To mark the twentieth anniversary of Wes Craven’s game-changing slasher, Scream, Wicked Horror presents a week of specially-themed content celebrating the movie’s enduring appeal. In this installment, Fox Emm discusses how the seminal horror flick introduced – or rather, re-introduced – audiences to three notable genres in one fell swoop.
The first “horror”-esque movie I ever saw was M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs – although I can vaguely recall being startled by the jump scares, the cheesy Mel Gibson lines (cackling at the bit where former priest Graham Hess (played by Gibson) declares “I am losing my mind” entertained me for days) took me out of it somewhat. Of course, Signs insisted it was a sci-fi thriller, so I didn’t think I had seen a proper horror movie until I saw Scream later that same year.
Scream had it all as far as nineties horror was concerned. There were plenty of attractive high school kids, the cautionary tale trope, which warned about the dangers of premarital sex, drinking, along with anything and everything else that high school kids in movies would do to have a good time. Scream had mass appeal. Looking at the box office stats alone we know that. It drew in audiences by blending a myriad of genres and by utilizing both well-known and unknown actors. Obviously, the film drew heavily from horror and appealed to the diehard fans who hadn’t been gifted a good slasher release in years, but the mystery element was always half of what kept audiences’ hearts racing. The steady stream of violence, the aforementioned whodunnit mystery elements and the humor also allowed us to enjoy the film in ways we hadn’t expected to. Without Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven’s work, I personally would not have branched out to watch and enjoy the below three genres.
Now you may have noted that Signs was released in 2002. That means I saw Scream a whopping six years later than many of those reading this. I wasn’t allowed to watch anything my mother christened a “scary movie”. That meant I didn’t get to watch 90s horror flicks until they were well on their way to being classics.
I share this little tidbit not because I want to take a stroll down memory lane, but because by reminding myself that I saw Scream SIX YEARS after its debut I’m also reminded of the fact it still had the power to draw me down the horror rabbit hole, never to return, when it had already been out for the best part of a decade. But it also re-introduced us to a couple of other genres, too, in the process:
It almost goes without saying that Scream introduced, or reintroduced, a significant amount of people to horror. For me, Scream was a gateway drug into the realm of horror and once I opened Pandora’s box there was no going back. Neve Campbell was beautiful but wasn’t overly-sexualized the way heroines had been in other horror releases, which had been a turn-off for me and many other young women over the years. Beyond that, Sydney Prescott seemed to be a whole person with flaws and interests outside of what was happening to her. She felt more like a real person to me than most of the TV and movie heroines I had interacted with up until that point. She made me give horror a second glance. (Then a third, and a fourth, and here we are today). This was true for millions of women, who were a dominant, yet still surprising, demographic in Scream‘s box office audience.
Mystery-ThrillerReading mysteries was something I did voraciously growing up. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a huge influence, and the generations before mine had Nancy Drew and the Hardy boys to break them into sleuthing. Straight mystery novels and films don’t have the same edge that thrillers do, but they share similar attributes. Scream made audiences remember they liked mysteries with a bit more kick. Mysteries on their own don’t get your heart racing, your palms to sweat, and the hairs to stand up on the back of your neck – those are thrillers. Scream got us to realize that much more than parsing out who the killer was, we also loved the thrill of the hunt.
I have always had a rather twisted, morbid sense of humor (along with most other fans). I didn’t find a kindred spirit, outlet, or home for my amusement until I watched Scream. Suddenly it was appropriate to laugh at things that most people in my social circle didn’t seem to find particularly funny. Thanks to this movie, audiences all over the world found an entire avenue of film and fiction they might never have realized existed, or would have forgotten about, without Scream’s sometimes ridiculous, but always amusing, antics.