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How Wes Craven Messed With The Actors On Set Of The Scream Movies

The "Scream" movies are some of the most inventive in the slasher genre. The added whodunnit element of making the killer someone known to Sydney Prescott and all raised the emotional stakes, and the postmodern commentary on previous horror movies helped elevate the tone. Kevin Williamson's script is to thank, as is the direction by horror legend Wes Craven.

Before the "Scream" series, Craven was already well known for the "Nightmare on Elm Street" series, as well as "Last House on the Left," "The People Under the Stairs," and "The Serpent and the Rainbow." He had two decades of experience getting scares out of audiences — and getting performances out of actors.

In the director's commentary track for "Scream," Craven discusses eliciting a heartfelt performance from Drew Barrymore with a little emotional manipulation. Earlier in the day, Barrymore had shared a news story with Craven about someone who burned a dog alive and how much it had upset her. So when he needed her to cry, Craven said "Drew, I'm lighting the match," to make her remember the horrible dog story. And that's just one tactic Craven used on the set of the "Scream" movies. He had way more tricks up his sleeve.

The voice of Ghostface spied on his victims on set

Roger L. Jackson voiced Ghostface for all four "Scream" movies, as well as the third season of the TV show. Speaking to Vice, Jackson explained that he hid on set and recorded all of his phone conversations with Ghostface's victims. "I never met any of the actors in the films, but they all knew I was watching them, hidden somewhere nearby," he said. "I guess that added this layer of mystery and voyeurism, and it really freaks them out."

Having Jackson on the set also helped keep the conversation more alive. He could react to the actors' body language, bringing nuance to the performance that couldn't exist had it been literally phoned in. According to Jackson, that initial decision to have him on set belongs to both Craven and Ghostface's first big kill, Drew Barrymore.

Another way Craven messed with his actors was by keeping Jackson hidden away from the other actors, even though he was physically on set. "[T]hey never introduced me to the rest of the cast when filming," Jackson told Vice. "They wanted to keep me away so the other actors didn't have a visual image to associate with this weird voice they were hearing." All these methods helped make "Scream" one extremely effective horror movie.