My Favourite Horror Film: Scream
“Do you like scary movies?”
Fewer questions in film are met with a mixture of sheer terror and girlish glee by fans than the line spoken by the murderous Ghostface in Wes Craven’s 1996 film Scream. Pair these chilling words with the eponymous mask worn by the villain and you have, part of, the recipe of a true horror classic.
Director Wes Craven had already had huge success with the Nightmare on Elm Street series in the eighties, but with Scream he was to create yet another nightmarish icon of cinema. With an achingly clever script by Kevin Williamson, Scream tells the story of a young woman and her friends terrorised by a masked murderer in one of the most recognisable costumes in horror. Neve Campbell, fresh out of another horror cult hit The Craft, is vulnerable Sidney, Courtney Cox plays TV news bitch Gale Weathers (with a tongue as vicious as some of the killings) and her future real-life husband David Arquette is Officer Dewey. Matthew Lillard, in a career best, delivers a comedic performance that stops just short of being slapstick as Stu, Sidney’s schoolmate with a secret to hide and with a supporting cast of future stars including Rose McGowan (Pre-Charmed), Jamie Kennedy and Drew Barrymore, the film is never short of familiar faces.
(Spoiler alert: Barrymore’s phone conversation with Ghostface before her impending death is in my opinion one of the most chillingly terrifying scenes in movie history.)
“What’s your name?”
“Why do you want to know my name?”
“Because I want to know who I’m looking at.”
Scream became the fifteenth highest-grossing film of 1996 and is widely regarded as the savior of a fledgling horror genre. Its plot features the best (and worst) stereotypes of the horror genre, but even the worst are used to its advantage. This was the 90s. Audiences who had been raised on the valley girl teen flicks of the 80s and were busy gorging themselves on an influx of pop culture were ready for a horror film that not only scared them, but also made them feel cool for knowing about it. The killer uses these stereotypes to taunt their victims and never does it feel tacky. On the contrary, it comes off extremely clever and fresh.
Almost 20 years after the film was released, it shows no sign of losing its cultural influence. A TV series based on the film recently premiered on MTV and the mammoth popularity of shows such as Scream Queens and American Horror Story is no doubt indebted at least in part to Scream. And who could forget the Scary Movie franchise, ridiculously screwball parodies of the film that even stole Scream’s original name.
In 1999, news media reports blamed the film, amongst others, for influencing the gunmen involved in the Columbine High School massacre. This resulted in the United States Senate Commerce committee conducting a hearing about the marketing of films to youths (Drew Barrymore’s character’s death in the film was used in the hearing) Criticisms aside, the film and it’s three sequels made over $600 million at the box office and (for the most part) avoided critical bloodshed. Whilst the sequels never quite surpassed the original in the scare factor, they are by no means terrible.
Do you like scary movies? Yes? Then this is definitely one for you. Just turn off your phone before you watch.