Scream ★★★★★

Genre is a powerful tool.

It gives creators a sandbox, a finite set of expectations holding an infinite number possibilities with which to employ, subvert, or reject all that their sandbox offers.

Being cognizant of genre and intentionally toying with expectations can be a double edged sword though, and it takes deft hands to wield the blade properly.

There may be no hands defter than Wes Craven's.

Horror is his mode and Scream is his masterpiece, a movie that warps 100 years of a medium and a whole career of iteration into one airtight package. The script is beyond solid, razor sharp wit propelling a plot that never stops building on itself while maintaining a brilliant, breezy irreverence. It has gravity, heart, and kindness in spades, and knows exactly when to scale back the indulgence of genre play and let the characters simply breathe.

Scream also understands the power of its medium, and the visual medium on the whole. There might be a tangible villian here, but they are molded and driven by the images they consume. Countless horror movies are name-dropped, parodied and referenced here, the fodder that shapes the entire world. These images are reinforced within the fiction, news media and news papers and costuming and every vector of communication possibly amplifying the toxicity that stems from a horrible few until the entire world seems steeped in it. The horror isn't that of violence or abuse, as thrilling and intense and just plain entertaining as Craven frames it here; its the horror of a world that feeds on evil and sensationalizes it, making victims into celebrities and violence into sport. The story might be playing its cards with a wink and a grin, but it never pulls its punches in making its point, and never feels inauthentic despite how dangerous such meta-commentary tends to be.

Scream has grown beyond its roots as a parody, standing the test of time and iteration as a cornerstone of the genre. One needs only look at the number of times the (brilliant) opening has been parodied or at how ubiquitous the image of Ghost Face has become to understand how extensive Scream's reach has grown. It is as sympathetic as it is silly, as fun as it is intelligent, and timeless as all hell.

Scream is Horror. It is everything good about horror, all the expectations we thrust upon it, all the thrills we seek from it, and all the truths we hope to find beneath the surface, refined to the point of absolute perfection.

It's also an absolute fucking blast the whole way through.

Horror arguably peaked with Scream, and almost certainly did with Wes Craven.

I get the feeling that this is one peak that we'll always be seeking to study, celebrate, and conquer.

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