“No, you listen you little bitch, you hang up on me again I’ll gut you like a fish, understand?”
In 1996, the horror genre had really been dead for a while. They were still releasing horror films, but they were in no way as popular as in the previous decade. But with one script that would change things for a very long time. The slasher film was waiting for it’s chance to rise from the ashes and this film would be it (sorry for that cheesy dialogue, it felt right to me).
Wes Craven, who had all ready proven himself a horror director with many horror films since the early 1970s. This is the man who wrote and directed A Nightmare on Elm Street and had brought Freddy Krueger into the popular culture. Since that film he hadn’t had very many hits. In fact since 1984, the only decent movie he directed was The People Under the Stairs in 1991. He was chosen to direct Scream, a movie written by a nobody, that was getting every studio in a bidding war over it.
Scream follows Sidney Prescott (Campbell) and her high school friends through their own slasher nightmare. Sidney is constantly haunted by the death of her mother a year prior. Now her friends are being offed left and right, and she is under suspicion that her boyfriend Billy (Ulrich) is behind it all. Everyone is confused as to what is going on, everyone is scared for their lives, except for the teenagers. Even Sidney, who was attacked by the killer in the school, doesn’t seem to give a shit about what is going on.
What is so interesting and what makes Scream such a great film is that it makes fun of the genre that it is in. No other film had really done that, and not been a parody. Scream is not at all a parody film, it is a full out slasher film, but it makes fun of itself. The character of Randy (brilliantly by Jamie Kennedy) acts as the main character to make fun of the horror genre. He is the “horror geek”, which I can sadly say that I am that person in my group of friends now. He knows all the horror films and acts like everything that is going on in the movie is just that, a movie. He suggests that the police watch Prom Night to save themselves time on trying to figure out who the killer is. They even establish the “rules” of a horror film in the this movie, then break them all. Mainly the rule of if you have sex you die, which Sidney breaks at the end of the movie.
This movie also established something we haven’t seen in a slasher film since the first slasher film, Psycho, did it 36 years prior. We see a big star, in this case Drew Barrymore, credited as the star of the movie and killed off in the first ten minutes of the movie. We also see something not seen before at all, we have big name TV stars filling up the entire cast. Courtney Cox (Friends), Neve Campbell (Party of Five), the list goes on. This is a trend that would continue on for a while in the late 1990s slasher films. Scream also offers some real character development with Sidney’s internal struggle over the death of her mother (we this develop even more through the film’s 2 sequels).
This movie is excellent with a capital ‘E’. It has some real good action sequences, and is obviously well thought out and well planned out. It’s a shame most people look at this film today and say it is a carbon copy of every other horror film. When in reality, this movie was very different and ahead of it’s time at it’s time of release. Slasher films hadn’t been this deep or well thought out before. Slasher films always followed the same formula, killer stalks teenagers, kills them. It didn’t matter what the plot was, or even if the killer had a motive (Slumber Party Massacre). But, Scream changed that, having a deeper story and the killer had a deeper motive then just, “Hey! Lets kill people”. Every movie that followed Scream tried doing this and failed miserably. But, since so many movies after Scream tried this, everyone looks back at it now and says it was just a copy of those movies.