As we were going through my movies to try and find suitable Halloween type movies, I realised two things, I don’t like scary movies, and Scream barely qualifies. If anything, Scream is more of a spoof of a typical slasher flick than a fully-fledged member of the genre.
Scream is the story of a killer on the loose in a small American town where nothing exciting ever happens. When a young girl (Drew Barrymore) and her boyfriend are horribly murdered, the whole town becomes wary of a serial killer on the loose wearing a scary ghost mask who taunts his prey by making prank phone calls to them before carrying out the murders. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is only just recovering from the brutal rape and murder of her mother when this new killer arrives to cause her more grief. The prime suspect is her boyfriend (Skeet Ulrich) after he is seen loitering outside her home with a mobile phone after the killer attempts to kill Sidney early on. Sidney must try to stay alive with only her wits, an annoying best friend (Rose McGowan) and a horror movie expert friend (Jamie Kennedy) to help her. Complicating things further is a tabloid reporter (Courtney Cox) who thinks Sidney’s mother’s killer was framed and believes these new murders are linked.
One of the more interesting things I thought about while watching this film was ‘what the hell have all of these guys been up too recently’. Go through the whole cast and tell me any one of them that is still working regularly. Courtney Cox still works on television, and Drew Barrymore is still making terrible rom coms, but what are the rest doing? When this film was released, all of these actors were the next big things, but none of them have gone on to the greatness expected of them, and basically became flavours of the month.
I don’t really consider Scream to be a horror film. It pokes too much fun at the genre to be taken seriously. A few years later the Scary Movie series began and really started to spoof the genre, but I think Scream is funnier than any of those films put together. The Scream films, particularly Jamie Kennedy’s character, are always pointing out the flaws in classic slasher films. Flawed plot points like never running upstairs or virgins never die are lambasted to great effect in this film. The film was written by Kevin Williamson, who was also responsible for the teen drama Dawson’s Creek. I find it funny that he is responsible for both of this and Dawson’s as I still think Dawson’s Creek was a satire of the teen soapies like 90210, but people just weren’t smart enough to see it. Scream could also be put in that category.
Scream is not your typical slasher flick. It is a satire of the generic slasher film, and it is done really really well.
Scary movies aren’t really my thing. I can understand why some people enjoy being scared (I genuinely like how terrifying Halloween and Psycho are), but as a rule I tend to avoid the horror genre. I’d much rather nearly pee my pants laughing than almost pee them because I’m scared out of my mind. It’s just a personal preference.
So it should come as no surprise that the first time I watched Scream was just a couple years ago. Still, this film was such a big deal when it was released that it felt familiar during my initial viewing. I’ve spent the past 15+ years seeing that mask every Halloween. I knew that Drew Barrymore died at the beginning. I was aware that this was the movie that brought Courtney Cox and David Arquette together (and I’m still sad that they didn’t last). This is a movie is just inescapable.
That said, it’s not really that scary of a movie. Maybe I’ve become desensitized by television shows like The Walking Dead and Dexter. Or maybe it’s because this is really more of a spoof of the horror films from the 70s and 80s. Whatever it is, the only truly terrifying part is the opening scene. Watching Drew Barrymore being stalked through her own home is incredibly intense. The success of this sequence rests on Barrymore’s more than able shoulders. So much of the terror is implied shadow and noise, leaving the audience as confused and scared as poor Drew. Even knowing that she won’t survive, I found myself rooting for her to somehow outsmart the murderer.
From there the movie becomes more of a spoof. It’s more funny than scary, but I think that was the intention. There are a lot of references to previous giants of the genre– Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street— many that I wouldn’t catch not having seen most of these movies. I recognize enough to know when to laugh, but I imagine this would be more fun for a real fan to watch.
The only thing I didn’t really like about Scream was the ending. The final reveal of killer is disappointing, and the explanation of his or her motive left a lot to be desired. But maybe this was the final spoof on the teen slasher flick, an ending that wraps everything up but falls apart under further scrutiny.