Scream came out in December of 1996, making me only eight at the time of it’s release. I missed this franchise entirely. As each subsequent sequel was released an interest would be renewed, but I didn’t want to see any additions to a story without seeing the starting point. So, I went along watching just about everything else. Until I saw a little movie called Cabin in the Woods, which was likened to the Scream movies. I was so impressed with the way Cabin handles the satire of the horror genre, while simultaneously creating a truly spooky setting and story. Every article I read linked the two movies together. So, after 16 years I sat down in my dark condo, scooted my papasan chair close to my TV screen and jumped on the Scream bandwagon.
From the opening scene we get a perfect glimpse at what this movie is going to do. It’s a traditional horror movie, in every sense of the word. Every person in the film is seemingly born with vast amounts of horror trivia embedded in their brains. One year after Sydney Prescott’s (Neve Campbell) mother is brutally murdered, a series of grizzly attacks brings the tragedy back into the spotlight. With the killer supposedly behind bars, it’s assumed that the attacks aren’t linked. Using every cliche it can get it’s hands on Scream manages to maintain it’s integrity as a horror movie, while simultaneously lampooning it’s very genre. With each progressive murder, the film delves more and more into the “rules” surrounding horror movies; using dialogue as it’s primary vessel. At one point a character is watching a horror movie and as he screams at the character on screen to “Look behind you!” the killer is simultaneously creeping up behind him. a constant discussion about horror movies and the horror genre in general permeates every part of this film, it is a reward to the horror junkie.
The film is decidedly dated, plagued with the corny toxicity that was 90s “cool” but rather than detract from the movie, it helps accomplish it’s goal of being equal parts horror and comedy better than most modern renditions of either genre. The original title of Scream was slated to be “Scary Movie”. While the name is now associated with a different franchise, they both shared a common goal: the mocking of the horror genre and the movies associated with it. Where Scary Movie used constant gags and spoofs/ripoffs direct from movies to an extent that was neither creative or funny. Scream manages to embrace the darker tones of the horror genre while gently pointing out the overused methodology. The dialogue is absolutely fantastic in the sense that it is a complete critique of horror films, while never breaking the fourth wall. All of it is delivered directly to another character, the references feel as a conversation you might have with a good friend. No nod or wink is given to the audience. The opening scene, minus the horror trivia swapped by the killer and the victim, plays out like every slasher death scene committed to film. From there on, however, it gets a little harder for the killer. There is usually little to no fight in horror victims, but for the masked murderer in Scream it’s a different story as they are given a run for their money every time they kill someone. Often times they are kicked, tripped and somewhat injured to a more serious extent before successfully claiming their victim. This is hilarious, but not in an over the top hi-jinks sort of way.
I am eager to watch the rest of this series. Part of me is glad that I waited so long to get into it, as I am now able to watch the series progress along the timeline of more current horror films and pop culture. This comedy refuses to succumb to the slapstick gags and cornball situations of other horror comedies (though Army of Darkness will always have a spot in my heart.). Scream is one of the finest examples of “self aware” movies ever made.