Today I watched Wes Craven’s Scream (1996)
As the Nineties wore on the slasher genre had achieved a wide pop cultural appeal but had also become a massive cliche. With popular appeal came backlash as some people got tired of the repetition inherent in the genre and it became something of a joke. With Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween all spawning massive franchises, Wes Craven decided that with his next film he would poke fun at the genre with a film about a group of slasher film fans who find themselves in a slasher movie. Well not literally in a movie, but while having a movie night the tropes of the films begin happening to them.
I have said before and I’ll say again that the blend of comedy and horror is an unexpectedly fitting one as many directors have done exactly what Craven does here, melding the two into a seamless whole that sacrifices neither. The way Craven does it here is rather simple, he calls out a trope before executing it in cliche style. It ends up working quite well as Craven is quite adept at pulling off a slasher and is obviously very knowledgeable of all the tropes.
With the killer also having a fascination with horror flicks, the film also pokes fun at the backlash these types of films have garnered over the years. The idea of copycat killers has hung over horror films for a long time and while such things have taken place, the effect of violent horror movies on the mind is wildly overblown by popular media. So to have the killer directly invoke this is like a big in joke for horror fans frustrated by such accusations which this film points out as being just as ridiculous as the absurd tropes of the films themselves.
With the exception of an annoying Matthew Lillard performance, the cast is all great. Jamie Kennedy’s movie store freak out and Henry Winkler’s overly aggressive principle make for some of the funniest moments. Drew Barrymore and Neve Campbell play the two female leads and do pretty good jobs both. Craven does a great job of diversifying the wide cast of characters and giving most everyone unique and understandable quirks.
As the film goes on, the fourth wall gets a little blurred in a way that evokes French New Wave cinema in that is revels in the kitsch of the genre while also exploring it in a serious way. From the strong cast to the delicious and seemingly endless irony throughout the story, Scream has a lot to offer fans of this genre or anyone who has a passing interest in slasher tropes. The fun and celebratory nature of the plot does not sacrifice from the scares nor does the horror distract from the humour. It is more than a barrage of references, it is an honest love letter to the genre by one of the best directors in it. 5/5