When I was seventeen, my boyfriend and I wanted to go see a movie. (I know, shocker.) It had already made it through the “main” theaters and was now at the dollar theater, which—before this night—had never carded me and I’d already seen a couple R-rated films there. But, apparently, someone somewhere had gotten in trouble for letting the young-uns in and they would not let me in because I wasn’t eighteen. My boyfriend? Sure. He was eighteen. But he wasn’t my parent.
I’ve been in bars that weren’t as strict.
So we drove all the way back to his house, convinced his dad to come buy the ticket for me, and we saw a later showing.
The movie? The one that was worth driving back and forth and getting into fights with a ticket-taker who was about five-minutes older than me?
And it was worth it.
To this day, the Scream franchise remains in my Top Ten of All Time Favorites.
And I know the newest one is out now, but rest assured fellow Scream fans who may not have seen this movie yet—I haven’t seen it either. So no spoilers.
Instead, I want to look at an argument articulated in Scream 2 during Randy’s (Jamie Kennedy) film class. The scene is most famous for its poking fun of itself by making fun of sequels and how they are ‘by definition inferior films.’
While the look at sequels is fascinating, the piece of the scene that I find more interesting is Mickey’s (Timothy Olyphant) statement that the killings which occurred at the local cinema are ‘life imitating art imitating life.’
And the conversation that immediately follows is the question which has plagued art and life—which influences which?
Here’s the clip:
My personal opinion is aligned with CiCi’s (Sarah Michelle Gellar)—that people are responsible for their own actions. A person who murders another human being is wholly, completely, totally responsible for their own choices.
But we are all influenced by pop culture. We are products of our times. In Peter Vronsky’s recent book American Serial Killers: The Epidemic Years 1950-2000, Vronsky points out the early (1950s/1960s) serial killer trends of binding victims with rope reflects the bindings illustrated in detective magazines of the 40s and 50s.
Would those killers have found something else to “inspire” them if those magazines didn’t exist? Yes.
Scream itself is, as Mickey would say “…a perfect example of life imitating art imitating life.”
And the Scream rabbit hole goes deep.
Life imitating art…
The Murder of Cassie Stoddart
In September 2006 16-year-old Cassie Stoddart was house sitting for her aunt and she invited her boyfriend, Matt Beckham, and two other boys, Torey Adamcik and Brian Draper, to come over and hang out. Adamcik and Draper left earlier in the evening, but came back later dressed in dark clothes and white masks. They snuck into the basement, banged around, and turned the lights out in the house to freak out Cassie and Matt. Later, Matt’s mother came to get him but Cassie, who again was house sitting and felt responsible for the house, stayed home despite the creepy sounds and questionable lights.
Once she was alone. The two bastards in the basement came upstairs and stabbed Cassie 30 times.
Then they filmed the aftermath, confessing to the murder on tape.
They claimed, in court, Scream had inspired them.
…art imitating life…
The Gainesville Ripper, Danny Rolling
Scream itself is a story about a group of teenagers whose homes are broken into by a masked murderer who stabs his victims, leaving a bloody wake behind him.
And this bloody movie was inspired by real-life serial killer Danny Rolling, aka “The Gainesville Ripper.” In 1990, as the semester was just beginning for University of Florida students, Rolling broke into the apartments of several young women (older teenagers), raped, and stabbed them.
…life imitating art…
Gemini and Exorcist III
In 1990, Exorcist III was released. Prior to the Gainesville murders, Danny Rolling saw this film, the third movie based on author William Peter Blatty’s psychological horror novels. In it, a supernatural demonic serial killer called “Gemini” possesses people and murders people in particularly violent ways. The movie is based on Blatty’s novel Legion.
After the murders, Rolling claimed that he did not do the killings—an entity called “Gemini” did.
…art imitating life…
Exorcist III’s “bad guy” is called Gemini. The zodiac symbols and the codes used by Gemini in the 1983 novel were pulled from an as-yet unidentified serial killer known as The Zodiac.
The Zodiac murdered several people in the late 1960s—he’s been definitively linked to eight victims but claimed in letters to be responsible for over 30 deaths. He is famous for delivering cyphers to news media outlets and law enforcement.
Because he is unidentified, no one can know for sure what influenced him.
However, the Zodiac did reference the original Exorcist in a 1974 letter:
“I saw + think ‘The Exorcist’ was the best saterical [sic] comidy [sic] that I have ever seen.”
Jenny writes dark fiction that her mother hates. Her stories and essays have appeared in Across the Margin, Pantheon, Shimmer, Black Denim Lit, Skive, and others. When she’s not writing her own stuff, she’s reading mysteries for Criminal Element. When she’s not writing fiction or reviews, she’s writing/directing/performing/designing plays at Springs Ensemble Theatre.