Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Kevin Williamson
Starring: Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Drew Barrymore, Jamie Kennedy, Liev Schreiber, Matthew Lillard, Neve Campbell, Rose McGowan, Skeet Ulrich
As you can guess, our query and suggestion needed no encouragement and Hughes was off, even though dressing up has Ghostface to sit down and watch the original trilogy actually scared us a bit………..
HCF REWIND SPECIAL: A SCREAM LOOK BACK By Ross Hughes Part One
No You listen you little bitch! If you hang up on me again I will gut you like a fish!”
1996! The year that went movie and Football crazy! If you was not singing “Its coming home, Its Coming home, Its coming! Football’s coming home,” you were lavishing praise on a film that had stunned the genre! While the decade was entering its final twilight years in which action blockbusters were the name of the game, it took a sub genre that many thought was dead on its feet, to arise from its grave! Yes 1996 may have seen more action films that bombarded the box office, but even the likes of The Long Kiss Goodnight, could not cope with the sudden knife in the gut impact that this certain film was due to have! A film destined to be labelled a classic, and one equally important as that of Halloween, way back in 1978! Before we get to it though, its important that we start at the beginning, and how such film managed to cause such ripples!….
For a start, the 90’s had seen the Slasher genre rejected to straight to video status. The genre with a masked man killing virgins was now deemed old hat, even the main guy Freddy Kruger who was thrust into the limelight in the 80’s had already been given his goodbye in the tame Final Nightmare. The word Final also popped up in the title of his counterpart Jason’s last film, his Final Friday had a Quantum Leap kind of plot line that was saved by the blink and miss it cameo appearance of Freddy himself. The guy who started it though, Michael Myers arrived too late for the party. His sequels came out just has the boom was coming to an end, and for a character who started such an impact, he had the embarrassment of being given straight to DVD cash in’s that made the story of Haddonfield and its quality go rapidly down hill. The simple truth is that horror fans had grown tired with the same routine of the Slash formula. What was a massive genre that started in the eighties had become tired and old! The market was filtered with the same looking films and it became well known that even the hardened horror fan had enough of ghouls in masks. The last great film of this cycle was The Intruder, a film that was ignored on release and has simply vanished from horror lore, which summed up the general feeling. No matter how good the story or plot was, Slash was dead,the Bogeyman had been put to rest, a need for change was apparent, and for a few years the early nineties wandered in a mix of no direction. Endless sequels of popular films littered the market, for every Children Of The Corn, there was that Leprechaun searching for his gold! Even a killer Snowman called Jack saw how the genre had fallen, a scene of him taking off his carrot nose and raping a pre American Pie Sweetie, make you laugh but sigh on what was on show, it was safe to say horror had stalled, and there were a few who suggested that it was finally on its last knees!
Then out of nowhere came a script that landed on the doorstep of horror legend Wes Craven, titled Scary Movie and written by an unknown Kevin Williamson. Wes was drawn by the witty script and self references, especially as he tried something similar a few years back with the very underrated Freddy film A New Nightmare. The plot was pure Slash, young girl whose mother was murdered a year back, starts having phone calls from a masked fiend who is also killing kids from her local school. The climax sees the heroine facing her Monster, a showdown that harks back to the days of Halloween. But what set this different is that the cast knew the rules of the horror flicks. They knew what to do when the killer knocked, and also the many in-jokes and references to past movies made this something that viewers had not seen before. Also Kevin Williamson moved the killer away from the traditions of Jason and Michael, and decided to make it fun for the audiences if they guessed who the psycho behind the mask was. Also what was rare those days for Slasher is a cast that was strong. Nerve Campbell and Courtney Cox had hit American Tv shows behind them and they were surrounded by a young but hungry cast that littered with promise. Also the design of the killer, a black cape and hood with a white long mask was such a fantastic design that today it is up there with folklore of horror history. Craven knew from his horror expertise that he had a hit on his hands and within months everything was up and running and 1996 was going to be the year that the now re-named Scream would hit to an unexpected audiences.
Many years before, when Kevin Williamson was a young lad, he and a friend was on the phone late one night when his mate heard a sound downstairs. To investigate the noise, his mate still holding the phone went down the stairs, with Kevin trying to put the scares up him by saying what if it was Michael or Jason waiting for you. He also made the “Kill,Kill, Kill, Kill” noise from the Friday films. This bore the idea for the now all time classic opening set piece of Scream. Even though its lost some brutal impact after the likes of Hostel etc, the Drew Barrymore scene is still uncomfortable to watch and most importantly still downright scary for anyone who has not seen the film before. The opening set-piece riffs on such fare like When A Stranger Calls, and ends in a Suspiria type homage, it also done a horror tradition not seen since Psycho in that it killed off its well known star. Barrymore may have been the face on the cover, but this was NOT her film, and at the time, it stunned the hard core audience who then knew that what they were going to watch was something special. The beginning of Scream is often referred to as one of the most scariest openings in horror film, and I for one have to agree. The tone is different from the rest of the film! While we start dark and very disturbing, its amazing how the film changes tack straight away. But its a motion that carried on through out, one minute you be laughing, next you be looking away, Scream was an odd mix in which Horror, Comedy and Whodunit all collided to create a movie not seen before!
What surprised me on re-watch is Scream especially for a Slash horror .is lacking in the kill factor! We have two in the beginning then a massive lull, before a murder in the school,then a lull before the frantic climax. All together there are only 5 on screen killings, a pale shadow to what the genre had become! It was also a welcome change! Just look at the Friday 13th sequels and you see that they were so thin on the ground plot wise that it became just an endless bloodbath. I am not criticising that franchise, I mean I love Jason in all his Ski Mask glory, but the genre needed to offer something new to a more wider audience. Slasher fans can not get enough of these kind of films, I myself will never tire of the formula, maybe it brings back childhood memories of excitement, and a secret longing for a new Freddy and Michael to emerge. But while the forever endless titles made a core horror crowd happy, Scream set upon itself to be different.
Its decision to offer the viewer a mystery to go with the mayhem worked a treat! Scream kept the guessing game all the way from the start to its bonkers end, and I can not remember watching an horror that enthralled me like this! Every character was a suspect. Each giving a glimpse that they could be,the person behind the mask! One scene that sums this up perfectly is when we see the glimpse of the GhostFace shoes, later on we see the Sheriff stamp on a cigarette he has just dropped on the floor, and what do we see-the same pair of shoes! Of course this could be a massive spoiler for those who have not seen it. Is the Sheriff the killer? Well lets just say by the time you have got to that scene, you will probably have ten suspects down on your list, because the plot throws you off guard when you at least expect it.
Scream works because it treats the slasher genre with the respect it deserves. It pays off if you have knowledge of the genre because there are so many in gags that at first watch it can be quite overwhelming!. Scream plays like its own self parody, when Sydney laughs at the phone call from Ghostface and says “the reason why she does not watch horror films is because its always a big breasted girl running up the stairs when she should leave by the front door!” and them moments later we see Sydney do the very same thing, makes the viewer laugh at the terror unfolding!
Halloween hangs over the entire show. Kevin Williamsom admits that the Myers flick is his favourite horror of all time, and he uses that to his advantage. At the films climax we get to see the John Carpenter flick played in the background on the telly, which makes Scream a unique horror because it has two films played at once. Randy (Jamie Kennedy) is sitting on the couch, watching the said film and starts screaming at the telly for Laurie Strode to watch herself because Myers is behind her. “He is behind you!” he screams, unaware that Ghostface is standing behind him! Later Deputy Dewey (David Arquette) arrives at the house with the full Halloween theme music playing, adding a touch that bridges old and new fans together in a surreal way!
The film has lost none of its charm and re-watching it again, I found myself hooked and thrilled and the climax is still wonderfully done. Even the Twist (No Spoilers here) with the reveal of who it is, while the fun has gone as you know who it is, you still can not help think how clever it is and how fooled you were back then. Many horror fans brought up on the likes of Halloween and The Burning still complain that Scream is not a typical slasher, aimed at teens and not at all scary, miss the point, that this was written by a slasher fan whose love for the genre shines through. Why be scary when its so much fun to watch
Even after repeated viewings there are still many in-jokes that you may have missed. Intentionally or not, one I picked up last night was the name Sydney (Syd). As Wes Craven called the girl from the original Nightmare On Elm St Nancy, here you have 2 of cinema’s famous heroines named after a rock star who may or may not have murdered his girlfriend in the infamous case of you guessed it Sid and Nancy. Some more of these in jokes can be found at the bottom of this review!
The impact of Scream was immense. Kevin followed by with a more straighter Slash called I know What You Did Last Summer, while Urban Legend which was nothing more that a rip-off followed suit. These two films quickly had sequels and the Slasher genre was back in full force like all those years ago when a young Michael picked up a knife. Scream was written with a sequel in mind, but I will get to that later in the week with the second part of this HCF REWIND SPECIAL!
Scream like a New Nightmare two years before, blurs the line between reality and movies! It takes the viewer on a ride never witnessed before, a fun bloodbath rollercoaster where there is no chance of getting off! Its an intelligent film that makes a mockery of being tagged just another slasher, in terms of horror history it should be placed up there with the likes of Halloween. Like years before when Carpenter’s flick bought a surge of slasher flicks to the fore, Scream is responsible for making sure that a genre that seemed dead and buried, carried on and breathed again, becoming if not, more influential than the actual horror film it inspired to be!
Some of Scream’s Movie References
* The School Janitor is called Fred and he is dressed like a certain Elm St bad guy- this was also played by Director
* “Drive down to the Mackenzie’s!” is an exact line from Halloween
* The opening scene riffs on When A Stranger Calls and Suspiria
* Loomis is a name used in both Psycho and Halloween
* Sydney Lives in 34 Elm St…..not a lot people know that!
* Linda Blair makes a cameo has a reporter
* The “I Spit On Your Garage” line is a riff on the infamous “I Spit On Your Grave” film title
*Henry Winkler plays the School Headmaster, his Fonz jacket can be seen hanging in his School locker!
* “This is like a Wes Carpenter flick”- a reference to Wes Craven and John Carpenter
*Tatum wears a shirt with the Number 10 on it, Like Johnny Depp’s character in the original Elm Street
*The film mentions loads of horror titles, too many to mention here!
Any more…..join in the fun on the Scream Appreciaton Thread over on HorrorCultFilm’s Forum
TO BE CONTINUED!!!!!!