To mark the twentieth anniversary of Wes Craven’s game-changing slasher, Scream, Wicked Horror presents a week of specially-themed content celebrating the movie’s enduring appeal. In this installment, Michele Eggen looks back on how the 1996 classic set her on the path to horror movie obsession, and what the movie means to her today.

When I look back on my path to becoming the fully-fledged horror fan I am today, I can say with some certainty that Scream was definitely the movie that set me on this macabre trajectory. Saying that almost makes me feel like a fraud, that a more modern movie so heavily influenced me. Other fans have all these great stories of watching films like The Exorcist or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre at a young age and becoming obsessed with the genre from there.

But, I have to admit, it was Scream that ultimately did me in, and I haven’t looked back since.

Scream certainly wasn’t the first horror movie I ever saw. I loved watching horror, and was very grateful that my parents were not restrictive at all about my viewing habits. I have lots of early memories of my older sibling introducing me to stuff like Child’s Play, Sleepaway Camp 2, and Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II. Scream just came along at the perfect time in my life for me to really look at horror in a different way. This year is its twentieth anniversary, which means that I was at least 12 years old when first I saw it (still relatively young). That’s an impressionable age, especially for someone like me who already devoured as many books and movies as I could.

Maybe it’s not so embarrassing that this is the movie that brought me into the fold. The entire concept of Scream–an inward look into the horror genre itself–really made it the perfect movie for creating new horror fans, and I was one of the lucky ones for which that happened almost instantaneously. It’s a movie loaded with references, name-dropping titles and filmmakers all over the place. I just had to know: Who were these people and what were these films? My already movie-obsessed mind was suddenly introduced to this whole other world of horror that I realized I knew hardly anything about.

Drew Barrymore takes a call from the killer in Scream

Scream hit theaters on December 20, 1996, but I didn’t see it until it came out on VHS almost a year later. I may not remember the first time I saw The Exorcist or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but for some reason, I vividly recall the night I first laid eyes on Scream. My sister rented it and brought it home one night, and the whole family watched it together–yes, we somehow made watching Scream a night of family fun. I remember my sister, who had already seen the movie, spoiling a little bit of the ending by revealing to my dad that there were two killers. Still, I absolutely loved the movie and knew that it was something special.

Soon after that first viewing, we bought it on VHS. I watched that VHS so much that I can still recall exactly what each scene looked like in the dreaded pan-and-scan format, as opposed to luxurious widescreen. The copy we bought also came with an added bonus, a little precursor to what DVD and Blu-Ray would later provide. After the credits, there was a short EPK featurette with cast and crew interviews, and behind-the-scenes footage. This was where I first glimpsed Wes Craven, and identified him as one of those guys who makes these movies. I loved his sweetness and humble nature, and I think he became my favorite director right then and there, even without being fully aware of all the movies in which he had a part in creating.

The little peek behind the curtain that this featurette gave me, and my love of the movie itself, sent me on a journey to learn everything I could about Scream, ultimately leading me to the film’s IMDb page, where all of its references and influences were listed in the trivia section. Thus, my must-see horror movie list was created. That shot of Drew Barrymore hanging from the tree is reminiscent of a scene in Suspiria? Gotta see Suspiria. That was Wes Craven himself as the janitor, in a Freddy Krueger-inspired getup? Gotta see all the Nightmare on Elm Street movies (and everything else that Craven ever did while I was at it). I got sucked into the rabbit hole of horror, constantly finding new movies and filmmakers and falling in love with the genre with each discovery.

To me, this is Scream‘s greatest influence. Yes, it blatantly employs (and dissects) many tropes and clichés found in horror films in a way that may have made some people laugh off the genre. However, for those inquisitive enough to want to find out where all these ideas in the script came from, it was the perfect gateway. It was a movie that not only acknowledged horror fans and their lifelong passion for the genre, but also invited others to come join the party as well. After I saw Scream, horror was no longer just a genre of movies I enjoyed watching with friends at sleepovers for the taboo factor. It was pure, uncharted territory, full of fantastic films and creative filmmakers whose stories were equally as compelling as mainstream fare.

Director Wes Craven's cameo in Scream

To think that Scream has been with me for twenty years now is really mind-boggling. Re-watching it in preparation for writing this, it hasn’t lost any of the quality that made me fall in love with it back then (although I was reminded that I definitely need to upgrade this movie from DVD to Blu-Ray). The memories came back easily, and I remembered how much fun it was to be a fan of Scream. I dressed as Ghostface for at least three Halloweens in a row. And it’s still fun to be a fan of Scream.

(And, thanks to recent conventions that I’ve attended, I have now met almost the entire main cast, and those experiences were absolutely dreams come true).

Scream will always hold a special place in my heart for what it did for me personally as a horror fan. I was already into the macabre side of entertainment, so I’m sure I would have found my way into the genre eventually. But Scream was the film that took my hand and led me down that path. It pushed me to delve ever deeper into the genre, and to study it and appreciate it. It taught me that there was perhaps more to horror movies than meets the eye. And I will no doubt still be screaming for it for twenty more years.