Thoughts on “Scream”

I have a pack of the first four of the “Scary Movie” movies, and I watch them every so often.  There’s a sharp difference between the original Wayans movies and the later Zuckerman movies, but they work well-enough as a light and goofy parody of horror movies where the horror movie tropes are played entirely for laughs.  What I did know at the time was that the first one, at least, was a parody of “Scream”, which some people noted was odd since “Scream” itself was a parody of horror movies.  However, I have never actually watched any of the “Scream” movies, although as usual I knew things about it that I absorbed from popular culture.  So when I came across a pack of the first three “Scream” movies — I just came across a new pack that has the first four, which I am hesitant to get given that I have the first three already — I decided to pick it up.  It sat in the stack with a bunch of other series that I have (including a bunch of Stephen King adaptations) while I worked my way through my individual movies, but with that stack getting fairly small I figured I should take a break and watch some of the series, and since I had been reminded of it recently (probably when I was thinking about “Party of Five” which is in my stack of TV shows to watch) I figured it would be a great time to watch those movies and finally see them.

The main thing I noticed is that “Scary Movie” really did base their movie on “Scream”, not merely lifting the plot and setting from it but also going through some scenes pretty much word-for-word with some minor jokes and parody added to it.  And in my view this does a disservice to both movies if you’ve watched that one before watching “Scream”.  On the “Scary Movie” end, I came to realize that some of the clever lines and set-ups were entirely lifted from “Scream”, which makes that movie seem much more derivative than it might have originally.  On the “Scream” side, it gives those scenes a sense of “I’ve seen all this before” which makes them seem more dull than they would have otherwise.  Watching “Scream” last dulls a lot of the elements that made “Scary Movie” want to use it as its base in the first place, making it seem less interesting than it would have to those who watched “Scream” without watching “Scary Movie”.

And, of course, “Scary Movie” pretty much spoils the ending, although that didn’t matter so much.

I think that Neve Campbell has the qualities that make for a good horror heroine, as I talked about when I talked about “Saint Maud”.  She’s pretty enough to be sympathetic, but in no way a sexpot, and so she does look like the nice girl-next-door that we in general want to protect and want to see survive the horror happening around them.  Her seeming nice also makes her developing the strength to fight back more satisfying.  So, yes, she’s a very good fit for this movie and works well in it, although at times her delivery can be a bit stilted.

While “Scream” is noted for being a bit of a parody, I don’t think it really is a parody, at least in the sense of making fun of or trying to get us to laugh at or find ridiculous the horror movie tropes.  There are some scenes where it does that — such as with the janitor named Fred dressed like Freddy Krueger — but for the most part the movie remains pretty serious with some minor joke scenes, which is pretty much how horror movies from that era worked.  What I’d say about it, though, is that it less parodies the tropes than it relies a lot on self-awareness, directly referencing the tropes while playing them mostly straight.  For example, in one of the phone calls the Sydney talks about disliking horror movies because of the stupid things the characters do, like running up the stairs instead of running out the door, and then soon after the killer attacks her and she runs up the stairs … but she couldn’t get the front door unlocked in time and didn’t have anywhere else she could run, so it’s justified.  There are far more of these sorts of moments where they reference the tropes but then end up playing them straight and taking everything seriously that it doesn’t work as any kind of humour parody despite the times when they directly attempt to make the scenes funny, but the self-aware humour is actually funny without making the movie itself seem ridiculous or asking the audience to not take things seriously.  The movie still wants us to take these things seriously even as it makes us aware that these things are a bit weird.

As such, the movie is pretty good.  The plot is pretty standard and nothing really special, and the performances and characters are again fairly standard, but overall it works and is generally entertaining.  My personal enjoyment of it was hampered by how many scenes I had already seen in “Scary Movie”, but not enough to make it not entertaining.  Compared to a lot of the other horror movies I’ve watched, it’s definitely better than most despite relying on the same ideas and tropes, and the self-awareness adds a dimension that most horror movies lack.  This is a movie that I am likely to watch again at some point.

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5 Responses to “Thoughts on “Scream””

  1. malcolmthecynic Says:

    “Scream” is quite good, and I consider it not necessarily a parody but a black comedy in some ways, though as you say I think it really is best understood as simply – a smarter than average horror movie. “Scream 2″…I really did not like, despite a couple of great scenes.

    • verbosestoic Says:

      That is definitely true of Scream 2 and Scream 3, but Scream did have more scenes that are clearly aimed at parodying or lightly mocking horror movie conventions.

  2. Tom Says:

    Yeah, I didn’t get why you’d want to watch a parody of a movie before seeing the movie first. Having said that, you’re right that ‘parody’ isn’t quite the right category for Scream. I think something closer to ‘metafiction’ would be more accurate.

    • verbosestoic Says:

      I happened to get access to the “Scary Movie” franchise first, and only picked up the “Scream” ones later. That being said, a lot of good parodies don’t have that issue . For example, you can easily watch “Spaceballs” before “Star Wars” and it won’t really hurt your enjoyment of either, and any issues would be on the “Spaceballs” side — not understanding the tropes/scenes they’re parodying — instead of on the “Star Wars” side.

  3. Thoughts on “Bag of Bones” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] horror movies to watch but had a big stack of series to watch — which is why I watched the “Scream” series — and while I now have picked up a bunch of new individual movies I decided that I’d […]

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