Scream is what happens when slasher movies become a staple of our culture. Those of us who grew up watching Jamie Lee Curtis run screaming through Halloween, or watching Freddie Cruger pick off teen by teen, know the wonderful, yet unsavory effects that horror movies can have on us. We know when not to answer the door. We know when to turn around. We know when to leave the house rather than run upstairs, just like the characters in Scream do. But to be honest, if we that were stuck in that situation, in that fight or flight mode, we would be making the same mistakes.
In Wes Craven’s 1996 hit Scream, a small town is terrorized by a masked murder targeting teens. The murderer also seems to have a fascination with horror films, using trivia and “the rules” to terrify. After two classmates are killed, Sydney (Neve Campbell) seems to be the next target. This is even more unsettling for her, as this attack falls around the anniversary of her mother’s murder. While she is worried, some of her peers seem to enjoy the mayhem. The reporters have a field day, just as they did during Sydney’s mother’s murder. As tensions intensify, and a curfew is set on the town, the teens have a party. What a perfect place for some more murder.
The first scene perfectly sets the whole film. What seems like an innocent wrong number, with even a bit of flirting, turns on a dime to terror and a grizzly murder. The first time I began this movie (in my early teens) I couldn’t get through this first scene. It was too tense and freaky for me at the time, and the worst part was how real this felt. I began to imagine how easily this could happen to me anytime I was home alone. Even now, by the time the she is being quizzed about Friday the 13th, I find myself standing two feet from my television, hand over my mouth to keep from screaming, loving and hating every moment.
The words from Principal Himbry (the uncredited Henry Winkler) ring sadly true for most of Generation X and on. We are “desensitized little shits.” We’ve seen too many slasher movies. Fake blood and gore hardly fazes us. Hell, I grew up hearing about terrible murders on the evening news while eating dinner. If someone was brutally murdered in my high school I know someone would find a way to make a joke of it. Maybe it’s our faults for being horrible people, or maybe it’s the media and society we were exposed to. Either way, it brings us closer to the kids in the middle of Scream. Especially Stuart (Matthew Lillard).
It seems Wes Craven has made this film especially for movie geeks. It begins to reference horror movies right in the beginning and keeps it up to the very end. One of the most important parts for movie nerds is how Randy (Jamie Kennedy) lays out the rules for surviving a horror movie. Until then, they had been unwritten rules, more of a modern archetype that has been shaped over the past 40 years.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the rules, here they are. Use them wisely if you ever find yourself within a personal horror movie:
- You can never have sex. Sex = Death. Virgins will live.
- You can never drink or do drugs. Just another sin that will make you a target.
- Never say, “I’ll be right back.” You won’t.
Even if you have never seen a single horror film before, Scream can be a real treat. It doesn’t rely on your film knowledge, though it helps. Scream is simply a modern horror classic that will easily draw you in and make you scream. The stakes are set high right from the start and only escalate from there. There is a great mix of tension, gore and run-for-your-life terror that makes this film fun every time.
“No, please don’t kill me, Mr. Ghostface, I wanna be in the sequel!”