The Scream movie script was originally titled Scary Movie. It was a slasher movie unlike any that had come before it. A movie that occurred in a world full of characters who love movies. It was able to subvert all the tropes and expectations audiences had about slashers and deliver something new and interesting.
The script put Kevin Williamson on the back and re-entered Wes Craven as the master of horror.
The movie was spoofed, referenced, and spawned a ton of copycats within the genre. It also got three sequels and a TV show. So yeah, Scream was and is a big deal.
Let's learn from the Scream script and see how it can help us with our own writing.
The Scream Script PDF Opening Scene
We talk a lot about how important openings are in your screenplays. Executives know within the first few pages if they want to recommend the script or not. That means you have to consistently capitalize in your first pages. And I cannot think of a horror film that capitalizes better than Scream.
Scream's opening scene does three things perfectly:
- It sets the tone
- It establishes the world
- And it hooks the reader.
The opening of the movie is a whopping eighteen pages long. While I don't recommend that in today's market, I think seeing that it's edited to a tight five minutes lets you know something distinct about Williamson's style. He writes loose, dialogue-driven, and keeps the action brief.
Take a look at this select page that showcases both voice and skill.
How the Scream Script Subverts Genre
The real thing that made Scream such a popular script and allowed it to go on to so much success is how it subverted genre expectations. Before we had Blumhouse and horror ruled the box office, the slasher genre was kind of limping through the 90's. Dimension waslooking for the next big thing.
And Kevin Williamson was writing it.
"I went to bed that night so spooked I was having nightmares, so I woke up at like three or four in the morning and I started writing the opening scene to Scream."
Williamson took his love or horror and basically announced the rules on the page, and then changed them as he went. Legend has it Williamson locked himself in a room in Palm Springs and worked through the first script plus two additional treatments for sequels to entice people to buy a potential franchise.
But how can you entice people to buy when horror wasn't really selling at the time?
Well, take it from the movie's "star," Drew Barrymore. Barrymore told Entertainment Weekly: "I read the script one night at my house and I just said, 'Oh my God, there hasn't been anything like this for so long, I loved that it actually got tongue-in-cheeky but it was still scary, and it was this great game that sort of described genres and revived them at the same time and redefined them all in one script. I went bananas."
But getting it to Drew took time.
Everyone passed on the script, but Dimension films saw potential and purchased the script and Miramax came on to produce.
The results were positive reviews and financial success, earning $173 million worldwide. That's incredible for the time and the genre.
How Scream Sets Story Through Character
I love the way Scream made us care about the people at the center of the story. We had seen so many "final girls" that were just cliches based on their sexuality. Sidney Prescott is a fully realized person who has her own issues and backstory. Her mother was murdered, she's haunted, and now, on the anniversary, she's being hunted.
And her pushy boyfriend wants sex all the time.
Lots of killers don't have great motives, but the killers in this one want revenge, have mommy issues and want to be famous.
Also, I said KILLERS.
I know it's crazy to think about now, but having the reveal be that there are two killers was really revolutionary. It was a fun twist that bucked the system. Also, the logic and strategy behind the killing made everything feel more cruel and personal.
What's next? Read the When Harry Met Sally Screenplay!
The "When Harry Met Sally" script PDF is a piece of treasure. It contains some of the best characters, dialogue, and emotions ever put onto film. So let's read and learn from it!
Click the link to learn more!