In this segment of our Colossus Movie Guide for Scream, we delve into the significance of the film’s title.
- Sidney Prescott – Neve Campbell
- Billy Loomis – Skeet Ulrich
- Stu Macher – Matthew Lillard
- Gale Weathers – Courteney Cox
- Dewey Riley – David Arquete
- Randy Meeks – Jamie Kennedy
- Tatum Riley – Rose McGowan
- Casey Becker – Drew Barrymore
- Ghostface (voice) – Roger Jackson
- Principal Himbry – Henry Winkler
- Written by – Kevin Williamson
- Directed by – Wes Craven
Why is the movie called Scream?
Scream was originally going to be called Scary Movie, a name later used for a spoof of Scream and other horror films. Scary Movie emphasizes the comedic, satirical, and meta elements that form the core of the story. But near the end of filming, the studio decided to go with a more serious title: Scream. Neither Williamson nor Craven were happy about this. Though the tremendous success did help them come to terms with the change.
When we compare the two, Scary Movie does seem to lack an edge. It’s almost cheesy. While Scream has a timelessness to it. Given that the scream is such a foundational element of the slasher film and horror genre, it does still carry that sense of meta awareness. Scream has a more poetic quality compared to the literal nature of Scary Movie.
The new title also, at least at the time, added an element of surprise. It allowed initial viewers to go into the film thinking it was a more traditional horror offering. Only for them to quickly realize there was something more going on. That shock value created a word-of-mouth buzz that led to outrageous box office success.
It’s worth noting that the word “scream” has a duality to it. Primarily, it refers to the act of screaming. But colloquially it became used to refer to someone or something being funny. “I went to see John Mulaney. He was a scream!” Or “Man, Todd, that hat is a scream.” The studio might have had this duality in mind when they chose to rename the movie. It would make you scream because it was scary, but, because it was funny, it was also a scream. It perfectly encapsulates the film’s blend of horror and humor.
What about the Munch painting, The Scream
So this is interesting.
In 2021, Williamson described the origin of the mask: No one could agree on a mask and I remember we were in a location scout, and we found Ghostface… in a box of stuff in a garage… Wes immediately looked at it and said, “This is like the famous Scream painting.” And so we took that to our production and we said, “Riff on this… make something like this.” They must’ve done 20 different designs. Every one of them was rejected by the studio, and finally, we were like, why don’t we just get the rights to this mask?
The mask was part of a Halloween costume released in the early 90s by the company Fun World. The designer, Brigitte Sleiertin-Linden, told The Hollywood Reporter: I was tasked with designing ghostly faces to be made as masks and to do some drawings with a similar look and feel. So I did a bunch of sketches of different white, ghostly faces with simplistic black facial-feature shapes. I loved the old Max Fleischer cartoons, and Betty Boop was one of my faves. Those faces were mostly inspired by the ghosts from some of those old 1930s black-and-white cartoons. … That whole inspired-by-Munch thing is a pat way to write off the design, but it’s not where my influence came from.
So the mask’s designer said The Scream had zero influence on the creation of the mask. But when Wes Craven saw it, the first thing he thought of was The Scream. It’s unclear which came first: the rename from Scary Movie to Scream, or the discovery of the mask and decision to use it? If it’s the former, then the title didn’t take any inspiration from Munch’s painting and it’s simply a nice coincidence. If it’s the latter, then it’s worth a larger discussion of the themes of the painting and how they implicitly tie-into/inform a reading of Scream.
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