Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : Scream (1996) DOUBLE FEATURE part 1
In 1996, the cinematic world was introduced to the first of what would be one of the more successful new horror franchise of the modern era. And interestingly enough, it would spring forth from the mind of one Wes Craven, already responsible for one of the most popular monsters in movie history.
At the time this came out, I was in college and without going into a lot of details, I was going through a difficult time in my life. School was not going well and I had personal issues that were leading to some fairly severe depression and anxiety. I was on break at my father’s house and decided one night to take a spin with a video rental, a new movie release that I had seen advertised but knew very little about.
We all know how the escapism of a great movie can be like therapy and my first viewing of Scream was exactly that. It was one of the more enjoyable horror films I had seen in a long time, blending genres in a way that I don’t think I had seen in quite some time. Doing horror with a heavy infusion of comedy is not an easy task to pull off and more often or not, you end up with more of an emphasis on the comedy side of things, or going in the direction of satire. With Scream, you had a film that offered up genuinely funny content and a lot of great one-liners, but when you got down to the core of the film, it was also really scary.
The movie opens up taking no prisoners, taking its high profile cast member (Drew Barrymore) and unceremoniously dispatching her after about five minutes. Right out of the gate you figure out that this movie is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. I loved how it managed to somehow at the same time function as a good horror movie while at the same time, poking fun at the narrative tropes it was indulging in.
Scream would also make household names of a number of its cast members. And as time has gone by, the movie has become somewhat a target for humorous interpretation and satire, as often seems to happen with films that are successful. And I will concede that past the first sequel, I have not thought much of what the franchise has produced. But that first installment still holds strong for me as a great movie. And in the current era of mostly sequels and remakes and reboots, I think this is a movie that should be celebrated. Wes Craven could have just as easily made just another Nightmare On Elm Street. Instead, he took the risk and created something new.
I like the simplicity of the film, that you don’t need to go overboard with a bunch of crazy CGI and expensive effects. You can make a really scary film with no more than a black cloak, a mask and a knife. The use of the phone calls as a narrative device, with the killer calling his victims before killing them was great for developing tension throughout the film. Watching at the time it came out, this had a feeling of brutality, much more so than i think we usually expect from mainstream films.
One other point I wanted to make about Scream is how much I LOVE the soundtrack. The orchestral theme is great but the offering from Nick Cave is legendary, with Red Right Hand. It’s to the point where I think of the film, every time I hear the song. I love it and the vibe of the tune fits perfectly in with the story. It’s a great and varied soundtrack, featuring songs from Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper and Moby and I thought was a perfect fuel for the emotional roller coaster you were on. And scoring particular nostalgia points for me is the theme that plays for David Arquette’s character, a guitar driven song that always makes me think of Twin Peaks.
Scream was a breath of fresh air and a heavy dose of cinematic medicine in a darker part of my life. Despite the fact that I suspect history has shifted this film into the realm of cheese and superficiality, for me, Scream is still a piece of great film-making.