Monday, April 11, 2011

Scream, a People's History

  Well it was bound to happen eventually. Once again, Wes Craven needs money and his last movie probably ate donkey balls ( I didn't see it. I just remember hearing it sucked out loud). So of course, borrow some money from the Weinsteins, call Kevin Williamson (lord knows he's got shit else to do), and make another pointless, convoluted Scream movie. You can imagine my joy. I've seen the trailers, I've read about the premise for this one (like it's at all different from the other three), and I've noticed that everyone who lived through the last sequel is back for this one. I guess they ALL need money.

  Anyone who grew up in the 90's remembers when Scream 1 came out. It was for a lot of us the first movie that every kid we knew had to see. Whether mom and dad let us or not. It was 1996. I was 14. Now of course I saw the first one in the theater (snuck in actually) just like millions of other people did. So in a way I partly blame myself for what happened. Because of me, and people like me who went in droves to see this shit, horror movies were pretty much ruined for at least 10 years. After the massive blockbuster success of the first movie, every asshole movie producer on the planet had to make their own Scream.

  So lemme get to the point. I was watching TV the other day when I saw the trailer and I realized something. Horror movies in the 90's can literally be broken down into the "pre-Scream" and "post-Scream" eras. Seriously. There is a huge difference between how horror movies were made before Scream. The early 90's to most people are considered kind of a down period for horror. Everybody was kind of bored with the whole thing. Movies were either rehashing 80's cash cows (like Jason Goes to Hell or Child's Play sequels) or trying to invent new monsters to make a shit ton of money. For example, Candyman and Leprechaun. There was a Return of the Living Dead sequel (reviewed here on these fine pages), a Hellraiser sequel or two. Even Wes Craven did a few movies. Remember People Under the Stairs? How about Shocker? This was also the time when you saw a lot of Stephen King movies being made. Pumpkinhead 2...I could go on. The point is that the movies of the 90's had a definite mission and that was to get away from the "Freddy/Jason" plots from the 80's. Instead you had movies that were longer and tried to be more like thrillers or dramas. They tried to be a little more adult oriented. Problem was, the kids were the ones that went to the theater.

     Then Scream came out. A completely self-aware slasher movie that paid homage to (or ripped off depending on your opinion) the golden age of the slasher movie. Not only that, but it starred marginally famous TV actors that teenage kids recognized. Gone was the era of seeing a completely unknown actor or actress try to make a buck before their big break. These people were already semi-successful. The most important part of Scream however probably was the script. It was praised back in '96 as "smart" or "hip". Whatever the fuck that means. Basically it meant that supposedly teenage kids (they all looked 30) cursed a lot and made fun of each other using an SAT vocabulary mixed with the clever profanity. You also had the protagonists completely aware of horror movie history and realizing that their lives in the movie imitate art. The perpetrator of this script was one Kevin Williamson, who in my estimation was trying really hard to be the '90's fucked up version of John Hughes. He would go on to be responsible for the I Know What You Did Last Summer series and Dawson's Creek. Fuck... that... guy. Scream became bigger than just a movie. Now every single asshole producer wanted their own version of Scream. Like the aforementioned I Know What You Did... movies, you then saw shit like Valentine and Urban Legend. Also, I think I should mention the Final Destination series as well. All of these movies were slashers (sort of) and all followed the new Scream formula. The early 90's style was dead. Not to mention that now Wes Craven had more money, and could start calling himself "The Master of Suspense". Fuck you you sellout.

    There is no better example of this then Halloween 6/ Halloween H2O. Halloween 6, the before Scream movie, tried really hard to make the franchise about more than a crazy guy killing people. You had a shit plot, with the weird cultists and conspiracy subplot carried over from 5 that didn't make sense, and Paul Rudd in like his first movie taking his role way too seriously. Typical early 90's shit. Then you had H2O, the post-Scream movie. You had up and coming young actors, a script full of Kevin Williamson jokes, and Michael Myers doing what he's supposed to do. Also you had the return of Jamie Lee Curtis, who due to the 900 references to her in the Scream franchise suddenly was given a career boost. Now which one do you think made more money?

  We haven't recovered yet from this. Every horror movie that comes out, remake or not, tries to follow the Scream formula. It's like this logarithm for horror movie success that hasn't been proven wrong yet, only it has and repeatedly. Hostel, ANY Rob Zombie movie, ALL remakes, any PG-13 nightmare, Paranormal Activity. Everyone of them guilty of following the Scream formula. I'm not saying that these movies are all bad (most are though) or wrong for doing it, I'm just stating a truth. In fact, I can't think of one horror movie since 1996 that hasn't. Well, maybe not the movies from France or Japan (probably why they're awesome. I'm talking to you Martyrs and Audition). But everything American definitely bites off Scream. If you wondered where originality went in horror movies, just watch Scream.

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