Skeet Ulrich didn't realize Scream was supposed to be funny until they literally started shooting

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Skeet Ulrich didn't realize Scream was supposed to be funny until they literally started shooting

One of the stars of the slasher classic didn't see the comedy elements in the story until the first day of shooting.

Skeet Ulrich Scream (1996)

Scream, the 1996 meta-slasher classic from director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson, endured and spawned a franchise in no small part thanks to its sense of humor. When it wants to be, the film is a legitimately scary take on the slasher genre, featuring the debut of the killer known as Ghostface and one of the most terrifying opening sequences in horror history, but it's also a satirical commentary on horror movies and the slasher subgenre it works within. Scream is a classic because it makes you scream, but also because it makes you laugh, something one of the film's most important cast members didn't actually get until his first day on set.

"Day one, scene one, take one," star Skeet Ulrich said when asked by Entertainment Weekly when he actually understood that he was part of a dark comedy. In a new discussion with co-star Matthew Lillard for the film's 25th anniversary, Ulrich explained that he had trouble grasping the film's tone because he went into it with the mindset of playing a sadistic killer, and put all his focus on playing the darkness of Billy Loomis, one half of the film's eventual Ghostface duo.

"I think part of it was the mindset of Billy and me getting into that mindset," Ulrich said. "I saw it as this very serious documentary about two killers in high school and I was researching serial killers and the psychology of them, so I didn't really key into the humor of the story until take one of day one."

Day one of Scream involved several characters, including Billy (Ulrich), his Ghostface collaborator Stu (Lillard), Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Tatum Riley (Rose McGowan), and horror movie expert Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy) gathered around the fountain at Woodsboro High School to discuss the early Ghostface murders. Lillard and Kennedy in particular really dial into the comedic aspects of the film in those moments, providing a counterbalance to the horror that's come before, but Ulrich didn't realize that at the time. At first, he genuinely thought his co-stars didn't get it.

"I just remember thinking, 'What are they doing?' Don't they know?" he recalled. "Like, 'This isn't funny. This isn't supposed to be funny.' And man, was I wrong."

Scream's dark sense of humor remains one of its most endearing elements, and that's something that extends all the way to the end of the film, when Ulrich and Lillard are revealed as the tag team Ghostface killers and struggle to finalize their plan by making themselves look like victims. Thankfully, Ulrich eventually caught on, and helped make a horror classic in the process. 

The Sceam franchise will continue with its fifth film, simply titled Scream, next year. 

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