Scream ★★★★½

Schocktober 2021 #3

Watched on Blu-Ray

The year is 1996, and the slasher genre has not developed in the slightest for years, eking out a niche existence in the far corners of department stores and video shops. The golden 70s and 80s, in which the inclined viewer was virtually showered with genre gems such as "My Bloody Valentine", "Texas Chainsaw Massacre", "Chucky", "Halloween", "Friday the 13th" and of course "A Nightmare on Elm Street", were followed almost seamlessly by a decade of cheap direct-to-video productions and cinema flops. These sequels to the aforementioned productions, most of them cheaply cranked out and of inferior quality, continuously followed one and the same pattern and thus manoeuvred the horror film in general, and the slasher film in particular, step by step into irrelevance.

Wes Craven, director of such cult films as "The Last House on the Left" and "The Hills Have Eyes", took advantage of this initial situation to launch a film that would be both homage and satire, both quotation and further development of an area of the film landscape that had been declared dead. Under the working title "Scary Movie", which ironically had to serve as the title of a satire of this very slasher a few years later, Craven created "Scream", a film that even after 25 years has lost little of its initial fascination and whose main characters around the killer Ghostface have long since entered popular culture. In retrospect, one can only marvel at the cast of the Wes Craven film, since besides Neve Campbell, the "Scream" cast also includes David Arquette, Courtney Cox, Skeet Ulrich, Rose McGowan, Mathew Lillard, Liev Schreiber and Drew Barrymore.

Without giving "Scream" more credit than it deserves, every informed horror fan must admit that this film revolutionised the genre and left a lasting mark on it - not to mention the fact that it was able to generate 174 million box office dollars with a 15 million dollar budget. Be it the "I Know What You Did Last Summer" or the "Urban Legends" series. Be it "Wrong Turn", "Happy Death Day" or "Freaky". The basic constellation, the way of flirting with and breaking genre conventions, the choice of actors, the driving soundtrack and the obvious humorous approach to the subject. All this has its origins in "Scream". Of course, the film also has its weaknesses. The dramaturgy is not consistently successful, some twists are all too contrived on closer inspection and some of the actors' lack of acting practice is noticeable after just a few seconds.

But the basic idea of a killer in Father Death disguise with a Ghostface mask (based on Edvard Munch's painting The Scream) committing slasher-type murders modelled on real genre greats like Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees and basically playing into the pockets (with a wink) of all those who have always blamed horror films for the brutalisation of our society is simply ingenious. Especially since Wes Craven not only quotes the well-known role models, but also caricatures and develops them further in the same breath and with this simple mixture has unleashed a renaissance of teenage massacres. A caretaker with a striped jumper and the sounding name Fred is cheerfully introduced, a director is dubbed Wes Carpenter, horror film rules (or clichés) are developed and applied and the obligatory chase scene between Michael Myers and Jamie Lee Curtis flickers across the screen at a party.

Wes Craven's "Scream" is certainly one of the most groundbreaking horror films of the 90s and, with its story, suspense build-up, soundtrack, cast and approach, gave the schema F genre of slashers an impetus in a new direction and successfully positioned it in the mainstream (at least in the short term).

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