Scream ★★★★★

Me, My Mates and The Final Girl - A Slasher Project #5

Phone Voice: Do you like Disgustipated's reviews?

Casey: Uh huh

Phone Voice: Whats your favourite Disgustipated review?

Casey: I dunno

Phone Voice: You have to have a favourite, what comes to mind?

Casey: Actually, you know what? I lied. I don't like his reviews at all. The guy is a moron. He can't write for shit and I heard he is real ugly, too.

Phone Voice: grrrr....


Randy: The opening paragraph for a DP horror movie review is inevitably a tedious nostalgia fuelled anecdote from his mythologised adolescence.

DP Review: I still remember the first time I saw Scream. A whole bunch of my friends had come over to watch it in my bedroom. Suddenly, a catfight broke out between two of the girls. I had no idea that they both had a major crush on me.

The first one was like, "You are such a slut, every time you come here you wear the shortest skirts and the skimpiest tops. You may as well be naked". Which was kinda true

The second girl was then like, "Well, you are such an ugly cow that you should put a paper bag on your head instead." Which was a bit harsh. I mean, the first girl had an amazing personality...

Randy: Next, he will pull out some topical news item or a tangentially related factual tidbit in an attempt to create an interesting parallel or to highlight some aspect of the film. Its a desperate gambit to get your attention.

DP Review: Anyways, on September 22nd, 2006, the beautiful young teenager Cassie Jo Stoddart was house-sitting for her uncle. However, she was not alone. Her boyfriend, Matt, and two friends, Brian and Michael, were hanging out with her. Around 10pm, Brian and Michael left, saying that they were going to catch a movie at the cinema.

But they never really left. Waiting until her boyfriend was picked up and taken home by his mum, leaving Cassie completely alone in the house, Brian and Michael gained entrance to the basement and switched off the lights at the fuse box. They then waited for Cassie to come down and check the fuses.

When she didn't cone down, instead staying in the lounge room because she was probably frightened, Brian and Michael went upstairs and stabbed her to death. She had sustained thirty brutal knife wounds. After being arrested, Michael told the police that he was inspired by the Scream franchise.

Randy: And from there he will jump onto his soap box. He will bang on about the social context of the film and offer some hack commentary

DP Review: I guess you're not a true horror movie franchise until you have inspired an horrendous murder or two.

Seriously though, what happened to Cassie is really fucked up and I start crying just thinking about how terrifying her final moments must have been. But when a fuckhead killer tries to pin the blame for his evil actions on a movie, that plays straight into the hands of those that believe that everything that is wrong with society can be attributed to horror movies, video games, heavy metal music and Dungeons & Dragons.

That is total bullshit. I have been consuming violence in pop culture since the day I was born and listening to metal since I was ten years old. Almost forty years later and I have still not developed a desire to carefully orchestrate and commit the brutal murder of a friend. In fact, I am pretty much a total pacifist and humanist, and an all round compassionate dude. I am the complete opposite of violence incarnate.

As an artist likes to paint, a psychopathic killer likes to kill. The painter might be inspired to create a particular painting by a specific piece of music. Likewise, a murderer might be inspired to commit a murder by a specific film. But I am 99% sure that the painter still would have painted a picture even if he had never heard that music. And I am 99% these kids would have murdered someone even if they had never seen Scream or a film just like it. They are pure evil. Full stop.

So, stop blaming the movies and instead join the discussion with the rest of us about how we can better deal with these sharks amongst us who prey on innocent victims with such emotionless cruelty.

Randy: Finally, he might actually discuss something film related. So, here we get some information about the context of the film in horror movie history based on the misguided notion that because he once read a Kim Newman book he is qualified to educate others.

DP Review: As for the film itself, the most obvious unique characteristic of the Scream is its often lauded status as the first, or at least most popularly recognised, post-modern slasher film. The main reason for this is the character of Randy. He is an annoying, ugly loser...

Randy: Hey...!

DP: Sorry, Randy. Just telling it how is. Anyways, as I was saying. Randy is an annoying, ugly loser, but he is the post-modern engine of this film. Being a video store clerk with a hard-on for slasher films, he knows all the films back to front and can rattle off a catalogie of all standard genre tropes

As Scream progresses he provides commentary on and analysis of the characters in the film and the situations they find themselves. He even makes predictions about what will happen next in the story. All if this information is given to us explicitly through the lens of an avid student of slasher films. It is this kind of "self-reflexivity" typical of post-modernism that has primarily resulted in this label being attached to the film.

In some ways it feels like a natural progression for Wes Craven. In Nightmare on Elm Street he taught us to fear the imagination that fuels our dreams. Then in New Nightmare the bogey men are the stories spun from the raw material of those dreams, irrespective of the medium through which they are conveyed. In Scream, it is specificall the horror film itself that is the true monster. As such, Scream took the horror film into a new frontier.

Perhaps even the final frontier. Some people say that parody is the death knell for a genre, that parody signifies that there is nothing new left to do. Therefore the only thing left to be done is to make fun of everything that went before it. Funnily enough, it wasn't long after Scream that the king of all slasher parodies, Scary Movie, came out and became rather popular. I dont take a lot of stock in the whole parody = genre death theory myself, but maybe there is an element of truth buried in there somewhere.

Randy: He will then find a way to extend this into some blowhard philosophical discussion in an attempt to assuage his insecurity at having never finished secondary education.

DP Review: Back to post-modernism, beyond the self-reflexive aspects of the film, it also embodies post-modernism in the way that is crammed with pastiche and intertextual references. One particularly funny instance of this is when Wes Craven makes a cameo appearance as a janitor wearing a jumper with the infamous horizontal red and green stripes synonymous with Freddy Kreuger.

But all of this does feel like mere window dressing. It is a way for Wes Craven to give his film the veneer of being something new but it lacks the depth and rigour of a true working through of post-modernist theory. The engagement in an interrogation of the philosophical position of the negation of absolute truth and its consequences feels very light on.

"God is dead". We have all heard that before. When some people hear the phrase they might automatically think of Tent Reznor screaming it out in his song Closer (along with the memorable line, "I want to fuck you like an animal"). But originally it was intoned by Nietzsche way back in the 19th century. When you step back and really reflect on he consequences of that statement, blah blah blah. Fuck it, I am even boring myself.

Randy: By this point, if someone has obtained the mistaken impression that DP is intelligent and eloquent they will quickly be corrected when he says something horribly vulgar.

DP Review: Anyways, what about that Neve Campbell chick. Boy, is she hot. I would wait for ever for her to get over her "Selfish Post Traumatic Stress" so that I could fuck her seven ways to Sunday. There is something about her dark hair, wry grin and freckled nose that just makes me want to bang, bang, bang.

Randy: Then, subconsciously he will try to back peddle a little bit by saying something vaguely pro-feminist. Of course, none of his female readers buy a bit of his bullshit

DP Review: Of course, what attracts me to her most is her strong feminist character. Unlike the thinly characterised dumb bimbos, written by sleazy men who just want an excuse to display tits and arse, Neve Cambell's character Sidney Prescott throws off the roles imposed by the patriarchy. Instead is refuses to be an objectified piece of meat for male gratification. She is smart, resourceful and independent. She totally kicks arse.

In some ways she holds a torch to Margot Kidder in Black Christmas or Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween. In a leaning towards a more feminist approach, these characters were written with a little more depth and respect. Something that seems to have been lost somewhere between those seminal slashers and Scream.

Randy: His penultimate remarks will somehow try to bring mental health issues into the picture. Not a review goes by where he doesn't try to highlight his own mental health related issues or raise awareness of stigma.

DP Review: "My Selfish Post Traumatic Stress". Yeh, you read that right when I mentioned it above. At one point during the film, Sidney said this when she felt the need to apologise to her boyfriend for not being ready to have sex. You know what, her mother had been raped and murdered just the year before.

In my books, if someone has post traumatic stress disorder after their mother was raped and murdered and they are put in a position where they feel the need to apologise for it, well for me that was the most horrifying scene in the film. It is so easy to imagine a situation in our society just like this one where a person experiencing a mental health issue is so little understood by the people around them, even those that are meant to be there most intimate family, friends and lovers.

I have bipolar. Therefore, I have a better awareness and understanding of mental health issues than the average person. I have experienced stigma. It sucks. I hope that our culture continues to learn more about mental illness and accept those that suffer from it. I hope that people can be more patient with those experiencing various degrees of dysfunction and are better equipped to support them. Anyway, I will get off my mental health soap box now.

Randy: After all this usless fluff, he rushes in a couple of banal statements about the formal qualities of the film. The brevity of these appraisals actually betrays a lack of talent in identifying and describing such things.

DP Review: I have talked a lot about all sorts of stuff, but very little about the formal qualities of the film. The small town with its gigantic upper middle class households secluded amongst a rural landscape feels somewhat incongruous but not atypical of horror films. Besides, perhaps such places exist.

Some of the actors are completely ridiculous and laughably bad but once again nothing unusual. On the other jand, Neve Campbell's performance is a knock out. Also Courteney Cox's alpha female reporter, Gale Weathers and David Arquette's dopey Deputy Dewey also standout. They provide much comic relief and their burgeoning romantic relationship is actually rather sweet.

It manages to be rather effective in the suspense and thrills department. And Wes Craven sure knows how to create an iconic horror image. The Ghostface Killer mask is creepy as fuck and is now firmly ingrained in the pop culture universe. Readily recognisable, it is a strong signifier for an entire decade of horror films. Nothing screams 90s horror like the Ghostface Killer mask.

Randy: Finally, in conclusion he will tell you he loves the film (he loves just about every film because he lacks the intelligence to have any sense of discernment). He will then recommend you see it but will try and work in a reference to the film in attempt to be clever and funny but is often just stupid.

DP Review: After everything is said and done, Scream is an absolutely awesome film. I thoroughly recommend watching it with a bunch of friends. Although if you do, maybe don't invite Randy. He will give you constant lectures throughout the film about its tropes, mechanics, production history, etc. While sometimes informative, it get real tedious real fast.

Randy: Hey!

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