’s parents arrive home, but the killer, wearing the now-iconic Ghostface mask for which the Scream series is so well remembered, finishes off Casey before her parents can intervene. They find their bloodied daughter hanging from a tree out in the yard.
This initial scene serves as an excellent preview of the entire movie, indicating that this will be a bloody slasher film and introducing the vicious Ghostface slasher. It is also encapsulates the entire slasher subgenre—perhaps a bit too neatly and self-consciously—as will the entire film. The quiz concerning previous slasher films that is crucial to this scene already suggests this self-consciousness, while also suggesting that a knowledge of earlier slasher films will be crucial to the proper enjoyment of this one. On the other hand, this early scene alerts us that there might be some surprises in store and that genre conventions might in some cases be subverted. For example, if it was surprising that Marion Crane, seemingly the main character, was killed only a third of the way through Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), how unconventional is it for the character played by Drew Barrymore, the biggest star who appears in Scream, to be, not the Final Girl, but the first, killed in the film’s very first scene?
This aspect of the film, though it works very well, was the product more of necessity than of invention—Barrymore had originally been slated to play the film’s role, but then agreed to play this single scene after other commitments forced her to withdraw from the lead. That role instead went to young Canadian actress Neve Campbell, at that time a virtual newcomer to film, known primarily for her role in the television series Party of Five, beginning in 1994. Campbell plays innocent young Sidney Prescott, who will turn out to be the central target of the film’s highly misogynistic slashers, who (we eventually learn) murdered Sidney’s mother exactly one year earlier, an event from which Sidney has still not completely recovered.
In any case, the opening sequence sets the stage for numerous other scenes in which the film’s high-school-student characters engage in hyperconscious, self-reflexive, slasher-movie-oriented discussions and observations. Thus, Todd Tietchen sees Scream and Scream 2 as being among a series of films of the late 1990s that tend to portray their killer-figures as “semiotically informed briocoleurs who follow the outline of a pre-established narrative manifest in a shared literature of images and afterward process their artistically arranged corpses through another layer of reportorial and/or electronic desire” (99). He notes how the killers in Scream “follow pre-established ‘rules’ to slasher-style murder as if painting by numbers and re-appropriating the stuff of previous horror films for creative inspiration” (101).
Key to this aspect of the film is video store clerk and film buff Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy), who is the film’s true expert on slasher films and who serves as a sort of chorus reminding his fellow teens (and viewers of the film) of the conventions of the subgenre as the action proceeds. Not that they need much guidance (the film assumes almost universal familiarity with slasher-film conventions among young people who might be watching Scream), but Meeks’ commentary does make an important contribution to the film’s sense of self-consciousness about participating in the slasher subgenre—as well as providing an important indicator of the collapse of the boundary between physical reality and representations of that reality that is central to this film and that many observers have seen as a central element of the postmodern condition. Here, the boundary between the “real” world within the film and the fictional world of slasher films experienced by characters within the film is almost completely dissolved. At one point, Sidney complains to her boyfriend Billy Loomis (played by Skeet Ulrich, a sort of poor man’s Johnny Depp) about all the references to movies in the film, noting that what they are experiencing is not a movie. Billy disagrees, arguing that, in the contemporary world, “It’s all one great big movie,” he says. “Only you can’t pick your genre.” Then again, he has already picked a genre and has devoted himself to acting out tropes from slasher films. Sidney, despite her complaints about treating real life as if it were a movie, is choosing a genre as well, announcing to Billy her availability for sex by suggesting that she would like for her life to be a “good porno.” Apparently, these teens can only communicate by referring to movies.
One key element of the postmodern collapse of the boundary between reality and representation is the news media, whose modern technologies have made it possible to report events almost as soon as they occur, often converting those events into commodities to be marketed to audiences of consumers, eager for information. Meanwhile, there has been much discussion of the ways in which the contemporary media report events, converting them into entertainment spectacles, perhaps distorting the truth along the way. This aspect of postmodernism is directly thematized throughout the Scream franchise by directly involving local television reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) in the story. Gale has just written a book on the rape and murder of Sidney’s mother in which she argues, rightly as it turns out, that the convicted and soon-to-be-executed perpetrator, Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber), is actually innocent. Thus, Gale comes to Woodsboro High to cover the killings with a vested interest in sensationalizing the case in order to stimulate sales of her soon-to-be-published book. Indeed, Gale is depicted as self-serving and opportunistic throughout, though she is not an entirely negative character (and indeed saves Sidney in the end).
Gale, meanwhile, is only perhaps a decade older than the teen characters of the film, so she is not quite a member of the older generation, which might account for the fact that she has not been completely divorced from the ability to act effectively in a film in which the older generation does not come off well. Her relative youth might also help to account for the fact that she becomes somewhat distracted from her journalistic duties by her clear attraction to the muscular (but boyish and not-so-macho) local deputy sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette). Dewey and Gale, in fact, sometimes both seem to forget about the situation within which they are embroiled, as their hormones send them skittering off together into the bushes. (Arquette and Cox, in fact, had enough on-screen chemistry that they were married in real-life a few years later, further obscuring the boundary between fiction and reality in the world of Scream.)
The film’s teen characters interpret the events that unfold in their lives through the optic of the slasher film throughout Scream. However, the film’s engagement with the slasher subgenre reaches its peak in one key sequence in which the teens gather for a wild party at the house of student Stu Macher (who turns out to be one of the slashers and who is played by Matthew Lillard, who, ironically, had just come off a role in the 1995 film Hackers, in which he played a hacker nicknamed “Cereal Killer.”). The party is being held to celebrate the fact that classes at the local high school have been suspended in light of the recent killings in the seemingly quiet California town of Woodsboro. The party is all sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll, just young people being young people. Tellingly, though, one of the central entertainments at this party involves a group viewing of the film Halloween, which is thus identified as a key element of the party-goers’ group cultureand as a crucial contributor to their shared cultural identity.
Randy serves as a sort of host and commentator for the showing of the film, using his superior knowledge of film trivia to make sure all in the audience are fully prepared to view the film properly. For example, he at one point explains the rules for surviving a slasher film as follows: “Number One: You can never have sex. Big no-no. Sex equals death, okay? Number Two: You can never drink or do drugs. No, the sin factor. It’s a sin; it’s an extension of Number One. And Number Three: never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, say, ‘I’ll be right back.’” Stu then immediately leaves the room, jokingly saying that he will be right back.
But it is, of course, the invocation against having sex that seems central to these rules, especially, given the notorious role played by sex in slasher films—where anyone having sex is likely to be killed soon afterward, and where the surviving Final Girl is likely to be a virgin. Predictably, much of the discussion of Halloween that occurs in this scene has to do with sex. One scene that is a particular hit is the one in which Lynda van der Klok (P. J. Soles) bares her impressive breasts (shortly before being killed)—though the breasts are not actually seen in Scream, which, in fact, displays no bare breasts at all.When one of the onlookers (apparently not familiar with the film) asks when Halloween star Jamie Lee Curtis is going to bare her breasts, Randy explains that she cannot do so, because her role in the film is to be the surviving good-girl virgin. Thus, he notes that, ironically, she will not bare her breasts on film until she graduates from slasher films and “goes legit” in the 1983 Eddie Murphy-Dan Ackroyd comedy Trading Places—providing a reminder that the sorts of material for which slasher films are often criticized can be found in more mainstream fare as well.
Plot twists are typical of the slasher film as a subgenre, and such twists abound in Scream, as one would expect. On the other hand, many of the surprises in Scream occur when it deviates from the script in moments that are made all the more surprising because the film generally sticks to the script so closely. For example, in the very next scene after the prologue with Barrymore, we see Sidney alone in her bedroom, when she suddenly hears a scratching at the window. She goes to the window and opens it, when suddenly something jumps at her. Never fear, though, this time it’s just Billy. Or, actually, maybe we should fear, because Billy seems a bit sketchy as he complains to the virginal Sidney about the lack of sex in their relationship. After all, most viewers will know as well as Randy that virginity is often a key to survival in the slasher film.
This topic is re-introduced at the party: while the other teens watch and discuss Halloween downstairs, Sidney is in a bedroom upstairs with Billy, announcing to him that she is now ready to lose her virginity at last, which seems ominous, given the discussion going on below. Meanwhile, as the viewers downstairs eagerly await the “obligatory tit shot,” Sidney begins to remove her bra, leading to the expectation that her breasts are about to be exposed as well. However, just as the obligatory slasher-film baring of Sidney’s breasts seems to be approaching, Billy steps in front of the camera, blocking the view (and the cliché)—and reminding us of his earlier charge that Sidney is a “tease.” In this case, though, she’s teasing only the audience: she and Billy do have sex (though the sex is not actually shown, continuing the tendency to Scream to be rather demure in its representation of sex). This implied act (which neither Sidney nor Billy seems to have found all that fulfilling) of course shifts Sidney’s status within the conventions of the slasher film, inevitably making us wonder if she is about to be killed.
And she almost is—thanks to the efforts of Billy and Stu, who turn out in this film, in another twist, to be dual serial killers working together. Actually, Billy has been suspected before in the film (and even taken into custody by the police), while slasher-film fans will not be all that surprised to learn that he is a killer. After all, “Billy” had been the first name of the killer in several earlier slasher films (including Black Christmas), and “Loomis” is the last name of the psychiatrist who stalks Michael Myers in Halloween, while Dr. Loomis in turn seems to have borrowed his name from Marion Crane’s lover in Psycho. Here, though, Scream adds an extra twist by revealing in the film’s final extended action sequence the tag-time slashing being carried out by Billy and Stu. The killers, meanwhile, get their chance at Sidney, who has been their main target all along, when the other teens rush off to the high school, having received the news that Principal Himbry has been gutted by the slasher and is now hanging from the goalpost on the school’s football field. In what is probably the film’s most extreme depiction of the callousness of its teen characters, the teens rush back to the high school because they hope to get a look at the ravaged body of their despised nemesis before the police take it down, leaving Sidney behind to be menaced by the slashers.
The fact that the high schoolers regard Himbry’s death as a cause for celebration should perhaps come as no surprise, given the callousness they have already demonstrate by holding this school’s-out party in the first place (which little sign of concern for the recent victims or their families). In fact, for a film that was clearly designed to appeal primarily to a young audience, this one does, at first glance, appear to depict contemporary youth in an extremely negative light—as amoral, directionless, and interested only in orgasm, intoxication, and watching slasher movies. And, of course, given the fact that slasher films seem to be a crucial part of their cultural upbringing, the implication would seem to be that such films have had a seriously negative impact. However, there is clearly a note of irony in this depiction, with a knowing wink to youth audiences, granting them the sophistication to understand that what we are seeing is not so much a critique of the young people of 1996 as it is the stereotypical view of those young people held by their elders. In the meantime, this film also grants them the sophistication not to be negatively influenced by slasher movies, so that the depiction of that negative influence throughout this film (after all, this culture seems to have contributed to making two of them literal slashers) would seem to be a mockery of the fears of the older generation about the impact of these movies on their children.
Scream, in fact, includes a number of such knowing winks to its intended youthful audience, paying homage not just to the slasher-film subgenre but to the savvy of slasher-film audiences. Not only does the film assume that its audience will have basic familiarity with the subgenre, but it also includes a number of in-jokes that seem designed to establish a sort of bond with the audience. For example, at one point Sidney is accused by her friend Tatum Riley (Dewey’s younger sister, played by Rose McGowan) of “starting to sound like some Wes Carpenter flick” (conflating Wes Craven with Halloween director John Carpenter). This could, of course, we interpreted as a slip on Tatum’s part, but it is more likely that she is being ironic—and in a way that is highly appropriate, given that she is a character in a Wes Craven film that was inspired by a John Carpenter film. Indeed, I read this reference as a nudge to the film’s viewers, who are likely to understand perfectly well the implications of the “Wes Carpenter” line. This is a film made by slasher-film fans for slasher-film fans, which essentially places both the makers of the film and its audience within the same cultural community.
In conjunction with its ironic depiction of the negative influence of slasher films on young people, Scream also includes depictions of the older generation that suggest that these adults are not doing much better, even without the influence of constant viewing of slasher film. Parents, for example, seem to be largely absent, too busy with their own lives (including extramarital affairs) to have much time actually to supervise their children. When parents do appear at all, they are largely ineffectual—as when Sidney’s father Neil Prescott (Lawrence Hecht) spends most of his screen time bound and gagged, helpless to defend his daughter against the onslaught of the slashers. Similarly, Dewey, the film’s principal law-enforcement figure, is depicted as well-meaning but dim-witted—and as no match for the film’s ruthless slashers.
In many ways, the most important figure of older-generation authority in the film is Principal Himbry himself (Henry Winkler). Himbry is depicted as a pompous, domineering sort who is a bit too bullying, vulgar, and aggressive in his dealings with students—so much so that the film’s production was booted out of the real Santa Rosa High School, where they had originally been granted permission to film. The casting of Winkler (who does not actually appear in the film’s on-screen credits) in this role was in itself a stroke of genius. Winkler will be forever be remembered in American popular culture as the leather-jacketed, supercool, and hyper-rebellious Arthur Fonzarelli in the television series Happy Days (which ran from 1974 to 1984, but is set roughly twenty years earlier). The casting of “The Fonze” just one generation later as a high-school principal completely divorced from the cares and concerns of his students thus suggests the way in which youthful rebelliousness tends to be squelched in the interest of “maturity” and “responsibility” as individuals grow older in American society.
In Himbry’s key scene, he angrily (and not entirely without justification) excoriates (and expels) two students who had been going around Woodsboro High jokingly dressed in Ghostface costumes. He destroys one of the costumes and confiscates the other, sending the boys packing. A few minutes later, though, he dons one of the costumes himself and confronts himself in the mirror in his office, trying to act menacing. The implication is clear: Himbry, as an authority figure, is driven by a desire for domination and power of a kind not all that different from the pathological drive that motivates the film’s slashers. That Himbry then immediately becomes spooked by the idea that he himself is being stalked suggests that he might not be so tough after all; that he is then actually killed by Ghostface suggests his inability to protect the young people under his authority from such a force—while the fact that the killing is greeted so gleefully by the teens within the film (as they rush off to try to get a look at Himbry’s mutilated body) can be taken as an ironic nod to charges that slasher-films tend to desensitize their youthful audiences to violence, or even to teach them to regard violent murder as a source of amusement.
Meanwhile, back at the Macher house the two slashers mount their assault on Sidney, along the way killing Gale’s cameraman and shooting (but not killing) Randy, who survives thanks to his virginity. When Randy announces that Stu has gone mad, Billy replies that “we all go a little mad sometimes,” and then shoots him. Then he explains to Sidney: “Anthony Perkins, Psycho,” apparently fearing that she (and possibly the audience of Scream) might be too young to catch the reference. Gale, Dewey, and Mr. Prescott suffer considerable abuse as well, though in some ways the highlight of this last sequence is the violence that is visited upon the slashers themselves, who are bashed and banged about the screen like pinballs—or perhaps like characters in a Looney Toons cartoon. The reference here, of course, is to the notorious durability of characters such as Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, who are able to take an amazing amount of punishment without being permanently destroyed.
Scream’s slashers, however, are just psychotic teenagers, not supernaturally resilient slashers, and so they are eventually killed. Stu is hoist on his own petard as Sidney dumps an old-style CRT television set (with Halloween still playing on it) on his head, electrocuting him; Billy is killed when Gale shoots him just as he is about to plunge a knife into Sidney. Thus, while they have been at odds throughout the film (because of Gale’s reporting on the death of Sidney’s mother), Gale and Sidney become allies in the end in what might be interpreted as a moment of feminine solidarity. Then Gale proves her own resilience by grabbing a mike and doing a live report from the scene, thus proving that she has not entirely changed her stripes by using the whole bloody debacle as another career opportunity.
In terms of gender-based solidarity, however, the most charged element of Scream would appear to be the relationship between the two male slashers, who work surprisingly closely together, including a moment when Stu and Billy stab each other so that they can both claim to be victims of Ghostface. Among other things, these stabbings don’t seem to slow down the slashers very much, suggesting that they have at least some of the unstoppability that is associated with more traditional slashers. What is most important about this scene of mutual penetration is how clearly it is coded as home-erotic—almost to the point of being ridiculously over-obvious. Thus, while both slashers have girlfriends, they are both also pathologically misogynistic: Stu ultimately kills his girlfriend, and Billy tries very hard to kill his—after the two had earlier teamed up to kill Sidney’s mother because they so strongly disapproved of her heterosexual encounters (including with Billy’s father). Moreover, while Billy whines about Sidney’s sexual reticence, he doesn’t seem nearly as concerned about it as one might expect of a teenage boy, especially one who is not exactly the understanding type. And the towering Stu’s relationship with the diminutive Tatum seems to consist largely of tossing her around like a ragdoll, which one could very easily see as a transparently-coded expression of hostility.
Arguing that the American films of the 1980s were dominated by “cartoons of hyper-masculinity”—embodied in such stars as Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger—David Greven sees Scream as emblematic of a turn toward cinematic expressions of masculinity that are aware of queerness as an option, expressions that are themselves symptoms of a growing awareness of gay masculinity in American society as a whole (80). Further, Greven argues that Scream anticipates the later development of such forms as the “bromance” in its portrayal of the relationship between the two slashers. The portrayal of the slashers as bound (consciously or not) by a home-erotic attraction is not, however, a positive dimension of the film for Greven. Psychotic killers do not exactly serve as positive figures, after all. Indeed, Greven concludes that “For all of its self-aware, deconstructive wit, Scream in no way updates, corrects, revises, or challenges the homophobic and, especially, misogynistic aspects of the classic slasher genre (its animus toward queer male figures, on the one hand, and female sexual agency, on the other hand)” (82).
Greven argues that, far from breaking new ground in the positive representation of gay men, Scream actually replicates a rather old tradition of popular fascination with pairs of gay male lovers as potentially sinister that goes back at least to the notorious case of Nathan Freudenthal Leopold, Jr., and Richard Albert Loeb, two wealthy students at the University of Chicago who, in 1924, kidnapped and murdered fourteen-year-old Bobby Franks. The murder was apparently conceived at least partly as a demonstration of the superior intellects of the killers, which would presumably enable them to get away with the crime. Both were convicted, however, though their defense by famed attorney Clarence Darrow helped them to avoid the death penalty. Part of the reason why the Leopold and Loeb case gained so much notoriety was the fact that the two were apparently gay lovers, so that their crime verified popular suspicions that homosexuals were dangerous. The case has influenced a number of works of American culture, including Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 film Rope.
I would argue, however, that Greven’s criticism of the film as propagating long-standing anti-gay stereotypes does not properly appreciate the ironic and metatextual nature of Scream. Thus, just as the film repeats stereotypes about young people and about the negative influence of slasher films on the young in order to mock those stereotypes, rather than to endorse them, so, too, could one argue that the film codes its two slasher figures as gay in order to critique the tendency to suspect gay people of having a variety of pathological tendencies. Throughout its runtime, Scream repeatedly congratulates its audience on their sophistication and on their ability to see past the surface implications of film tropes. For example, the film clearly wants to point out that of course having sex will not immediately lead to one’s being murdered by a serial killer, so that of course slasher films are not intended to warn teens against having sex, because teens are far too smart to fall for such a simple ploy. In the same way, I would argue that, Scream just as clearly does not intend to make the equally ludicrous suggestion that gay people are dangerous psychotics prone to serial murder, despite the fact that it obviously indicates that Stu and Billy are at least in some sense gay.
Scream, in the final analysis, does not, in fact, intend to deliver any real messages to its young audience at all—other than perhaps an invitation to think of themselves as members of the in-group of people who really get slasher films (and are too wise to be dissuaded by popular critiques of horror films). To an extent, this lack of a message is simply an example of the lack of any real political force in postmodernist culture as a whole, as described by Jameson. In this case, though, the lack of a message would appear to be born from the conviction that young people simply won’t listen to such messages, partly because of a long history in which the messages delivered to them have been informed not by a desire to help them, but by a desire to control them. On the other hand, this particular youth-oriented perception is a very postmodern one as well, informed by a sense of belatedness that informs postmodern culture in general, by a feeling that we’ve seen and heard it all before, making it impossible to deliver any sort of message without a sense of irony so strong that the message already undermines itself.
Greven, David. “Fears of a Millennial Masculinity: Scream’s Queer Killers.” Reading the Bromance: Homosocial Relationships in Film and Television. Ed. Michael DeAngelis. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2014. 79–106.
Hoban, Phoebe. “An Actor Building a Career as Not-Johnny-Depp.” The New York Times (March 16, 1997). https://www.nytimes.com/1997/03/16/movies/an-actor-building-a-career-as-not-johnny-depp.html. Accessed December 27, 2018.
Tietchen, Todd F. “Samplers and Copycats: The Cultural Implications of the Postmodern Slasher in Contemporary American Film.” Journal of Popular Film and Television 26.3 (Fall 1998): 98-107
 The presence of Barrymore, a well-established star, still lent a certain prestige to the film. Ironically, she is probably now known as much for this small role as for any of her starring roles.
 One of the most important theorizations of this idea resides within the notion of “hyperreality,” proposed by French thinker Jean Baudrillard (1929–2007). Hyperreality, a key element of postmodernity, is the condition that occurs when representations of reality are produced at such a pace that it becomes impossible to distinguish between images of reality and reality itself.
 The casting of an actor who resembles Depp was probably not accidental, given that Depp got his start as an actor in the original Nightmare on Elm Street. Ulrich, meanwhile, has often been compared with Depp. See Hoban.
 This phenomenon is part of a larger movement toward entertainment culture in general, in which American consumers, especially younger ones, should somehow be entertaining. One of the classic early descriptions of this entertainment culture is Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, telling first published in 1985, in the heart of the Reagan era and in the midst of the slasher-film franchise explosion.
 Screenwriter Kevin Williamson, whose ideas provided the original impetus behind Scream, has stated that much of his initial inspiration came from Halloween, a fact that can be seen in the prominent role played by Halloween within Scream. Williamson, incidentally, also wrote the screenplay for Scream 2 and Scream 4, as well as I Know What You Did Last Summer. He also created the television series The Vampire Diaries.
 The final sequence takes advantage of the opportunity to sneak in other allusions as well. Early in the sequence, Billy pretends to be killed by Ghostface, covering himself with fake blood. Later, he identifies his fake blood as made of “corn syrup: same stuff they used for pig’s blood in Carrie.”