Back in December 1996, an unassuming slasher movie starring Drew Barrymore (and a bunch of other, less famous actors) released in theaters. The movie opens with Barrymore’s character Casey Becker home alone. She gets an ominous phone call from a guy who claims to have called the wrong number by mistake, and it’s downhill from there. It’s a suspenseful and brutal sequence, made even more so by the fact that Casey was marketed as the main character. It’s her face on the poster, after all; how could the movie even continue if she’s dead within the first ten minutes?
If you watch the movie for the first time years later, this meta context is likely lost on you. Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox are now big stars in their own right, and their characters Sidney and Gale are so iconic that even non-fans are at least vaguely familiar. A modern viewer watches the opening scene and immediately assumes Casey’s going to die. She’s the opening kill, after all, a staple of the horror genre. But if you’re fully expecting a Barrymore-centric movie, it’s far more likely you’ll miss the signs. As Barrymore explained in a 2020 Hot Ones interview, that’s exactly what she herself had in mind:
“In the horror film genre, my biggest pet peeve was that I always knew the main character was going to be slugging through at the end but was going to creak by and make it. What I wanted to do is to take that comfort zone away. So I asked if I could be Casey Becker so we would establish this rule does not apply in this film.”