Stuff I Watch in October: Scream (1996)


Happy October and welcome! All 31 days this month, I will be reviewing all the films I watch in the month of October. They’re mostly a selection of horror or suspense films in my own library or films and shows that have been recommended to me.

Please enjoy and leave a comment!

And if you missed any of our past reflections, take a look:

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Psycho (1960)
The Haunting (1963)
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
The Other (1972)
The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Young Frankenstein (1974)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Halloween (1978)
Alien (1979)
The Shining (1980)
Halloween II (1981)
The Evil Dead (1981)
Halloween III – Season of the Witch (1982)
Ghostbusters (1984)
Teen Wolf (1985)
Aliens (1986)
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Predator (1987)
The Monster Squad (1987)
The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
The Lost Boys (1987)
Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn (1987)
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
They Live (1988)
Beetlejuice (1988)
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
Ghostbusters II (1989)
Predator 2 (1990)
The Addams Family (1991)
Alien 3 (1992)
Army of Darkness (1992)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The Crow (1994)
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

Our next film is…

WATCHING: Scream (1996)


DIRECTOR: The late, great Wes Craven, father of the Nightmare on Elm Street. This was probably his second greatest achievement — and one which pretty much resurrected the horror genre which had gotten lost in the utter absurdity of slasher nonsense.

“Scream” marked a huge shift in the horror genre, celebrating it while simultaneously riffing on it and, at times, roasting it — all while becoming one of the films it aims at.

WHAT IS IT?: After nearly 100 years of horror (and following Craven’s clever meta-horror surprise, “New Nightmare”), writer Kevin Williamson and late director Wes Craven stabbed, disemboweled, dissected, and deconstructed the entire horror genre with “Scream”, a movie that, while indulging itself and the audience in some real snarky inside baseball, also celebrates the genre with a fairly original down-to-earth horror film.

THE PLOT: Neve Campbell stars as young high school student Sidney Prescott whose mother was allegedly murdered a year ago by a man named Cotton Weary. As the one year anniversary looms, a masked killer begins to stalk and murder those close to Sidney, slowly working their way, body by body, to her, leaving Sidney with no choice but to finally confront the past she longed to suppress — and survive if she can.

WHAT DID CRITICS THINK?: The critics welcomed the film with open arms, praising Kevin Williamson’s incredibly clever and witty script while also saying that the film was a return to form for director Wes Craven — though Roger Ebert was quoted as asking whether the film’s violence was necessary in a film which was lampooning the pitfalls of gore and excess.


WHAT DID I THINK?: One of the greatest things the movie has going for it is that, while the film may be a “slasher” of sorts, it’s actually a “whodunit”-style murder mystery at heart, minus the Sunday Night sitcom detectives. The killer is not some dream demon or a horrible, invincible, unkillable monster like Jason or Michael Myers. They are, indeed, human. There are red herrings all over the film, which serve to mislead the audience, making them guess and second-guess each character’s innocence or guilt.

Additionally, the antagonist (“Ghostface”, as the killer is known) is a creepy idea. The costume is based on a costume was was created and sold in stores between 1991 and 1992 before Craven adopted it and had it altered to avoid copyright infringement. The design, which recalls Edvard Munch’s famous 1893 painting, “The Scream”, reminded Craven of someone who was screaming and sad at same time. It also served to allow ANYONE to be the killer since the entire costume hides the gender of the person behind the mask.

The other half of the fun is supplied by the movie’s self-aware attitude. Every single character in the film is somewhat aware of how a horror flick works and they all (mostly) attempt to abide by the horror genre’s “rules” which conclude that the people who survive horror films must be completely sober, must never tell other characters that they’ll “be right back”, and they must NEVER have sex unless they wanna die since it’s almost always the virgin who survives a horror film — among other things.

Randy sitting on the couch, watching “Halloween”, while yelling “Look behind you, Jamie” — all while “Ghostface” is sneaking up on Randy from behind to stab him is darkly hilarious. And it’s even more funny when Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) and her cameraman are in their news van, watching Randy on a hidden camera and THEY’RE yelling “Look behind ya’, kid!”

After “Scream”, horror became as hip as hanging out at your local coffee house. Besides putting director Wes Craven back on the map, every film after it followed this film’s lead, casting popular, established actors and actresses. Every horror flick felt like it had a fighting chance to be “great”, to be recognized as “art” and not just dismissed as cheap schlock.

“Scream” is a winner.


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