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The Terrifying Real-Life Incident That Inspired Scream

The slasher genre has created some iconic characters over the decades, with Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, and Jason Voorhees all soaking up the limelight in their own sprawling franchises. But another slasher classic didn't arrive on the big screen until the mid-1990s: "Scream." Directed by Wes Craven, "Scream" takes a satirical approach to the masked killer trope, subverting typical horror conventions by having one of its main characters, Randy (Jamie Kennedy), teach a party of students how to survive a horror movie. Nice

The commercial and critical success of "Scream" led to a 1997 sequel and a 2000 threequel before the franchise took an 11-year long break before Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returned in "Scream 4." A TV series following a completely fresh story also arrived on MTV in 2016, while "Scream 5" recently finished production. Although the next chapter of the franchise isn't set to arrive in theaters until January 2022, it's still exciting knowing that the killer is making a comeback. The original trio of Neve Campbell, David Arquette, and Courteney Cox are returning alongside some new blood, with the likes of "The Boys" star Jack Quaid and "13 Reasons Why" lead Dylan Minnette on board.

But wait — where did the idea for "Scream" even come from in the first place? Apparently, it all stems from something "Scream" writer Kevin Williamson encountered a number of years ago.

A perfect coincidence

Kevin Williamson didn't just pluck Ghostface and the brilliantly meta commentary on the horror genre out of thin air. He found inspiration through both a terrifying real-life crime and something rather mundane.

It's pretty well-known at this point that "Scream" was inspired by the Daniel Rolling, aka the Gainesville Ripper, who murdered five students in Florida over the course of four days in the 1990s (via the Miami Herald). It's easy to see the connection between the tragic real-life murders and the way in which Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) and Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard) go on their own bloody rampage through Woodsboro in "Scream." However, there's another layer to the moment when Williamson became inspired by the Gainesville Ripper to write "Scream" that makes the origin story all the more interesting.

Williamson told CNN in a 1998 interview (via Ghastly Grinning) that one night, he was watching a Barbara Walters special about the Gainesville killings and "was getting so spooked." When the special cut to a commercial, Williamson went to investigate and realized that a window in his living room — in the house he'd been living in for only two days — was open. It was apparently clear to the scribe that anyone could climb through the window and attack him if they wanted — which is a terrifying thought on its own, but it also sparked off the idea for the film's script.

So, yes: The Gainesville Ripper did inspire "Scream," but that core idea of someone sneaking in through an open window — like Stu does in the film — is a universally scary idea. Hopefully the story for "Scream 5" had an equally fascinating conception.