The early and mid-nineties were without a doubt a dark age for horror films.
The early and mid-nineties were without a doubt a dark age for horror films. The genre was stagnant, dominated by increasingly poor sequels from the stale Friday the 13th, Halloween and Night on Elm Street franchises.
Director Wes Craven took it upon himself to kill his creation Freddy Krueger in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994), and it seemed like then he decided he was going to attempt to kill the whole damn genre. Sending up all the overdone tropes that the slasher flick was built upon, Wes Craven served up the horror-comedy Scream (1996)
In true slasher fashion, Scream follows a group of teenagers who are being stalked and slaughtered by a killer known simply as Ghostface. It is a movie that is self aware and that lampoons the clichés, with characters who are well aware of the formula that will inevitably lead them to their demise.
With the increasing ridiculousness of horror movies at the time, Scream was a breath of fresh air, one that both ridiculed the genre and celebrated it. The movie had its own tongue in cheek charm that draws you in and that you can’t help but find endearing.
At one point the character Sidney (Neve Campbell) says of horror movies: “They’re all the same. Some stupid killer stalking some big-breasted girl who can’t act who is always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door” only to find herself falling into the exact same trap later in the movie. Scream knows it is relying on a tired old formula and it revels in it.
It is very much a popcorn-horror flick, Scream may make you jump and keep you on edge while you are watching, but never does it crawl under your skin and really terrify you. But it must be said that the film never really set out too, it’s just playful slap to the face of the genre.
However, Scream ended up doing the exact opposite of what it intended.
Scream proved such a big hit with audiences that it completely resurrected the flagging slasher franchises, bringing new attention to the classics with its constant stream of references and leading a brand new wave of sequels and copycats.
Scream ended up becoming the very thing it set out to satirise, a tired and overdone horror franchise being banged out for a quick buck.
Scream’s ultimate legacy is the revival of the slasher genre, but it is still a very fun and entertaining film. With its unique brand of devilish humour, the movie is a worthy tribute to the history of horror films, but unfortunately it helped shape a parade formulaic and frustrating slasher films that spanned the next decade.