Home » Scream is a Post-Modern Meta Slasher [Retrospective]

Scream is a Post-Modern Meta Slasher [Retrospective]

Randy in Scream

Scream sees a killer taunting victims with ominous phone calls. Among the harassed are Sydney Prescott and her friends. The madman sports a menacing mask and fancies testing his victims’ knowledge of horror films. As Sydney’s friends are taken out, one by one, she knows that she must stop the killer before she becomes his next victim.

Scream is the quintessential ‘90s horror film. It is arguably the best horror picture of the decade in which it was released. Wes Craven has made noteworthy contributions to the horror genre that span the course of four decades and Scream is one of his biggest accomplishments. He revitalized the slasher film genre when it was at its lowest point. Horror fans have Craven to thank for breathing new life into the genre when it was near dead.

Scream wouldn’t be what it is without a brilliant script from Kevin Williamson (The Faculty). The screenplay is responsible for creating a cast of extremely likable characters that the audience instantly becomes invested in. Not since April Fool’s Day has there been a slasher film with such a likable cast. The script also offers ample twists and turns with a giallo-esque whodunit storyline. Scream is one of the first horror films to adopt the Meta approach to storytelling. Though Student Bodies did it years prior, Scream undoubtedly did it better. The film takes a self-referential look at horror cinema. It pokes fun at the clichés the genre is known for while simultaneously playing into almost every single one of them. But the film never talks down to its audience or acts as if they are not in on the joke.

Also see: Things Unseen: Why it’s so Hard to adapt H.P Lovecraft to film  

Wes Craven’s Scream boasts an amazing cast of talented young performers that deliver inspired performances under Craven’s keen direction. Casting Drew Barrymore in a small role not only proved that anything could happen in this unpredictable slasher, it also helped to revitalize Barrymore’s career. Neve Campbell is brilliantly cast in the lead role and serves as somewhat of a Laurie Strode for the next generation of horror fans. The supporting roles are also expertly assigned. Jamie Kennedy is terrific as Randy, the horror film obsessed video store clerk. And Rose McGowan is outstanding as Sydney’s sarcastic best friend.

The gore effects used in Scream show the perfect amount of restraint. They are brutal but never excessive. There is a copious amount of stage blood spilled throughout the picture but the viewer is not subjected to anything too graphic. The body count is perfect. Unlike a lot of slasher films, Scream leaves more than just a survivor girl standing. That’s not something you see very often but since the film actually has memorable and well-developed characters, it’s nice to see some of them still standing at the end of the film.

There is a surprising lack of nudity in Scream. Most R-rated slasher films cram as many nude scenes as possible in to their running time but Wes Craven actually shows a great deal of restraint and steers clear of that in Scream. His film is strong enough on its own that it doesn’t have to rely on bare boobs to sell tickets.

If you’re reading this retrospective, it’s likely that you’ve already seen Scream. But if you don’t already own the Blu-Ray box set, consider picking it up. The set has films one through three and two very informative feature length documentary films about the series, including Ryan Turek’s Still Screaming: The Ultimate Scary Movie Retrospective. The set is crammed with special features and as of this posting, it is available on Amazon for under $10, which is an awesome deal.


Director(s): Wes Craven
Writer(s): Kevin Williamson
Stars: Neve Campbell, Drew Barrymore, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Skeet Ulrich, Matthew Lillard
Year: 1996
Studio/ Production Co: Dimension
Budget: $15 Million
Language: English
Length: 111 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Slasher

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Written by Tyler Doupé
Tyler Doupe' is the managing editor at Wicked Horror. He has previously penned for Fangoria Mag, Rue Morgue Mag, FEARnet, Fandango, ConTV, Ranker, Shock Till You Drop, ChillerTV, ComingSoon, and more. He lives with his husband, his dog, and cat hat(s).
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