Scream revolutionized horror movie and made them relevant to a whole new decade when it first came out in 1996
The ’90s were a really dull decade for horror movies. It seemed like all the good ideas were done in the ’70s and ’80s. Old school horror directors like John Carpenter were starting to lose their magic while horror was quickly becoming a predictable genre. It was to the point where everything that made Halloween and Friday the 13th memorable was a tiresome cliché. People knew exactly what was going to happen again and again. The same premises were being attached to horror movies to get some quick money. How many times can Hollywood make a serial killer in a summer camp setting or a babysitter getting stalked by a serial killer? Bottom line was horror was being used as a cash grab. And then came Wes Craven fresh off his Nightmare On Elm Street movie, New Nightmare, where his satirical meta-commentary was first used. He would go on to do his biggest hit yet, Scream.
**Minor Spoilers Ahead**
The 1996 Scream came in at just the right moment. Audiences were tired of the slasher genre, and they were aware of all the tricks the directors had up their sleeves – or they thought. Wes Craven managed to deliver the twist of all twists – having characters be aware of horror movie tropes. This clever idea made the audience connect with the characters of the film. Sidney Prescott, Randy Meeks, Dewey Riley and Gale Weathers all knew that they were part of a movie without actually knowing they were part of a movie. This idea does translate well to the audience who always seem to say that they would know not to do [insert horror movie cliché here]. This premise got audiences and critics to fall in love with Ghostface and his satirical nature. They praised Craven for his understanding of the horror audience and the execution of the film.
There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to successfully survive a horror movie. For instance, number one: you can never have sex. [crowd boos]
Scream’s commentary on slasher horror movies does still hold up very well, despite the lack of slasher movies coming to theaters. However, in the ’90s everyone was mostly knowledgeable on slasher movies, now, though, only hardcore slasher fans or older audiences will understand Craven’s subtle jokes and commentary. The ’90s feel of the plot, and the very generic story could possibly feel dull for people who don’t understand slasher movies. The surprising twist, which still holds up pretty well today, is so well done. It’s amazing that not many movies copied the famous Scream twist ending.
Wes Craven gives great nods to some excellent horror movies like Psycho. The start of Scream, in which Drew Barrymore’s character is killed instantly, can be seen as a nod to Psycho. There are many more references to other great horror movies in this movie as well in the others.
The sequel came just one year after the first, and while people were excited, they were also very weary. Back then just like now, horror sequels were never good. The original was always the one that worked best. However, Wes Craven was never scared of doing a Scream 2 because he knew exactly how to do it. He kept the most essential parts of the first, which were the mystery and the meta aspects, while still being original and fresh. Craven’s was very aware of the formula used to make horror sequels. Just like the formula used in the first, Scream 2 dissects the horror sequel formula.
Scream 2 was another major success and still to this day there exist debates about which Scream movie is better. However, for today’s audience, it’s much harder to understand the meta nature of this sequel. Even harder are the jokes and commentary on slasher sequels, which there is ever hardly any slasher sequels in today’s cinema.
Despite that, Scream 2 is still loads of fun for older audience and slasher fans who can understand the humor. It is still held by critics and audience alike as one of the better horror sequels. The problems came in Scream’s 3rd movie…
Possibly the worst film of the franchise, Scream 3 is the movie that nearly killed the franchise. Made in the height of the Columbine shootings, studios told Craven to dial back on horror and inject more humor. While re-watching Scream 3, modern audiences will see an absence of gore and an over satirical nature which drowned the movie. The horror is completely sucked out, even to Craven’s effort. Nevertheless, Scream 3 still finds ways to be clever and comment on an ending trilogy.
It was said that Craven wasn’t too fond of the studio’s restrictions and has stated that he didn’t like the experience. How is a director suppose to direct a self-aware 3rd horror movie without gore? Like Scream 3 stated, the 3rd slasher film has more kills and a back story.
Kevin Williamson, the screenwriter of the first two Scream movies, was working on other projects and couldn’t write Scream 3. His absence is felt deeply as the screenwriting is no longer a force as it once was. Luckily, Williamson did return for Scream 4.
But-here’s the critical thing-if you find yourself dealing with an unexpected back story and a preponderance of exposition, then the sequel rules DO NOT apply. Because you are not dealing with a sequel, you are dealing with the concluding chapter of a trilogy.
Despite all the troubles, Scream 3 did manage to do well enough at the box to justify another Scream movie, but Wes Craven didn’t want another experience like the one he recently had. In the end, it took 11 years before another Scream movie was made and it wasn’t with the best results.
After everyone had given up hope for another Scream sequel, Wes Craven returned to direct his last movie, Scream 4. Wes Craven’s directorial swan song was not the box office hit they expected it to be. They planned to start a new trilogy signing the cast for 3 movies, but when the box office numbers came in, they were less than pleased.
You forgot the first rule of remakes, Jill. Don’t fuck with the original!
Critics did point out that the series was no longer as fresh as it once was, but fans were happy to see a return to a darker, bloodier Scream like the first was. Fans did appreciate Wes Craven’s fourth sequel, but something was missing. The magic that made the first one so fresh was there, but it was hiding. Still, Scream 4 got a better reception than Scream 3, and Wes Craven still proved that even at 73 he understood horror better than most horror director working then.
Wes Craven also found a surprising premise that would speak to a modern audience and that was the growing trend of horror remakes. Scream 4 was a remake of the first Scream while still being a sequel to the three other Scream movies. For modern audiences, this is the Scream movie that they would probably understand more giving that we live in the horror remake era.
The 1996’s Scream did help make slasher movies relevant to a whole other generation, while Scream 2 contributed to solidifying its existence. Also, it did prove that horror sequels can still be fresh and original. It was only when the complications of Scream 3 that the franchise starting to fall. To give the third movie some credit, what it had to overcome was almost insurmountable. However, Craven did the best he could with the restrictions provided. It’s not hard to imagine what the Scream franchise could’ve been if Scream 3 had been better. The other mistake came when Craven and the studio waited 11 years to make Scream 4, which only further buried the franchise at the box office. What the Scream franchise achieved is beyond amazing. Ghostface is still well known and one of the most popular Halloween costumes, but if Wes Craven’s plan was to spawn more creative slasher than he unfortunately failed. Although, if Wes Craven wanted to solidify himself as an iconic horror director than he definitely succeeded.
All there’s to do now is for fans to hope and beg for a better ending to their beloved franchise and as years pass by, that’s looking more and more unlikely.
- Scream 2
- Scream 4
- Scream 3
This will be the first of a brand new segment, ‘The Theories Of The Series‘, which will analyze and revisit film franchises in hopes of trying to understand what worked and what went wrong.