Drew Barrymore’s accidental run-in with the police while filming 'Scream' (1996)
(Credit: Dimension)

Drew Barrymore’s accidental run-in with the police while filming ‘Scream’ (1996)

“Never say “who’s there?” Don’t you watch scary movies? It’s a death wish. You might as well come out to investigate a strange noise or something.” – Ghostface

Nearly after 24 years of its release, Wes Craven’s 1996 movie Scream remains one of the scariest and most gruesome slasher flicks of all time. With the maniacal killer, Ghostface, high on bloodlust and on the loose, the franchise’s atmospheric horror coupled with gore and violence is extremely shocking to the viewers. Hitchcock’s practice of killing off famous film stars as quickly as possible in his films (Janet Leigh in Psycho) is imitated by Wes Craven, who does the same with one of the most influential stars in his film, Drew Barrymore, in what is considered one of the most terrifying scenes in the history of horror films

Drew Barrymore played the role of a blonde, sweet-natured teenager Casey Becker, who was gearing up to watch some films by making some popcorn in her beautiful country home with large glass doors and windows. After the masked Ghostface calls her, she rejects his curious advances, before finally giving in to his charming voice. As they talk horror films, Freddy Kreuger and Michael Myers, “more of a game, really”, the killer suddenly asks Casey what she looks like as he would like to know who he is “looking at”. His tone turns menacing as he promises to “cut” her “up like a fish”.  This scares Casey who frantically tries to escape the killer, without avail. She soon finds her boyfriend tied up in a chair and brutally killed. Within just 15 minutes, Barrymore’s Casey gets gutted and hung from a tree branch, moments before her parents return. 

Barrymore had originally signed up for the lead role of Sidney Prescott. However, the idea of teasing the viewer’s sense of calm and comfort while watching the film by disrupting it within minutes tempted her and she signed up for Casey Becker instead. She was reading the script “at home at night alone” and that terrified her. She had also insisted on not seeing the caller’s face while filming to add a hint of realism to the film and bring out the real terror in her voice. 

“I was so flipped out. I can’t believe there wasn’t a cover letter that said, ‘Don’t read this alone if you’re a girl.’ I was like, ‘Seriously, this is irresponsible.’ I was terrified. I was so messed up, but I thought, ‘God if it’s that good in the writing, can you imagine how good it will be when it comes to life?’ In a movie where I knew there was going to be a lot of tongue-in-cheek, I wanted it to seem very real and high-stakes.” 

She admits shooting the sequence was intense. The palpable terror emanates through the screen via Barrymore’s terrific screaming, sobbing and frenzied running and dashing around. “It was intense. I remember driving home the night I wrapped and I was beat. I was exhausted.” 

However, there is some fun trivia surrounding this popular horror slasher. While the use of caller ID increased after the release of the film, Wes Craven narrated true stories of animal cruelty to the animal lover Drew Barrymore to keep her sobbing. However, the most interesting and hilarious trivia is related to one of the most pitiful scenes in the film. While Casey Becker tries to call 911 desperately, the actress accidentally ended up calling the 911 operator several times. The prop master had not unplugged the phone and this resulted in 911 receiving a frantic Barrymore’s repeated calls, high-pitched screams moments before her hanging up. In the middle of one such take, the police called back, confused and worried, to understand the situation which made the crew aware of what was happening.

Although Scream will continue to be one of the scariest horror flicks of all time, the unsettling opening scene will never be the same again, right, as we imagine a poor, confused 911 operator on the other end of the phone, trying to comprehend the strange happenings?

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