Scream ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

True story: I once watched Scream at Wes Craven’s house on the 4th of July and then a fucking tarantula showed up outside while we were in the pool and scared us all nearly to death. It is very fitting that the only time I’ve ever encountered a tarantula in the wild (in Los Angeles!! who knew??) is at the home of one of modern horror’s godfathers.

A few stray thoughts on a rewatch:

- People are talking about how Scream 6 gets into our cultural obsession with true crime, as if this is a new direction for the series — but the original Scream did that much more thoroughly already. One of the most brilliant, underrated moves of the original is how it put a slasher movie plot inside a true crime story, one that felt very familiar from 90s tabloid journalism. It automatically makes the slasher plot feel more plausible and rooted in a recognizable reality. Our obsession with true crime in the 90s often revolved around a woman involved with a man she shouldn’t have been, a real-life reflection of the sex = death horror trope Scream calls out. (All kinds of murders take place, but the ones that become huge stories tended to involve "innocent" women or young girls, reminiscent of how horror centers virginal women.) As a bonus, this gave us a good reason why Sidney is the final girl — she’s already confronted horror before she ever meets Ghostface, and she's smart about her safety even before she is first attacked.

- Amongst other things largely missing from later films in the series that make this one feel a tad more real is the undercurrent of misogyny that drives the killers. They attack current and ex-girlfriends, and their first kill is the woman who broke up the Loomis’ marriage (never mind that Billy’s dad would be equally responsible — the woman always gets the blame). This, again, feels much more believable than the motives for later killers in the series.

- Later Scream movies haven’t given us a very specific sense of what kind of place Woodsboro is. The scene set at Sidney’s house, with killer views of a lush, wide open, very isolated landscape, does so much to establish Woodsboro as feeling like a rich mid-California wine country town. I wish the later films had done more to make Woodsboro feel like a real, specific place. But the sequel settings are increasingly detached from reality.

- Craven & co. had no way of knowing that Ghostface would become a pop icon. In fact, famously the mask was found by happenstance, a Halloween mask originally called the Peanut-Eyed Ghost, and in the first film, christened Father Death rather than Ghostface. So it’s kind of brilliant that even in this original film, Woodsboro teens become obsessed with the Ghostface mask and start dressing up and scaring people long before Stab makes it widely known. That sense that people (mostly teens) are obsessed with the Ghostface mask, and want to emulate and become Ghostface themselves, is hugely important to the series, because we need to buy that 14 people (and counting!) would take on the role to terrorize Sidney and friends over the years. If that idea weren’t planted in the original, I’m not sure if the sequels would make as much sense.

- Another idea pops up here that becomes more important later in the series — teens being desensitized to violence. There’s a lot of this in Tatum’s jaded reactions, and elsewhere, but the main moment is when all the teens rush to go look at Himbry’s body and only Randy is actually horrified by the news that he’s been brutally murdered. The series is always at its best when it remembers to be horrified by death, and at its worst when it is too glib about it. The moment with Randy is perfect because, as much as he is a horror obsessive, he still reacts to horror with horror, which is why we're rooting for him and why he becomes an essential part of the series. Sidney has similar moments, here and in Scream 2. It should be simple, but later sequels haven't been great at establishing that the characters care about anything but themselves, thus we don't care about them as much as we care about the "core 4" from the original.

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