There were key movies in my life that helped to make me who I am today. Movies that I have loved from the moment the opening credit rolled and still love now. This blog series is about those, My guilty pleasures, my favorites, my escapes. Some were very popular, others not so much. Some of these will have some real life take-aways, others are just for fun. Today we discuss the Wes Craven modern classic, Scream.
Today’s Key Movie:
A series of murders take place in a small town all by an unknown killer identified only by it’s ghost-like Halloween mask. Soon it is up to Sidney Prescott and her friends to determine who this killer is and how to stop them from killing again.
Starring a virtual who’s who of the mid nighties including Drew Barrymore, David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Skeet Ulrich and Jamie Kennedy, this film marked the return of the slasher film genre as only Wes Craven could provide.
Why this movie?
By the early nineties, Horror had become synonymous with direct to video releases and low budget effects. While there were a plethora of fans remaining, myself included, the genre had not yet returned to the pinnacle it has reached today. In fact, by that time, most horror films were seen as rather silly b-movies and most horror actors were not really considered to be ‘serious’ actors. One of the most iconic directors of the modern horror genre was someone who helped usher in the slasher films in the 80’s with a character known as Freddy Krueger. In 1984, Wes Craven unleashed his creation on the masses and, along with John Carpenter, Clive Barker, Sean S Cunningham and several others, started an era of horror as no one had ever seen before. For the first time Horror had come to the masses and people literally ate it up.
For a brief time even major studios got in on the act until…the franchises that started them all began to churn out sequel after sequel, each diminishing the initial horror that attracted the masses to begin with. Before long, Horror films bordered on absurdity, with each release taking characters like Jason Vorhees to the big city…and even space. Not long after, these films found a niche market in home video and the horror craze ended as soon as it began.
In the mid-nineties, Wes Craven returned with a film that not only broke the stigma of Horror films but also changed how horror was perceived. Not only was one of his films a major studio release but, for the first time, it was filled with popular stars of the time attracting not only horror fans but Hollywood fans as well. Scream was born and with it a new genre of self aware dark comedy slasher films was born. Interestingly, This film and it’s sequels would even inspire other filmmakers to revitalize their classic franchises including Child’s Play, A Nightmare on Elmstreet and more introducing a much more self aware dark comedy spin to the already established horror classic. Whether this was a good thing or not, well that was certainly up to personal opinion.
You like it, but is it really a ‘good’ movie?
I will never forget seeing this hit the theaters growing up. This was a monumental moment in horror history and, for some reason, I found myself hating it upon release. To me, this film satirized everything I loved about the horror genre making something that had become my own and allowing the mass market to claim it for themselves. I know it sound silly but it was not unlike when an indie band makes it big only to loose some of their original fans for ‘selling out’. At the time, to me, this was my favorite genre selling out to the popular teen/20-something actors who had all but dominated the television and film in that decade. I felt betrayed and somewhat exposed with people claiming to be lifelong fans of a genre they had criticized and laughed off just weeks before. Sure there were some decent actors but to have someone from Friends appear in a slasher film felt like jarring to me.
I saw it in the theater and, even though I did enjoy the story, I refused to ‘like’ it, claiming a strange loyalty to the classics. Call it pretentious, call it just plain stupid, I was determined to be one of the loyalists to the old, refusing to admit that this nouveau-horror was actually the right direction in order to get the films I so desperately wanted.
Over the years I have come to accept that, while Scream is certainly not the masterpiece so many claim it to be, it is a valuable and important film in the history of horror. This is a film that opened the doors to the genre making it known to studios and filmmakers alike that this genre could make money and was well worth exploring. While the advent of Scream and it’s several sequels did bring about some rather poor imitations, it created the sub-genre of the Teen Slasher film that still resonates to this day. Without Scream and it’s ilk, we would not have the tremendous releases we have now like Stephen King’s IT, the several tremendous Jordan Peele films or even the modern sequels to Halloween. Heck, one of my favorite Horror Comedies, Idle Hands, would never have come about had it not been for this key film. For that, I have to appreciate this film and allow myself to enjoy it, despite the
The film itself is actually a rather well plotted who-dunnit tale that has you questioning who the killer is from the beginning. Fully embracing it’s horror genre, this film references other horror films with the characters even discussing the rules of how to survive similar situations. Full of self-referential moments, dark humor, constant jump scares and surprises, Scream is something special that deserves to be appreciated for more than it’s teen slasher fun. This movie even managed to surprise it’s viewers by killing off a big name actor, Drew Barrymore, in the opening sequence, showing that it was not afraid to break the norms, giving it a credibility no other horror film had held in that time. Wes Craven’s comeback was a boon to the industry and, I have to say now that while it is not my favorite horror flick, it and the franchise has certainly earned it’s place in the annals of horror history.
OK, where do I get this movie?
This is one that I doubt will ever go out of print or at least will be available digitally for eternity. It is a modern classic and one that honestly everyone should have in their collection. Even it’s sequels are worth watching as they make themselves full aware of their place in cinematic history by focusing on the problem of sequels
Late To The Game 9/17/2020
If you would like to read more reviews please check out the rest of the Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday.
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