In the early 1990s, horror movies were struggling. Filmmakers tried to recreate the fun and shocking plots that made slasher films popular in the 1970s and 80s, but instead the movies they produced were derivative and bland. To make things worse, thrillers like Silence of the Lambs, with smart plots and fast-paced momentum were adding horror elements, making standard horror films less desirable to those audiences.
When Wes Craven released Scream in 1996, he single-handedly revitalized and redefined slasher films for an entire generation. Fans of the incredibly successful franchise already know the original screenplay was inspired by a series of murders that began in Shreveport, Louisiana and ended in Gainesville, Florida. Danny Rolling, also known as “The Gainesville Ripper”, claimed that a demon named “Gemini” possessed him and made him commit the crimes. As part of their new Shock Doc series, Discovery+ is peeling back the layers of Rolling’s story in their latest installment, Scream: The True Story.
Related: The Gainesville Ripper Terrified the University of Florida in 1990
The documentary follows paranormal investigator Steve Shippy and psychic medium Cindy Kaza as they attempt to reach out to Rolling’s spirit and the malignant entity Rolling claimed overtook him. They try to establish contact at the campground Rolling stayed at while stalking his victims in Gainesville and in his Louisiana childhood home, where the current homeowners claim they’ve been haunted by intense poltergeist activity. Through archive media files and in-depth interviews with experts and other individuals connected to the case, they search for the truth behind Rolling’s paranormal claims.
Outside of simply investigating the claim that he was possessed by a demon, Shippy and Kaza explore whether it’s possible that this malignant entity has been tormenting the Rolling family for generations. Rolling’s father was violently abusive, and his grandfather allegedly severed his grandmother’s head at the dinner table with a butcher knife. While the questions they raise may seem to touch on the age-old nature-versus-nurture debate when it comes to murderers, their main focus is to determine whether Rolling was suffering from a family curse or generational possession. They even bring in a noted demonologist to conduct an exorcism and confront the potential evil entity.
Though Rolling eventually confessed to the crimes, he wasn’t initially arrested for murder. He was serving time for a series of robberies after a high-speed chase following a botched robbery in central Florida. One of the detectives in the Gainesville murders noticed several similarities between the string of murders in Shreveport and Gainesville, leading them to request DNA records from prisoners incarcerated in both areas. This led to them finding DNA evidence linking Rolling to both sets of murders and was charged with the Gainesville murders in November 1991. His father was a policeman, and authorities believe this is how Rolling knew to cover his tracks.
It took an additional four years before his trial began. Initially, he claimed he had committed the murders to gain infamous notoriety in the same way Ted Bundy did. He was diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and paraphilia, but multiple psychiatrists testified that Rolling was aware of what he was doing during the crimes. In the middle of jury selection, Rolling pleaded guilty to all charges, leading to him being sentenced to death in on April 20, 1994. He was executed by lethal injection on October 25, 2006 at Florida State Prison.
It was during a 1994 television special detailing Rolling and his crimes that screenwriter Kevin Williamson got the idea to write a screenplay capturing the panic and hysteria a mass murder incited on a college campus. The story eventually changed into High School students, but the core elements of that original screenplay stayed.
Rather than incorporating the paranormal elements of the Rolling case, Scream stayed away from the easy horror storytelling and turned horror tropes on their head by whole-heartedly embracing them instead. Drew Barrymore isn’t the final girl, the characters know about horror movies and talk about them throughout the movie, even going so far as to give us the rules of horror while blatantly breaking them. It uses our assumptions against us, giving the genre new rules to start playing with. The Scream franchise launched four films, a television series, merchandise, spin-offs, and games.
The fifth installment premiers January 14, 2022—the same day as the Discovery+ Scream: The True Story documentary. The movie takes place 25 years after the first movie. A new killer puts on the Ghostface mask and targets a group of teens to unbury the secrets of the town’s past. Five of the original film’s characters are back in this film: Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Dewey Riley (David Arquette), Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), and Roger L. Jackson as the voice of Ghostface. Though Wes Craven was contracted to work on a fifth and sixth installment of the franchise, various production problems delayed the film until 2019. Unfortunately, the legendary director passed away August 30, 2015.
Watch the The Gory New Trailer for the Scream Reboot
You can watch Scream in theaters, and Scream: The True Story on Discovery+ with a subscription.