Year – 1996
Country – USA
Certificate – 18
Director – Wes Craven
Cast: Neve Campbell,
Many of us don’t need ‘one day a year’ dedicated to turning off the lights and watching a terrifying movie, but seeing as there is a plethora of movies out there to haunt you, scare you or even make you throw up a little bit inside, Halloween has been and gone, but it’s no excuse to let the spirits leave you!
The great thing about Halloween is it reminds us of the best walks we’ve taken down the horror lane and suddenly you want to brush the dust off those nasty little movies that and quiver all over again or even smile with glee at the sheer gore plastered across the screen.
One master of the genre, though, is always worth revisiting at any time of year and his films are so much more then sinister phone calls, slit throats and teenage corpses.
Wes Craven has been in the horror business for decades and with each contemporary release he has invigorated the horror genre, breathing new life into some dying clichés. Craven’s launch into horror filmmaking was exploitation extravaganza
Last House on the Left (1972)
which taunted audience with advertising reminding them to repeat ‘it’s only a movie’ and was quickly crowned one of the most notorious ‘video nasties’ and suitably banned by power-crazed censors.
Curious audiences, however, were only intrigued by this status and were soon treated to a film bursting with experimentation and a story to truly get under any person’s skin. Craven was inspired to make his disturbing insight into modern American life by the footage of the Vietnam War which was at the time blasted onto TV screens all across America.
The pure, uncensored violence would be shocking and refused under any other circumstance but here he saw images of praised human nature and so wanted to explore the possibilities of this violence hidden within American society.
This theme continued with The Hills have Eyes (1979)
A film which explored the segregation of American culture, once again putting a white, middle class family at the centre of its torment.
In 1984 Craven turned his attention completely by creating one of the best loved horror villains of all time, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) in A Nightmare on Elm Street.
His creation stalked teenagers in their sleep and presented a supernatural twist with a killer that couldn’t be killed.
It was at this point Craven identified the need for teenagers to distance themselves from the real world, with characters who were more informed than any adult and who were brimming with knowledge absorbed from every possible media source.
Ultimately though, it was Scream (1996) which crowned Craven as a true master of the genre. This may be a controversial statement, but Scream shaped the horror landscape right up until the conception of so called ‘Torture Porn’.
Scream masquerades as a typical teen slasher flick like the hordes produced in the 1980s.
What separates Craven’s film is its position as a self-referential and critical piece which comments on the position of horror films before it and presents characters who believe they know all there is to know about serial killers, having learnt all the important details ‘from the movies’.
The opening scene of the film once again brings the nightmare to a perfect American family home and the opening credits roll after the image of a mother staring at the gutted, hanging corpse of her teenage daughter.
Within the first few minutes of dialogue, screenwriter Kevin Williamson (of Dawson’s Creek fame) has already referenced classic titles such as Halloween (1978)
and even Craven’s own Nightmare on Elm Street, claiming the first one is good ‘but the rest suck’.
From this point on Scream has changed the rules and the horror genre is once again anyone’s game to play. Craven and Williamson know that each audience member is fully aware of every cliché in the book, and so points at them and laughs.
The real genius of Scream is that each on screen character lives as if they are a character in their own movie. They all want fame and they all blame the media for their mistakes or corruption. They even speculate who will play them in the movie which will inevitably be made about the serial murders in their home town.
This understanding of a generation driven by ability to swallow and digest every form of media and technology in an age where it’s better to be killed off by a mad man with your picture in the paper than die without anyone noticing, is still a concept which is frighteningly real nearly 15 years after its initial release.
Williamson’s script is as much parody as it is scary and so Scream is a constant riot. Williamson carefully places references a wide variety of media characters and players, baiting the audience and congratulating them for recognising his efforts.
The cast are outstanding caricatures with particularly great performances from the once husband and wife team Courtney Cox and David Arquette as the vile reporter and the dim-witted deputy.
Though we think we’ve seen them all before it is the specific casting selection and well-timed kills which place Scream outside the box, and for the film’s duration the audience are invited to guess who the killer might be, though nothing they see on screen can ever be trusted…
And so, I beg you, don’t neglect the assumed out-dated horrors of years gone by and certainly don’t shelve them until next Halloween.
Give them another watch and appreciate writer/directors such as Craven for their service to the horror genre…after all, death never goes out of fashion!