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"Don't you watch scary movies? "

Oct 18th, 2009

Scream 4 arrived this Monday on DVD and Blu Ray. Scream is a film I change my mind about frequently. Heres what I thought about the original two years ago

This one's a strange one for me – a double edged sword is more accurate. I actually quite like this film but its legacy has left me slightly miffed, this movie almost single handily killed the horror genre as we knew it.

I'm not the biggest Wes Craven fan. Only a few of his flicks truly stood out (Nightmare on Elm Street, People Under the Stairs, New Nightmare) and Scream falls somewhere in the middle. This is a slasher picture truly in its most basic form.

This is the simple tale of masked dude stalking and killing a group of "teenagers". The main focus is on a who done it mystery and everything gets very Scooby Doo. It's no surprise then that this stars Matthew Lillard who goes on to play Shaggy in the live action Doo films.

I have always been a fan of the slasher genre in fact the first horror film I remember watching was the original Halloween. Slashers were criticized for all being the same and sure they were but did any one really mind with the action pics of the 80's and 90's. No one watches a Segal feature expecting originality. Horror has always gotten the short end of the stick, which I never understood as the amount of fans around is amazing.

Over time the slasher sort of died out but it was a natural death. Craven dug it back up and really did nothing new with it. The main draw here was the cast, every character was already an established star. Drew Barrymore was just beginning a revival in her career after many years missing (drugs'll do that to ya). Neve Campbell just finished Party of Five and Courtney Cox was riding the biggest TV show of the 90's, Friends (I can't stand that crap now). Celebrities just didn't appear in horror movies; sure many started their acting chops on horror but once they began to gain notice they never looked back. Horror itself had its own celebrity heroes (Robert Englund, Tony Todd, Kane Hodder) but they were hardly the mainstream pull that Scream had.

Well guess what? I fell for it to, opening day I was there and for years to come I was spouting this as the best slasher ever. I must have been on the same shit as Drew.

The opening sequence is great and on repeat viewings this still remains classic horror. The location is memorable. The dialogue is fantastic, who wasn't guessing the quiz questions? The voice on the phone is unforgettable and the costume rocked, simple and effective. I'll assume everyone has seen this film whether they're a horror fan or not. We all know Drew doesn't survive the ordeal. I remember this being praised, the biggest star was killed in the opening 10 minutes, no ones ever done this before. Have they bollocks, this has happened time and time again in film, how quickly people forget. Psycho killed its main star 30mins in, Janet Leigh's death was a true shock.

The tongue-in-cheek style was also a moment of "Greatness" in that Scream managed to poke fun at a genre that took itself way too seriously. I have to disagree, horror has always made fun of itself, playing with its own conventions. Just look at Friday the 13th Part VII – this film delved into self-parody by opening the film with Jason mimicking the opening credits of every Bond film. Scream still managed to establish an interesting set of rules you must abide by in order to survive a horror film, of which all the surviving characters break.

Scream managed to bring a bigger budget to horror films, the likes of which had not been seen before, although now it's hard to pinpoint exactly were this money went (celebrity cast fees?), the kills are rather bland and scrimp on the gore (the garage head crush is pants). A few too many characters make it to the end of the film but that's just another pitfall of the celebrity cast.

I do have one disappointment, where was the tit shot? We get a list of rules that horror movies follow and the "obligitory tit shot" was one of them, but the makers seemed to cop out. We get a sex scene with Neve and the tit shot is there, only blocked. Why mention this at all, it wasn't needed sure, but why tease it? If the celebrity cast don't want to get nude just hire some nobody to fulfill the role. Bizarre.

On to Scream's legacy, this was given the credit for the revival of the slasher genre but everything that came after this was absolute shit. All flicks after this employed the same set up, the cast had to be well known and overly self-aware of the fact they were in a film. The most irritating line in the history of horror, which still continues to this day is having any black character say "If this was a horror film the black guy would get it first". When has this ever been the case in horror? It's not the colour of the character's skin that was an issue, it was the sex. Most Horror flicks favour the female character so if you're a guy chances are you'll be dead before the final reel.

From Scream onwards, every horror film, not just the slasher genre, have to have a celebrity in it (check any film released this year). The low budgets were gone but horror became an empty shell. This is the reason the horror film disappeared in the late 90's to early 00's – no one wanted to watch mainstream rubbish. Slowly we are returning to the way things used to be but the taint of Scream still remains.

I'll give this a score based on the flick and not my issues with it today. The film still remains fun, the references to other horror films are great but I don't like its brand of "comedy", I never laughed once. Overall an average Slasher with a celebrity cast. 7/10

Best Kill
Barrymore wins out the whole trilogy
The mask is based on the painting "Scream" by Edvard Munch
Originally titled "Scary Movie"
Courteney Cox and David Arquette met and fell in love on the set of this movie

Director: Wes Craven
Screenplay: Kevin Williamson
Released: 1996
Rating: 18
Starring: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Skeet Ulrich, Drew Barrymore

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