Scream : Contemporary Trend Setter

         In 1996, Wes Craven revitalized the slasher film genre with his satirical horror film Scream. The slasher craze lay dormant throughout the 90’s as horror turned away from brutal mass murdering and turned instead to psychological thrillers such as David Fincher’s 1995 Seven and Jonathan Demme’s 1991 Silence of the Lambs. The film Scream was one of the highest grossing movies of 1996 with a cast of teen idols from that period including Neve Campbell, Skeet Ulrich, Rose McGowan and Courtney Cox.

         The satirical element comes from the “rules” spoken of by the horror-movie-obsessed characters played by Jaime Kennedy and Mathew Lilliard. They apply rules common in the slasher movies. If you are being chased by a killer, never go investigate a strange noise; and, if you must, never run upstairs when you insist that you are going to being be right back, and most importantly you must realize that virgins never die.

         The popularity of the movie spawned two sequels, which in turn were the direct inspiration for the Scary Movie parody trilogy. It also started a trend, which set off a domino effect for movies such as Jim Gillespie’s 1997 I Know What You Did Last Summer, James Wong’s 2000 Final Destination, and Rob Schmidt’s 2003 Wrong Turn, which in the tradition of slasher films, also had their own sequels.

         Scream’s ironic self-aware characters and horror movie references made it memorable in my opinion. Most people would only see it as a teen sex-filled blood fest, with its film makers concerned only about box office success, but those who know their history will immediately see it as an homage to famous horror movies of the past. It directly uses names of famous characters, quotes, and opening scenes from classics such as Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 Psycho and Wes Craven’s 1984 Nightmare on Elm Street. If there were a course on history of horror films, I am sure that Scream would be one of the contemporary trendsetters.

Pauline Combow

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