Danielle Zepeda made her Halloween Horrors debut as part of 2018’s “Years of Fears” series with a touchingly sweet recollection of being a (then-underaged) horror fan going to watch an R-rated movie with her father; in this case, 1999’s Idle Hands. That piece, like many others, focuses more on how horror helped strengthen the bonds between family members, as well as the fond memories associated and stemming from it.
For her return appearance, Danielle once again takes us back to the 1990’s for a look at 1996’s Scream. As I’m sure that most of you are very well familiar with that film (and it’s 3 subsequent sequels), I really don’t need to say much about that film in this intro. However, for her 2019 contribution, Danielle focuses more on her relationship with a specific character and how that connection may have helped develop other interests and passions of hers.
A Love Letter to Scream
By: Danielle Zepeda
What came first: my love of true crime or my love for Billy Loomis? If you’re not familiar with 90s horror heartthrob, tortured soul, and all around bad boyfriend Billy Loomis, let me clue you in! Billy, played by Skeet Ulrich, is one of the major players in 90s horror classic Scream. Written and directed by Wes Craven, the film follows Sidney Prescott and her group of friends as a masked killer (known as Ghostface) is coming after her and leaving a trail of bodies throughout their small town. Chaos ensues, twists are turned, and a horror franchise was born.
My formative years were spent in the glorious 90s and what Michael Myers is to the 70s, Ghostface is to us 90s children. The mask struck fear into the hearts of those too young to see Scream when it debuted, and there was always a kid or two dressed up in the annual elementary school Halloween parade. Personally, I wasn’t able to see Scream until well into my High School years and two out of four sequels were already made. The movie left its impression on me, and to this day I can still remember Randy’s rules to surviving a horror movie. If a serial killer comes to my town, I feel well-equipped to survive at least a few days.
Watching Scream for the first time is an experience. The movie starts out in such a brutal way that you’re left thinking, “the rest of this is going to be a blood bath!” And while there’s plenty of blood, Scream is also a tribute to what makes horror so great! Wes Craven put together a cast of characters so well stereotyped that most viewers can see themselves in someone on the screen. Either you’re Sidney, the damsel in distress; or you’re Tatum, the popular and pretty one; or perhaps (like me) you’re Randy, the weird one. Whomever you identify with, the movie has something for everyone. By combining comedy and satire with horror, Craven allows us to laugh at and find the humor in the genre we love. Horror movies can be funny. Probably not intentionally, but sometimes you can’t help laugh at the bad decisions being made on screen or at the over the top acting in our favorites of the 70s and 80s horror films. Scream takes everything perfect and imperfect about horror, mixes it in a giant pot, and it remains a classic over twenty years later.
Now, back to Billy Loomis. Billy, like everyone else in the cast, is a true stereotype. He’s good-looking, has an edge, and is only after one thing (said in a condescending parents tone)! What fascinates me most about Billy is how well Craven used our feelings against us with his character. You’re supposed to be distracted by his looks and charm, and feel shocked and heartbroken by his actions at film’s end. What Billy brings to Scream is a look inside the mind of someone who takes their love of something too far. As horror fans, most of us can watch films, TV shows, documentaries, etc., and not take away anything other than enjoyment. For Billy, horror becomes his mission. Billy is a beloved fixture of the horror community and I include myself in the Billy Loomis fan club. Don’t get me wrong, Billy is a bad guy. He is one of the scariest horror villains, because he’s not a monster, but a viciously disturbed human. You might know someone like Billy, and that is what makes him frightening.
I called this a “love letter,” with the intent to talk about one of my favorite films, but also one of my favorite characters. Billy’s connection to true crime is not that deep, but if you think about a real Billy, I am instantly reminded of Ted Bundy. Bundy was rare, because like Billy, he was stereotypically handsome and lived a normal suburban life while moonlighting as a serial killer. Their connections pretty much stop there, but the effect they have on genre fans is eerily similar. Why is it that they have turned Billy Loomis into an icon? He and his alter ego “Ghostface” stand tall with the likes of Myers, Voorhees and Krueger. Was it his good looks, the crimes he committed, or was it the masterful way Craven drew us in and spit us back out? Craven opens Scream with the question, “Do you like scary movies?” For many of us the answer is always yes and perhaps that is why Billy is such a fan favorite. Billy was a fan, he knew the rules to survive, and used them to exact his ultimate revenge. Thanks to Billy and to Scream, a horror heartthrob was thrust upon popular culture…. making many of us question our taste in men, but never our taste in a great movie.