90s Movie Challenge Week 43: Scream (1996)

Welcome back pals. Time for another #90sMC, but let’s get a couple of apologies out for the way first. To start with – this piece is a few days late, so we’re very sorry about that. Secondly, you may have been expecting The Addams Family instead of this week’s replacement. Sometimes life gets in the way and things can’t be helped. The piece will

Apologies, this piece does either contain or hint at some pretty hefty spoilers for those who somehow have managed to miss this film up until now. I tried, I really did, I promise.

I honestly cannot give enough credit to my parents for not being particularly observant of film ratings when I was a kid and just using the logic of “Y’know what, I think they’re probably old enough to watch this now,” an approach that worked fantastically with Die Hard, less so with The Shining (although to her credit, Tiny! Jodie made it right up to the tracking shot where Danny enters Room 237 for the first time before shouting for it to be switched off). Another film where this attitude paid off was, of course, Scream, which much like your writer, still remains one of the greatest things to emerge from 1996.

While its legacy is that of Wes Craven gleefully tearing down and subverting the slasher movie cliches that he helped create while a group of 90s ‘teenagers’ shoot sarcastic one-liners back and forth with each other, it can easily be forgotten how genuinely haunting this film can still be, even if you have watched it at least thirteen times (hey, everyone has their Halloween traditions, right?).

The opening fifteen minutes with poor, famous, and unexpectedly doomed Drew Barrymore slowly realising that she’s not the victim of a prank call, but is instead being targeted by a masked killer still remains a masterclass in ratcheting up the tension and horror to the point that her death almost, almost comes as a relief, if not for the truly nightmarish reveal of her body on display which, combined with the anguished screams of her mother (Carla Hatley), was pretty much instantly burned into my brain, never to be forgotten.

Similarly, the reveal of who exactly has been stalking, scaring, and of course, slaughtering the students of Woodsboro High descends into almost Jokerish ranting and cackling, managing to make a ruthless killer wailing about how their parents are going be angry at him both laugh-out-loud funny, terrifying, and not cheesy in the slightest.

Okay, maybe a little cheesy and over-the-top. But then again, that’s why I keep coming back to this film time after time. Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson make sure that no slasher movie trope or concept is kept sacred, gleefully ripping up the rulebook on how each stereotyped character should act while the town’s resident movie nerd recites it as gospel.

Combined with a gloriously bitchy Courtney Cox taking a break from the set of Friends, a disturbingly hyperactive Matthew Lillard routinely stealing every single shot he appears in, and the mysterious hooded villain wearing what’s explicitly noted to be a cheap Halloween costume, Scream spends half of its runtime veering disturbingly close to the point of parody, before reminding you how the director became famous and cranking the tension back up to near-unbearable levels.

It’s an atmosphere that I’ll never tire of experiencing, particularly given the sheer quantity of tiny background details that I’m still noticing on rewatches today, the fact that the two pranksters running through the hall are dressed and styled almost exactly like Lillard and Skeet Ulrich being one that stood out to me when revisiting the film to write this.

While the sequel leans a little too hard into the self-awareness angle, although arguably, there’s really no other choice considering how much material there is to wring out of the concept of horror movie follow-ups, Scream never quite feels dated despite being almost obnoxiously 90s and the small factor of every subsequent slasher movie needing to add a degree of ‘quirky’ nods towards how these type of films are ‘meant’ to work. While the 2012 release of The Cabin In The Woods, a movie that in many ways could probably be argued to be my generation’s Scream, finally put an end to the self-referential horror genre, the humour and style shown here still feel fresher than ever.

While neither the scariest, nor funniest movie I’ve seen, the memories of growing up watching the iconic Ghostface mask on cold October nights means that I’m always going to rank this as one of my absolute favourites, and goes to show that no one can successfully skewer an entire genre quite like the man who helped create it to start with.

Now tell me, what’s your favourite scary movie?

Next time…


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