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Wes Craven: The Scream years part 2 – Scream (1996)

It’s hard to no where to begin with what is arguably the last significant changer for slasher films, such is the iconic status that Wes Craven’s Scream brought to the sub-genre. 
What is apparent is that the infamous director who had been the mastermind behind two previous horror franchises in The Hills Have Eyes and A Nightmare on Elm Street initially turned down the option to direct, having his eyes set on crafting a remake of The Haunting based on the Shirley Jackson novel.
History would tell a different story  with that movie falling into the hands of Jan De Bont, starring Liam Neeson and Lily Taylor.
Craven would actually turn Scream down for a second time before being enticed into the directors’ chair. That light bulb moment to pull him in came through the notion of a dark and violent beginning that hadn’t been done before.
It’s still to this day one of the most harrowing and surprising starts to a film, doubled up by that cameo from Drew Barrymore.

That reawakening of a stale genre combined  with my own deep immersion into horror as it fell into my late teens. The meta dialogue provided by Dawson Creek’s Kevin Williamson hooking the generation of the time with a delicate balance of D&Ms (deep and meaningfuls) with the lead characters and genuine scares infused with a whodunnit mystery. It was this latter element that Craven liked to play with on screen and in truth, despite being labelled as a horror director, his dalliance with the thriller component was where he played best.

It was also imperative to work with bright and upcoming talent to serve as the teen victims, who are strong enough to ground the movie in the own right, leading the charge was Neve Campbell (as this generations’ scream queen through the role of Sidney Prescott), who would go on to great success following the movie. Equally though her supporting cast of Skeet Ulrich, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, and Jamie Kennedy more than bring their A-game.

That’s not to mention the other leads in David Arquette as deputy Dewey and bringing some star appeal with the success of Friends was Courtney Cox as the cold-hearted journalist, Gail Weathers. Part of the strength is that no one is painted as they first appear, adding to the intrigue and mystery on show.

It helps that the masked villain uses a cool guise in Ghostface, repeated on numerous occasions and parodied in the comical Scary Movie franchise, the name for which is borrowed from Scream’s working title.

The success though would speak volumes through the box office with $85 million in takings, marking Dimension Films with their first real win, opening the door for a sequel already being discussed 3 months after the films release.

Watching it back now, 25 years after it came out on the big screen, still triggers the nostalgia vibes, a significant indicator that it has resonance with its audience and with the recent Scream sequel hitting screens at the time of writing, will no doubt resurrect a whole new audience into the fold.

  • Saul Muerte

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