Scream (1996)

Director: Wes Craven

So the last horror film I reviewed was a film with which Wes Craven reinvigorated a stagnating genre, and, well, here he did it again… SBS2 are running a season of horror films for October, kicking off with this, so I thought I might as well take the opportunity to revisit it. I last saw it when it was newly released in cinemas, early ’97 in Australia, although for the life of me I have no idea any more why. After all, early ’97, I wasn’t really a horror fan as such. Look at the list of films it references according to IMDB; not only had I only seen a handful of the films on that list—in fact there’s quite a number I’ve only fairly recently got acquainted with, or STILL haven’t seen—I don’t think I’d seen an actual slasher film at that point. In other words, my effective introduction to the genre was actually via a parody of it; this is where I learned “the rules” of the game, and it’s probably coloured my limited appreciation of the genre ever since. On the other hand, Wes Craven’s a capable director with a track record in the genre, so the film was probably going to do OK in his hands, and it did; Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson turned out a pretty neat horror film that you didn’t really need to be into horror as such to enjoy, because I enjoyed it just fine (and, nearly 18 years after the fact, I’m not sure that having seen more of the films it references actually added much to my enjoyment of it again tonight). Scream was/is much vaunted for its self-awareness, being at some pains to point out the tropes it’s satirising, which could’ve been tiresome in lesser hands but I think Craven keeps on the right side of things for the most part, and it contributes to the black humour running throughout the film, which revels in its own excesses (particularly the musical ones). Unfortunately, in some ways it behaved a little too much like a “proper” slasher film; various production difficulties, a censorship battle with the MPAA who wanted to rate the film NC-17 and only gave it an R after Bob Weinstein told them it was a comedy as much as if not more than a horror film, and, least happily of all, a run of sequels that looks like continuing after number four was unexpectedly a hit…

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