How could anyone plan a horror marathon and not include Wes Craven’s 1996 instant hit Scream? Intended to satirize the slasher sub-genre, Scream is a self-aware flick that at the time broke one of the longest-standing rules in film history: the characters actually go to the movies and reference modern-day movie stars as well as modern movies under the same genre. The characters know they are living a come-to-life horror film plot and therefore use cliches and tropes found in horror to attempt to navigate the situation they have found themselves in. Scream is, essentially, a movie about itself if broken down to its core.
My personal favorite thing about Scream is that, despite its 25th birthday approaching December of this year, it doesn’t feel old like other pre-2000s horror movies have a tendency to. The story is still relevant and tangible, as audiences don’t have to grasp onto situations that feel completely unfamiliar, like forest isolation or serial killers who are impossible to vanquish. Scream retains its grasp on reality and, therefore, its grip on horror audiences for going on 25 years.
How Scream Changed the Horror Genre
Rather than building a narrative around the murderous psychopaths of the movie, Scream aims to build its story around the life of teenager Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and the disfunction her life is in following her mother’s murder only a year prior. The killers are simply not the focus of Scream. The focus of Scream is to deconstruct the horror genre and make audiences as aware as the characters in the film. Through this, Craven uses the build of a bond between Sidney and viewers; by the end of the movie, we actually know a lot more about Sidney than we do about other horror protagonists.
Ghostface is not the cold, emotionless murderer that audiences were used to seeing, thanks to films like John Carpenter’s masterpiece Halloween. Ghostface not only speaks but antagonizes his victims through disturbing phone calls after disturbing phone calls. This killer has a twisted sense of humor that we see in the opening scene of the movie (referring to answering a question where being wrong means dying as a game), and due to this, this killer elevates itself to a scarier position than the likes of Michael Myers.
Video store clerk Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy) also deserves his own area of praise for how much this character molded the genre going forward. Randy builds a survival guide to getting through a horror movie, which he repeatedly references throughout the film. Randy breaks down the tropes and cliches that are found in horror movies of the past and encourages his friends to heed his warnings to make it through their own twisted plot.
Beyond shaping the genre, Scream also shaped the future of horror characters. Sidney Prescott does not fall into the historically misogynistic category of horror “final girls” that rely on others to solve the mystery and guide them to survival. She is self-aware, self-motivated, courageous, and resourceful enough to take care of herself and face Ghostface head-on. Sidney was immediately upon release, and continues to be, one of the most capable and resilient “final girls” in all of the horror genre.
Why You Should Watch Scream This Halloween
Scream is violent and scary enough to be included as a Halloween movie, but it is quick-witted and swift enough to not devolve into complete morbidity and over-the-top gruesome shots. Bad guys Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) and Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard) are able to be realistically scary with their kills, which adds to the grip on reality that this film has. Scream is true horror, showing what humanity is capable of at its very worst without needing supernatural elements to make the villains scary. The human psyche is scary enough on its own. After all, “we all go a little mad sometimes.”
From a near-perfect script by Kevin Williamson to outstanding acting from a well-chosen cast, there is simply no part of this movie that will disappoint during the spooky season. Plus, who could resist watching Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) and Deputy Dewey (David Arquette) fall for one another in the most awkwardly adorable fashion possible?
If Scream isn’t enough for your marathon, the first film luckily launched an entire franchise. You can find the Scream film franchise available to rent or purchase on various platforms. Additionally, the three seasons of the television series are available on Netflix. Scream 2 is all of the goodness of Scream with the added bonus of Timothy Olyphant, so there is really no going wrong adding it into your horror marathon. Scream, the upcoming fifth movie installment, completed filming in 2020 with the current release date scheduled for January 14, 2022.