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What was your first truly scary movie? 'Scream' was mine.

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Scream-barrymore

Image Credit: Everett CollectionAs an adult who only occasionally gets ID’ed for R-rated movies, I’m looking forward to Scream 4 as just another highly anticipated scary movie. But all the buzz reminds me of my experience watching the original Scream: Mostly, how it severely freaked my adolescent self out… and, yet, left me wanting more gore.

The original Scream came out when I was 10, but it wasn’t until a year or so later when it was out on VHS that seeing it became the cool thing to do — a necessity, really, on the level of showing up to school with a hickey or hanging out at the mall on Friday nights. On my 12th birthday, I had a sleepover party (I was not cool) with my friends. I’d rented Scream from Blockbuster and tried to peer-pressure my guests into watching it late at night. I think everyone was a little nervous, myself included, but we were determined to see it — until one of my friends, the real Butters of the group, had a crazy “I’m calling my mom” freakout before the movie even started. So, instead, we watched the back-up video, Liar, Liar, and I think we were all a little relieved.

Still, I didn’t give up. My slightly older brother and I watched it the next night in complete silence. I’d definitely seen people being shot to death in movies before, but not stalked and gutted. There seemed to be so many “bad” things in the movie — sex, alcohol, cussing, and lots and lots of violence — but the characters were so blasé about all of it. I can’t say I enjoyed the experience — I tensed every muscle in my body the whole time and worried that my parents would walk in. I dreaded each new stab (and shuddered at those brutal “shredding” sound effects), and when the movie finally ended, I almost felt like I’d finished a marathon.

Of course, at school the next day, I talked about the movie with the kids I wanted to impress, saying it was “the scariest movie ever.” A week later, I’d changed my tune, saying things like, “I thought it was funnier than it was scary.” Scream probably wasn’t my first R-rated movie — I may well have seen Jerry Maguire or Speed before it — but it was the first one that counted. And after seeing it, I thought I could see anything. (Not long after seeing Scream, I rented all the Halloween movies, Last House on the Left, and, a few years later, Caligula.) It made me want to be clever and impossible to shock, and basically act and talk like a Kevin Williamson character. (It also inspired me to spend the better part of 7th grade writing a 400-page horror-drama-comedy screenplay called Splatter, but that’s another story). In other words, Scream was an important stepping stone on my way to becoming an insufferable adolescent.

Did you have a similar experience with Scream or another scary movie? What movie stole your innocence?

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