Shock Doc Sundays has a nice ring to it, especially when they air after the awards season, during the brief dead zone for major sporting events — that’s after the Super Bowl ends, but before Major League Baseball begins. If you never knew the real story behind the Scream franchise, you might want to give the slasher movies another go after watching this horror documentary. It might even make you appreciate the 2022 release (aka Scream V) a little more.
Scream: The True Story dives into the history of serial killer Danny Rolling, also known as The Gainesville Ripper — Kevin Williamson’s true-life inspiration for Ghostface.
Within a span of 10 months, Rolling preyed upon eight victims, who he stalked, raped and killed. At his trial, he claimed the Devil — allegedly named Gemini — made him do it. As bizarre as this real story sounds, the documentary portion of this program pretty much ends there. The remainder of the broadcast is devoted to a couple of paranormal investigators who hope to find some answers to this bloody chain of events, since Rolling was executed in 2006.
Steve Shippy and Cindy Kaza explore Rolling’s campsite, which was only a few yards away from the University of Florida campus, as well as his childhood home in Shreveport, Louisiana, where poltergeist-like activity increased not long after his execution. Naturally, there’s also a Catholic demonologist available to calm the situation at hand.
“Evil walks this Earth like a natural man…”
Going into this program, I didn’t recognize Steve Shippy. I had no prior knowledge that he was a paranormal investigator, as well as a documentary filmmaker (10 of his feature-length movies are available on Amazon Prime, including including A Haunting on Hamilton Street, A Haunting on Dice Road and A Haunting on Brockway Street). Psychic Medium Cindy Kaza is a workhorse for the Travel Channel, often getting paired up with a variety of investigators on multiple programs, in hopes of making contact beyond the grave.
“This was one of the most intense and challenging experiences I’ve ever had,” said Kaza. “We made contact with a sinister presence, and it was definitely the most manipulative spirit that I have ever worked with. I felt like I was being messed with during the entire investigation. It shook me to my core.”
I have truly enjoyed the Shock Docs series, beginning with Ed and Lorrain Warren’s Devil’s Road, to This is Halloween, all the way through The Curse of Robert the Doll (which I thought was creepy cool), but I’m not really a fan of this new format. It’s like the Campfire Studios producers figured they could consolidate two different programs into one show. But instead of having one hour of true-life terror and one hour of paranormal investigation based on past events, it’s more like 30 minutes of the good stuff (archive footage and interviews of people who may have been involved with the subject matter) and one-and-a-half hours of “discovery,” which never truly amounts to anything substantive.
Sure, the viewer learns about potential childhood trauma stemming from Danny’s abusive father, an alleged generational curse coming from his grandfather, a bullet hole that remains in one of the cabinets from a family gunfight and a shadow figure is briefly seen, but all of that could have been revealed without the need of abandoning the previously successful format.
Then there’s the Scream connection.
It really is a stretch comparing this investigation to the feature films. I would have preferred two separate Travel Channel programs: One which explores the franchise’s history and then the real-life investigation. All in all, there really wasn’t anything included about the film, (Not even an interview with Williamson!), with the exception of some marketing tools. That is a shame.
Tonight, Shock Doc Sundays continues with Michigan Hell House, as our same crew attempts to reveal the truth behind more alleged diabolical forces in another docu-special. I’ll definitely be tuning in!
Ash and Matt
Zombies in My Blog covers everything in Geek and Pop Culture.