March 7th, 2014: Scream (1996)


Cast and Crew: Skeet Ulrich, Courtney Cox, Rose McGowan, David Arquette, Matthew Lillard, Jamie Kennedy, Liev Schreiber, Linda Blair, Henry Wrinkler

What It’s About:  Someone (who appears to be a fan of “scary movies”) is killing the teenagers of Woodboro.  Who are they, and what is their connection to the murder of Sidney’s (Neve Campbell) mother?

Why Watch it Today?:  Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone on this date in 1876.  Few films feature scenes that use the telephone to create tension as well as the opening scene of Scream, in which the killer terrifies and torments Drew Barrymore.  Scream revived the moribund Slasher film sub-genre, taking it away from the long worn out franchises and the supernatural dead-end it found itself in and, in the wake of filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, included characters that knew the “rules” of the genre.  While this was hardly a new idea (indeed, examples of thrillers featuring genre aware characters stretch back at least as far as Arsenic and Old Lace and “post modern/meta” elements were showing up in films like Fright Night, Return of the Living Dead and Popcorn, all made within ten years of Scream), perception is 9/10ths of hype.  Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson’s slick synthesis of scenes cribbed from 1980s also ran slasher films with a young cast of up and comers and TV stars was hailed as innovative and a brief boom in “self-aware” horror films arrived in Scream‘s wake.   While Scream‘s legacy, pedigree and moral may be questionable, the scares, thrills and tension the film creates are undeniable.

5 comments on “March 7th, 2014: Scream (1996)

  1. geelw says:

    Ya know… other than that GREAT opening, I never liked this film much. I think it was because it was TOO self aware of itself, the cast was all smarty-smart but kind of dumb when needed and the film nodded and winked its way into sequels that played off the same ideas. That and the films you noted above that did that stuff mostly did it better and while not as hugely popular today, were fun to watch because they didn’t overkill meta their audience after a certain point.

    Eh, I’ll watch it again some day. I still like parts of it, but it never really scared me.

    • T.A. Gerolami says:

      I enjoyed it, but the ending pissed me off the first time I saw it. I now watch it every few years and go back and forth between thinking it is a movie made by people who hate their own audience and think teenagers are soulless bastards (or maybe that “today’s” are) and thinking it’s a well crafted horror film and the joke is on people that think horror movies are bad for kids. In any case, I am sure it helped immensely that I never saw the bulk of the films this movie “homages” until after I saw it. For example, Happy Birthday to Me, which the killer’s basic plot and motivation is stolen from. I’ve got a lot of mixed feelings on it overall but I do enjoy it on a certain level.

      I think the difference is partly that Fright Night and Return of the Living Dead and even Popcorn seem to be made by people that actually loved the genres they were sending up and made sure to include likable characters. They also seemed to trust the audience to get the meta bits more. I feel like Williamson and Craven appear to hate the slasher genre and its audience.

      It’s been a long time, but at one point I was the one person on Earth that preferred the first sequel to this film, The 3rd and 4rth were horrific.

  2. KO Rob says:

    I’m also pro-Scream, Tim. And may I offer up the original versions of When A Stranger Calls and Black Christmas as good phone-centric choices for today’s date as we’ll.

    • T.A. Gerolami says:

      Black Christmas is a great choice. I should have listed that as an “other choices” option! I didn’t love When a Stranger Calls, but it’s opening gambit is arguably even better than this one!

  3. geelw says:

    Black Christmas is so awesome and yeah, you’re spot on about When a Stranger Calls. Now that I think about it, I’ll need to watch Scream 2 again, as I recall liking more bits of it than I thought I would. Add Sorry, Wrong Number, Dial M for Murder, and the awful Phone Booth as other phone-based flicks to peek at (well, Phone Booth just for the name, because that plot sure isn’t worth a second thought..)

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