Wilmington becomes Woodsboro in Scream

Matthew Allen, who worked in the art department on “Scream,” poses wearing a Ghostface mask at Thursday night’s screening of the fifth installation, which was filmed in Wilmington. (Port City Daily / Shea Carver)

WILMINGTON – The latest installment in Scream, the 1996 slasher horror franchise founded by Wes Craven, has grossed over $30 million at the box office in its first four days of release. Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, Scream surpassed Marvel’s #1 hit Spider-Man: No Way Home in its opening weekend.

The film’s ties to Wilmington, NC run deep in its latest iteration, its fifth in franchise history, with a budget of $25 million. Original writer Kevin Williamson – who also created Dawson’s Creek – signed on as executive producer, although the 2022 film is directed by James Vanderbilt (The Amazing Spider-Man, Murder Mystery) and Guy Busick (Ready or Not). , “Castle Rock”).

From July through December 2020, “Scream” opened a store in Wilmington, one of the first films Paramount released in the middle of the pandemic. With a new Covid department ensuring the magic of the film industry would continue – crew and actors tested for on-set safety several times a week – reels rolled across town.

Downtown Riverwalk, the Forest Hills neighborhood, Reggie’s 42nd Street, 5th Avenue near Rusty Nail, the Greenfield Lake area, Williston Middle School and EUE/Screen Gems became the idyllic California town haunted again raise demons. Serial killer Ghostface returns to terrorize a new generation of teenagers – played by Melissa Barrera, Mason Gooding, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid and Marley Shelton. They are all linked to the characters from the original film, Skeet Ulrich, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette, who reappear in the 25-year franchise.

On Thursday night, ahead of the Jan. 14 release, “Scream” production designer Chad Keith, who lives in Wilmington, rented a theater for some of the local film crew to see the film. Paramount swag was up for grabs: Ghostface masks, t-shirts, stickers, large and small movie posters.

“I thought it would be fun to watch with everyone,” Keith said.

Essentially a “whodunnit” gore-fest, “Scream” comes with plenty of camp, proverbial leaps, scares and snappy pace and dialogue – much like the original. Set decorator assistant Beth Robinson sank into her theater chair, fingers cupped over her eyes, and took in one of the death scenes.

“It was so scary,” she admitted after the credits rolled. “I may have missed a few scenes. I wasn’t a horror movie fan, but now I am!”

Robinson, who worked under Keith in the art department alongside head decorator Helen Britten and set-dec coordinator Catherine Bayley, said the sight immediately transported her back to “those strange times we live in.” One of the first films back in action during the pandemic, aside from dealing with new Covid-19 protocols and regulations, Robinson said supply chain bottlenecks were making her job harder than normal.

“Finding the simplest everyday objects was a big challenge for stage decoration,” she said.

The set dec team were tasked with matching all of the furniture and decorations as closely as possible to the house in the original film: “From couches, chairs, upholstery fabrics, tables to books, vases and lamps,” says Robinson.

Keith oversaw construction plans for the Woodsboro home and sent a designer to its original California location for specifications.

“I really loved seeing all the exterior shots of the house,” he said. “It’s very iconic for the original. I was glad we could replicate it.”

“Chad had construction crews build the house, but also his entertainment closet and bookshelves, even down to the crown molding for detail,” said Robinson.

261 TurnerLn. was recreated in a studio at EUE/Screen Gems, also where the art department previously brought to life the interior of a hospital, the setting for key scenes in the film.

“The downlight in the hospital hallway looks great,” Robinson told Keith during the demonstration, noting every detail. The hospital’s facade and lobby scenes were filmed at the Wilmington Convention Center.

Robinson surmises that of the six or seven rooms created for the Turner Lane house, around five made it to the screen. She pointed to the study as a personal favorite, dressed from drapes that she had to dye to the precise detail of a piece of Asian furniture constructed from scratch.

Beth Robinson and Catherine Bayley chat at the screening of “Scream” on January 14, hosted by the film’s production designer Chad Keith, who rented a theater for the crew to watch the film together. (Port City Daily / Shea Carver)

“The flashback when Ghostface comes up behind the sofa while Randy from the original movie is watching the movie required some flexibility and creativity as we needed specific items to match the original,” said Robinson.

“Scream” is known for building a metaverse. For example, in the 2022 film, Randy’s niece Mindy Meeks (Jasmin Savoy Brown) watches him in “Stab” from two decades ago. She’s sitting in the same cave he was in – despite having seen the horror movie “Halloween” – also at a high school party, essentially reenacting the same scenario she’ll endure with Ghostface.

Still confused?

The directors and writers of 2022’s “Scream” are building the storyline as “Requel” – a film that revisits earlier content from its original film, but does so as an homage, building on layers of super fandom and legacy characters.

It’s becoming even more meta with Wilmington pop culture. One of the main characters, Tara (Jenna Ortega), watches the Wilmington-set “Dawson’s Creek” while recovering in the hospital – and it just so happens to be a Season 1 episode entitled “The Scare.” Easter eggs are hidden throughout the film for cult fans and locals to admire.

And in true “Scream” fashion, the characters still walk through horror movie rules, questioning the killer’s patterns (“Look at the love interest first”) and the victims’ behavior (“Never go into a basement alone”). It’s all part of the fun for audiences and on-screen personalities alike cracking the code: Who is Ghostface?

Fans face many victims who suffer or suffer cartoonish injuries — multiple stab wounds, incessant gunshot wounds, even fire — which pays gruesome dividends on the ride.

“I’ve been impressed by every department that rose to the challenge of working in a pandemic,” Robinson said, “but every time you see a knife going through a person’s body, I’m like, ‘How um anything in the world do they make it look so real? ‘”

The team at Bearded Skull Makeup and Fx Group – who also worked on the Wilmington-set Halloween Kills – are the brains behind the wounds, cuts and fake blood in Scream. Every film – and its brief two-season series – has an incremental kill scene.

Jeff Goodwin has been in the industry for four decades and has been celebrated for his work, most notably the severed ear on Blue Velvet. Goodwin helped develop a standout moment in 2022’s “Scream,” which he said wasn’t originally in the script.

“It was an effect that Rick Pour [the special effects department head] and I made a proposal to the directors in a Zoom call very early in the entire prep process, before we all met in person,” Goodwin said. “Rick and I felt like we needed to raise the bar with the kills in this movie.”

Reminiscing about his “Rambo III” days in 1988, Goodwin pulled out a technique he developed that produces a brutal effect on screen.

“I don’t want to give it away, but it’s something I’m very proud of,” he said.

Very little CGI was required to pull it off and make it more authentic.

Goodwin said when the cast and crew first saw it during a run through of the scene, audible gasps and screams from behind the monitors gave the team confidence they were hitting all the right veins, so to speak.

“We immediately felt like we were on to something good with those reactions,” Goodwin said.

Watching the “fake carnage” he and his Bearded Skulls crew brought to life on Thursday night was also pure joy. The writhing, the wailing, the peeking from behind clenched fists, the laughter: Goodwin said there’s never a dull moment creating gory magic on screen. Still, “Scream” felt different.

“I enjoyed the original when it came out because it was very clever,” Goodwin said. “I don’t think the sequels have ever lived up to the original – but they rarely do. I think our ‘Scream’ is the best since the original and hopefully will whet the appetite for more carnage in the future for the franchise.”

[Ed. Note: The writer of this piece worked on “Scream” for six weeks before taking a position at Port City Daily and attended the screening for this story.]

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