On the anniversary of someone’s tragic death, a teenager is murdered in a horrifying opening sequence, thus instigating a deadly game of cat-and-mouse between a bunch of teens and a masked killer. Whilst this plot could be pinned onto a huge number of slashers, pre and post-96, the beauty of Scream is that it knows exactly what it is.
Firstly, let’s discuss the most intense genre opening scene since Carol Kane answered the phone and checked the children in 1979. We’re at home with Drew Barrymore, preparing some delicious popcorn in a comfy house with warm lighting; everything’s splendid but then the phone rings. Fifteen minutes later, we’re on the verge of cardiac arrest… Wes Craven once said in an interview that a strong horror film requires you to nail the audience immediately but nothing can prepare you for the perfection that is Scream’s perturbing introduction. Though the effect wears thin viewing after viewing, the intensity is unforgettable. From the antagonising build-up of suspense to the moment we see our Hollywood starlet hanging from a tree, it’s promised that you’ll never have seen anything like it before.
Nobody quite knows the horror genre like Wes Craven making him the perfect choice of director. From dealing with rape/revenge in The Last House on the Left (1972), cannibalistic savages in The Hills Have Eyes (1977), murderous dream demons in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and even voodoo in The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), Craven clearly isn’t afraid to delve into the many subgenres of horror. So, with a knowledgeable director and an opening so horrifically powerful, where does satirical comedy lie in Scream?
“There’s a very simple formula” shouts Randy (Jamie Kennedy) and he certainly isn’t wrong. In Scream, everyone’s forced into abiding by the slasher rules; no sex, no alcohol, no drugs and never say you’ll be back because you won’t. Whilst these are the implicit rules of the slasher, Scream makes them explicitly known to the people in the film and you at home. Basically, Randy is a physical characterisation of your plea for the cheerleader not to run upstairs.
In the textbook opening scene, Barrymore’s character is preparing to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street and five minutes later when she’s fighting for her life, she’s made to answer questions on horror films; the film is blatantly self-aware from the start. With the phone calls playing a huge part of the menace, even this is a purposeful cliché in light of such films as When a Stranger Calls (1979), Prom Night (1980) and the aptly named Don’t Answer the Phone (1980). What’s even greater is when the parents of Barrymore’s character enter her destroyed home, the father tells the mother to “drive to the McKenzie’s” which is a nod to Halloween (1978) when Laurie instructs young Lindsey and Tommy to go to the McKenzie’s and call the police. Better yet, Scream’s main protagonist’s boyfriend Billy shares his surname with Halloween’s Dr. Sam Loomis.
As if all of this wasn’t enough, horror legend Linda Blair makes a cameo appearance but the cherry on the cake really comes in the form of Wes Craven’s cameo as Fred the Janitor, wearing a rather lavish red and green sweater.
With Scream: The TV Series airing in the US tomorrow, let’s not forget this benchmark film that goes down in history as one of the most superior horrors to bless our screens, helping to define an entire generation of teen culture and slasher cinema.
Do you love Scream? Are you excited for the small screen adaptation?
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