Scream ★★★★★

Wes Craven's New Nightmare set the stage for self-reflective horror. A horror film, specifically a slasher, that was aware of the genre, of audience expectation and of the audience themselves. Alas, New Nightmare spends too much time being meta and not enough time being actually good. Fortunately, that movie walked so that Scream could run.

Scream is the perfect balance of self-aware comedy and actual scares. It is a taught and well plotted slasher with creative set-pieces and entertaining characters. It knows how to tick off audience expectations, while also subverting them cleverly. These subversions are witty, a lot of the humour coming from genre-literacy and a dialogue with the audience about horror tropes.

It works because of positioning: this is a horror master making masterful horror, whilst also penning a critical love letter to the genre. In unpicking the slasher, it rejuvenates it. The irony and meta-humour makes this feel fresh and different. It also works because the humour is mined from the horror, or the deployment of its tropes. This is not a film of jokes, of self defeating one liners. The joke is not at the film, it doesn't undo itself by constantly cracking wise, it is just constructed with wit. It evokes humour through genre literacy, through so carefully matching audience expectation and through the core satisfaction of horror done right.

Everything comes together here. It manages to be one of the best slashers as well as one of the perennial anti-slasher. The way other films are threaded into it is masterful. It being in conversation with Halloween (shown on TV through an extended sequence and consistently cut back to) is such a smart choice, as Craven shows his ability to play in that space (after defining his very own different kind of slasher with Elm Street). Using the soundtrack to score this film, playing off it and using the tropes while commenting on the tropes shows a core understanding of the appeal, while doing something different. This is just iconic filmmaking, and unbelievably entertaining from beginning to end.

Block or Report

Stephen liked these reviews