Director: Wes Craven
“Scream, featuring a bevy of talented young actors (including Drew Barrymore, Neve Campbell, Skeet Ulrich, David Arquette, Rose McGowan, and Jamie Kennedy), took the United States by storm, bringing in over $130 million at the box office and kicking off a new wave of hip and reflexive slasher movies.” (854, Steven Jay Schneider, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)
“Urban Legend (1998), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), and of course Scream 2 (1997), Scream 3 (2000), and the stalker parody Scary Movie (2000) all owe much of their success to Craven’s original.” (854)
Scream and the other films Schneider mentions were the horror movies of my generation. They were the films my friends and I cut our horror teeth on before going back and discovering the classics of the 1980s. I really remember watching Scream for the first time and not knowing who Ghost Face was and it was terrifying. And while it is still scary, i think it has lost something both from my multiple viewings and from the parody that is Scary Movie (the only decent film in a slew of parody movies to emerge during the 2000s but that’s beside the point)
I seem to be watching a lot of meta films recently because Scream is another film that is sharply aware of not only itself but its place within the horror genre. There’s numerous references to the classics that defined the genre and established the rules of a horror flick. And then there’s the overt reference to the film’s own director and his contributions to the genre when Tatum says Sidney is “sounding like a Wes Carpenter flick” combining the names of Wes Craven and John Carpenter, two of the most prolific and instrumental directors to come out of the horror genre.
The characters are always going on about the ‘horror genre rules” and then blatantly ignoring them resulting in their demise. Scream is a blood-fest and has some imaginatively gruesome ways of dispatching Ghost Face’s victims. I particularly love Tatum’s end at the hands of the garage door.
“Among the reasons for Scream‘s outstanding success is an often hilarious script (written by Kevin Williamson, who would go on to create the hit teen TV show Dawson’s Creek), the numerous jokey references to earlier horror movies, and Craven’s expert direction, which manages to frighten audiences even while they’re laughing.” (854)
There’s some dark comedy in Scream too. Craven as a talent for turning the audiences’ laughter into screams in the blink of an eye. Scream very much re-established the horror genre and subjected a new generation to a slew of deliciously scary serial killers with Ghost Face leading the way. And there’s no denying that Ghost Face has become one of the genre’s icons – come Halloween it’s not unusual to see more than one roaming the streets thanks to his easily recognizable (and more importantly, easily replicated) costume.
Sidney can be annoying at times but that’s mainly due to her compliance to the genre stereotype of the female lead. There are times when you’re screaming at her to do the exact opposite of what she’s about to do and trust her instincts but than that’s part of what makes horror films so enjoyable to watch, at least for me any way.
“Scream‘s intense ten-minute prologue is among the most talked-about horror scenes in recent memory.” (854)
The entire cast is brilliant, all playing their parts perfectly. I particularly like Matthew Lillard’s slightly maniacal best friend and you can’t help but love David Arquette’s poor put upon and under-respected Deputy Dewey. Courteney Cox is suitably cold hearted as the determined reporter out for the best story she can find. Having said that, the shared journey she and Sidney go on does thaw her a bit, and sets up the relationships for the sequels (which don’t actually suck like most sequels do!)
Like I said earlier Scream was one of the first horror films I watched and its pretty much responsible for introducing me to the classics of the horror genre like Halloween (1978, John Carpenter), Friday the 13th (1980, Sean S. Cunningham), and of course A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984, Wes Craven). I will always enjoy watching Scream. It’s an excellent film to introduce someone to the genre thanks to its self-awareness and well placed comedy.