If John Carpenter is the king of low-budget horror, Wes Craven is his higher-salary cousin. He’s created some of the most popular and quotable horror franchises in all of cinema, and in the early 90s, people thought he had outlived his prime. Well, Craven shut them up right good with Scream, a new spin on the traditional take on horror films. Scream quickly became not just another stand-out work in Craven’s filmography, but rapidly grew to cult film status, thanks in large part to its now famous and infinitely quotable opening scene with Drew Barrymore, and also was quite the hit with the critical base as well.
Scream works by deconstructing the various tropes of horror films, from the low-budget to the blockbuster gore-fests. It knows all the conventions of the horror genre well, and uses them all well, but also reinvents many of them and teaches a few new tricks to the old dog at the heart of the production. of course, it also can’t resist playing as a parody of many of these conventions as well, and it is probably this that made Scream so widely popular; that it injects a sense of comedy along with the slasher-horror bits. This does help to relieve some of the nervous tension built up during the course of the film, and horror aficionados far more versed in the genre than I can debate about whether or not that’s a good thing.
I’ve become largely desensitized to horror; not just the scares of it, but also the benefits. In film school, and in the independent film circuit, horror is cheap and easy to make, so there’s an awfully large overabundance of it, and I was exposed to much of that, so I’ve pretty much had my fill of horror films for my lifetime. Still, I found a lot to like about Scream, and viewing it from a purely critical standpoint, it does a lot more things right than wrong, and does what it does pretty well. If you haven’t seen this, amazingly enough, it earns its spot on the list just for the sheer gumption of trying to encapsulate everything that a horror film is and can be, and largely succeeds at the same time it parodies itself and its beloved genre. It’s certainly worth your time, even if you’re not much into horror films (like me), for whatever your personal reason.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10