Monday, October 01, 2007

Month o' Horror: Scream

Scream was viewed on Saturday, October 6.

When the "slasher" sub-genre of horror first appeared in the 70s, with films like "Halloween" and "Friday the 13th" there was something fresh and exciting and, yes, scary about them. Here were faceless maniacs, wielding all manner of sharp object, ready to gut you for no particularly good reason (except the fact that you had sex or drank beer or did drugs).

Unfortunately, what started out as fresh and exciting quickly got dull and stagnant. And the worst part of it was the feeling that these people you were watching in slasher films had never actually SEEN a slasher film. Because everyone always ran around doing the same dumb, cliched things that get them killed, even if they should know better.

It was this notion -- that, hey, maybe the people in a slasher film had actually seen a slasher film -- that made "Scream" such a breath of fresh air when it appeared in the 90s.

Wes Craven's film isn't just a deconstruction of slasher film cliches, it's a film about a generation of people who grew up watching movies. The relationship between our virginal heroine and her boyfriend is described with movie ratings -- a PG13 when she flashes her breasts following her boyfriend's attempt at getting his hand under her panties for a hard R rating.

The funny thing about "Scream" is that, after you watch it, the premise seems ridiculously obvious, but it took Wes Craven (the man responsible for the "Nightmare on Elm Street" franchise) 20 years to actually put the pieces together.

And on top of it all, it even works as a slasher film, even if it is a slasher film where most of the characters eventually figure out they're in a slasher film. Or at least in a situation that bears eerie similarities to most slasher films.

Craven's had an up and down career, to be sure, but between "Scream" and his final chapter of the Freddy Kruger saga "New Nightmare," Craven did something that not a lot of other horror directors have done. He stepped outside of the box. He looked at a bigger picture. He actually dabbled in something you might call "Meta-Fiction" a term that's almost highbrown enough to convince folks that horror films can actually be about more than gore and cheap jumps.

Admitted, "Scream" isn't a perfect film. There's a few points where it seems almost too hung up on its own cleverness, a few lines that are awkwardly bad, but for the most part, the premise holds up, as does the film, ten years later. There's rumours circulating of a "Scream 4" on its way at some point in the future, but while my memory of the second and third chapters of the franchise are hazy, I don't recall them having quite the same power as the first entry. So for the sake of respecting a trilogy that maybe didn't hit every note it intended too, but still managed to be a bit more than your average slash-a-thon, let's hope the rumours stay exactly that.

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