Directed by Wes Craven
Written by Kevin Williamson
I have put off watching this one. Not because its long or boring or I know it’s full of war crimes or anything like that. No. I’ve put off watching Scream because it traumatised me when I first saw it as a seventeen year old. Sure, you say. But it’s a funny horror movie! Why would you be genuinely scared? Well, I’ll tell ya.
I saw this movie in 1997 when we were on seventh form art camp. We were staying at a marae in Masterton and we had some free time on Saturday night. A bunch of us decided to go out and see a movie, and Scream was what was playing. Before we went out the people who ran the marae warned us to stay in a group because there were shifty people around. So… there was that fear in the back of my mind to start with.
Then it turned out that every teenager in the Wairarapa area was also at the movies that night to see Scream, and really immerse themselves in and gasp and shriek and jump with the twists and turns in the movie. I realised pretty early on that the movie was too scary for me, I’ve always been a fraidy cat and generally didn’t watch horror movies at sleepovers… but I couldn’t leave, couldn’t get home on my own and waiting out in the foyer on my own didn’t appeal either.
Once the movie was over and I was suitably freaked out we walked home in a group of 13 teenage girls, hyped on horror. I stuck to the back of the pack to ensure that no one fell behind. I remember one car kept on circling the block and slowing down near us. We got back to the marae and the door was a glass one with no curtain and I pretty much sat up all night watching it and wondering when the masked killer would pop up… and if he did, what would I do? Would I rush into the bathroom and lock myself in and maybe attract the attention of the killer? Or would I stay still and let him kill the girls closest to the door and hope I could sneak out while he’s busy. So yeah, didn’t sleep much….
To put it gently, it was a very immersive way to watch a film about teenage girls being killed. And I had nightmares about being chased by Ghost Face for months and months. My brain finally fought back though, I ended the nightmares by dreaming I was Dana Scully, hunting the killer known as Ghost Face and finally bringing him to justice. My subconscious sometimes wins. Although I wasn’t able to answer the phone if I was alone in the house for a very long time!
Watching it again I ensured it was during daylight, with my girl next to me and thinking about the film making and the scream instead of immersing myself. It helps that we don’t have a landline phone though!
How meta is this movie? Very. In the killer opening sequence the killer torments Drew Barrymore’s Casey by asking her horror movie trivia questions, killing her boyfriend when she gets the answer to the Friday the 13th question wrong. It’s an amazingly competent bit of film making, with a slow ratcheting up of tension into the inevitable yelling at the screen ‘don’t back out the door! Don’t open the door!’ triggering actions from Casey.
Then we also have the little shout out to Nightmare on Elm Street with the school caretaker in the red and green striped jersey and hat, whom the principal calls Fred. (played by Wes Craven himself!)
Then we have the masterful sequence with Randy watching Halloween and telling onscreen Jamie to turn around, while Ghost Face is behind him with knife raised. Repeated further with Sid getting into the surveillance van and her and the cameraman watching the video of Randy with Ghost Face behind him, and yelling ‘behind you!’ at Randy. Layers within layers, and so cleverly done.
Shout outs to multiple urban legends in this film as well, most notably dead body on roof of vehicle, which reminds me that the success of Scream initiated a spate of imitations some of which I really enjoyed. Scream was really the only film that really freaked me that bad up until The Ring of course… Urban Legend was probably my favourite ‘Scream inspired slasher movie of the late 90s’
I’m happy that the sight of the Ghost Face mask didn’t freak me out on the level I thought it might. Instead I was ready for it, and not too concerned about all the screaming. Its the jump scares that bug me mostly. I was surprised about how much of the movie I remembered, or how much I could predict having only seen it the once so many years ago.
Does it make me love the people? Yeah, it’s not long til you love Sidney, she fights back against the killer in her house, how inventive she is and how she punches Gail. I really love Tatum as well, she’s the spunky best friend who absolutely supports Sid and fights back against Ghost Face with sarcasm, clever fighting and beer bottles. It sucks the way she dies 😦
Bechdel test: Yes, many many times which is so super refreshing. There’s all the verbal sparring Sid and Gail do about who’s right, is Sid lying, is Gail an attention seeking journalist missile? And Sid and Tatum talking about when Tatum’s coming over and what movie to bring. These characters also talk about the male characters but it’s more in a ‘are they the killer?’ way than in a ‘does he love me?’ way.
There’s a fascinating moment when Stu and Billy reveal themselves to Sid when she says ‘fuck you’ and Billy says ‘we already played that game, you lost’. The text is that she broke the horror movie rules, because only virgins survive. But the bigger implication is a pretty deep one for American teen female sexuality… because the boy she was in love with was actually a psychopath who wanted to kill her. Because that’s the fear isn’t it? If a girl ‘gives up’ her virginity then she’s lost something which a lot of conservative America views as the girls only worth… so of course there have to be horrible consequences to her for daring to do something she wanted. Which…well, it’s a recurring theme in horror movies obviously but it’s nice to see it subverted in this film.
I also like that Stu and Billy are unable to effectively work together at the end because they’re too far gone.
Best line: “Remember that your principal loves you and wants you to be safe. I advise you to return home from school promptly.”
Phone voice of killer: Don’t you watch scary movies?
Sidney Prescott: What’s the point? They’re all the same. Some stupid killer stalking some big-breasted girl who can’t act who is always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door. It’s insulting.
State of Mind: I am pleased with how I have been able to watch this film with a subjective mind frame and admiring the movie for what it is. That said, it’s not a film I feel I’m gonna watch often or even… really…. again.
Best cover of Don’t Fear the Reaper ever? I think so…