Scream: The True Story That Inspired The 1996 Slasher

(left to right) Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) with blood on him and the ghostface killer holding up a knife in a photo-shopped image from the movie Scream (1996)

Originally written By Kara Hedash for Screen Rant

Was Wes Craven's Scream inspired by a true story? The slasher movie that introduced the world to Ghostface debuted in 1996. The actual screenplay was written by Kevin Williamson and he had quite a bit of inspiration when developing the script.

Scream immensely stood out when it premiered in the mid-'90s due to its meta approach to the horror genre. The slasher pointed out horror cliches while subverting typical tropes when it came to killers on the loose. Even though Scream was heavily influenced by horror classics such as Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Nightmare on Elm Street, it was still unique enough to ingrain itself in the minds' of horror lovers when comprising the genre's best films.

Before settling on Scream, the movie was titled Scary Movie. Williamson created a horrifying tale about a young woman that was home alone being taunted by a serial killer on the phone. The woman, portrayed by Drew Barrymore, went on to be featured in the film's opening scene. The central character, however, was Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), the true target of Ghostface, the Halloween-costume wearing madman. The basis for Scream came to Williamson when he learned about a real Florida serial killer, the Gainesville Ripper.


Danny Rolling, aka the "Gainesville Ripper", murdered five students over a four-day period in August 1990. During that period, the area in Florida fell into complete chaos as the murders struck fear across the community. Rolling was eventually caught after being linked to previous murders in Louisiana, but the terror stuck with those who were enthralled by the event in the '90s. Williamson has stated that he was watching a TV special about the Gainesville Ripper when he noticed one of the windows in his house was open. At first, he was overcome with fear, thinking how easy it would be for a killer to break in. But that fear quickly turned into inspiration.


Williamson used the Gainesville Ripper and his love for horror as inspiration for a killer who climbs through windows and terrorizes a small-knit town. Scream took place in a California town but there were a few parallels to the Ripper and Ghostface. Rolling claimed that he didn't have any motive when he murdered the students, but there had to be a reason why he carried out the killings. After Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) revealed himself as the mastermind behind Ghostface, he told Sidney something similar in that not every killer needed a motive. That statement was untrue considering Billy targeted Sidney after her mother had an affair with Billy's father, driving his mother away. Billy killed Sidney's mom and wanted to continue the revenge on her daughter. Along the way, the thrill of killing enticed Billy and his accomplice, Stu, so they took a few extra lives.

The Scream franchise was later clouded in controversy when the movies were blamed to be the inspiration for a number of real-life murders. The films have focused on the media's influence when it comes to serial killers and fame. The killings were later linked to a number of outside factors resulting in the crimes and Scream was never deemed directly responsible. Williamson wanted to create a story proving that an ordinary-seeming person in any small town could go mad, and he did just that.