With the release of a brand new Scream, we’re all excited for this latest installment from one of our favorite online slashers. From cool new movie posters to Ghostface thirst traps on TikTok (I checked them out..you know, for research), Ghostface is on everyone’s radar. As good and as silly as the Scream franchise is, the story is based on a kernel of fact. The new Shock Docs installment SCREAM: THE TRUE STORY delves into the fiction to find the true story behind the mask.
I want to preface this by saying that SCREAM: THE TRUE STORY follows the killings of The Gainesville Ripper, Danny Rolling. Rolling murdered 5 college students over the period of four days in 1990, as well as a triple murder years earlier. This is not to be confused by the “Scream Murder” of Cassie Jo Stoddart who was brutally murdered by two teen boys to emulate the films. Rolling inspired the story while the story inspired the killing of Stoddart.
As I sat and watched the introduction to SCREAM: THE TRUE STORY, my murderino heart got excited because I love a good true-crime documentary to tell me facts that I may now know. Subsequently, my heart was then stepped on by the fact that this documentary detailing the killings will also include…wait for it…a ghost hunt. Don’t get me wrong.I love a paranormal investigation just as much as the next paranerd, more even. I’ve been watching ghost shows since the ’90s and I have seen every episode of Ghost Hunters, but there’s nothing more disappointing when you snuggle down for a solid true-crime documentary only to find yourself watching a duo screaming into the void, asking for ghost communication. The disappointment in my living room was palpable.
The reason that SCREAM: THE TRUE STORY is so paranormal heavy is that Rolling claimed to be possessed by a demon named Gemini, and that’s why he killed those students. Steve Shippy and psychic-medium Cindy Kaza want to investigate if Rolling was actually possessed and if he was, when did it happen. You have to know, the moment that phrase left Shippy’s lips, I had to pause the video and sit with my eyes closed for a moment. I took a meditative moment to prepare myself for what I was getting into before pressing play again. I love a great paranormal show. Kindred Spirits is incredible and the revival of Ghost Hunters is a must-watch in my house. I watch more paranormal reality TV than anything I’d say. HOWEVER, it just seems so disrespectful to Rolling’s victims to lean in on his possession claims instead of calling it like it is. Danny Rolling was a sick individual who chose to murder. Nothing made him do it. That being said, I had to give SCREAM: THE TRUE STORY a fair shake, no matter how badly it hurt.
The documentary starts with an investigation of Danny’s old campsite and the usual paranormal buzzwords abound: demons, rituals, etc. Kaza immediately focuses on Rolling’s father as being also possessed and passing the demon to Danny. Sprinkled in is the retelling of the abuse that Danny faced at the hands of his father. Look, I get the reason we want all this to be because of an evil entity; we don’t want to believe that people can be that evil on their own, but SCREAM: THE TRUE STORY tries to make Danny into such a victim. Sure, he was a victim of his father’s abuse, but committing murder and sexual assault diminishes that victimhood. Kaza kept saying that Rolling was out of control of his body which takes away any responsibility for the murders he committed, and that pissed me off the most.
If this was purely a paranormal documentary about a haunted hotel or a ghost ship, then I would watch this documentary with glee and drink it all in. The documentary is well made, albeit there’s a lot of “spooky” face lighting during the investigation. I just find this particular documentary to be extremely disrespectful to the victims of this murderer. Taking away his responsibility, making Danny a victim, and presuming to know what it was like in the head of Rolling was just too much. I’m not saying that paranormal investigation shouldn’t be done of victims and murderers, but I am saying that trying to prove a possession in the face of a brutal serial killer is just flat-out disrespectful to the victims. Gemini was more than likely the fragment of a broken mind and his way to compartmentalize his own trauma and actions but they WERE his actions. Period. The devil didn’t make Danny do it.
If you like melodramatic investigations that may make your eyes roll so hard you’ll give yourself a migraine and you don’t take the content seriously, you’ll probably get a kick out of SCREAM: THE TRUE STORY. If you are like me and were hoping for an actual in-depth look at the true events that inspired a franchise, you’re not going to find that here. This documentary is a cash grab on the Scream franchise and disrespectful to the victims who were killed by a real, human monster and not an inherited demon. End of story.
SCREAM: THE TRUE STORY is now available to watch on discovery+, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.