An Ode to ‘Scream’ on its 20-year (?!) Anniversary
Even all these years later, the Scream trilogy is still a draw – especially now that it’s available On Demand. (We don’t count Scream 4!)
When it first appeared in 1996, Scream was a sensation – mixing genuine scares with an intriguing mystery and a knowing script. For the first time in a major Hollywood film, the characters in a horror had actually seen slasher movies.
The film opens with a teenager answering the phone as a sinister voice asks about her favourite scary movies. This is the start of a killing spree, as locals are killed one by one by a deranged killer who likes making creepy phone calls and wearing a menacing mask that looks like Munch’s The Scream.
The teens do their best to survive and outwit the killer, trying to learn from the mistakes of characters in scary movies; running upstairs instead of out the front door, for instance, or avoiding illicit activities. (Horror films always punish the bad teens, you see.) And, as Randy, the film geek in the group says: “Never, ever, ever under any circumstances say, ‘I'll be right back.’ Because you won't be back.”
The films are filled with familiar faces: Neve Campbell, of Party of Five and more recently House of Cards, plays Sydney Prescott, a frequent target of the killer, and supporting roles are filled by the likes of Courtney Cox, Drew Barrymore and Henry Winkler.
Timothy Olyphant and Jada Pinkett Smith show up in the sequels, which (of course) are post-modern commentaries on the very idea of sequels.
The Scream films are outrageously entertaining. They work as gripping horrors, witty comedies and smart deconstructions of the horror genre. Director Wes Craven knew a thing or two about the genre, having also made the Nightmare on Elm Street films. He directs the horror scenes with a skill and panache, and draws assured, often hilarious performances from his young cast.
And screenwriter Kevin Williamson has a gift for writing teenagers, which he later demonstrated when he created the classic Dawson’s Creek.
You can see the Scream films’ influence on horror/comedies like You’re Next, and even in smart-aleck teen dramas like Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars. And that’s before we get into horror/comedy series like Scream Queens and the MTV series adaptation, simply called Scream.
If you’ve seen the Scream films, they’re well worth a revisit – despite the lack of smart phones and social media; they’ve aged remarkably well. And if you haven’t seen them, you’re in for a bloody, funny and self-aware treat.
Scream 1-3 are available On Demand now.
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