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Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

Scream (1996), directed by Wes Craven

Scream [Blu-ray] -

To pull this movie off, Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson had to use a slightly more complicated story than your average slasher film. No babysitters, no camp counselors, no prom night. It's about a girl whose mother was raped and murdered one year ago, ostensibly by a man, now sitting on death row, whom she fingered as the killer. When more murders begin to occur, her conviction about the man's guilt is shaken, giving an edge to the reporter whose book claiming the man is innocent is soon to be published. But if he didn't do it, then who did, and who is killing now? Add in a couple of horror film fanatics, a bad boy boyfriend, and a means-well deputy whose teenage sister shows him no respect, in or out of uniform, and you get a whodunit with a somewhat more intelligent slasher film mentality. Mix in a generous helping of humor -- from sight gags to clever dialogue to knowing references to other horror films -- and you get...Scream.

Much as I love Buffy, I don't think everything touched by Joss Whedon is gold, and I was disappointed that Cabin in the Woods, which he produced and co-wrote, got so many rave reviews. Cabin was, I thought, pretty darn bad. And as I watched Scream, it occurred to me why it was so bad. Unlike Wes Craven, Whedon had never done a horror movie (and he still hasn't). He claimed he was tired of the torture porn of recent years and wanted to shake things up. When I read that, I laughed. If you want to shake things up, I thought, make a Rosemary's Baby, make an Exorcist, but evidently that idea never got past his lips. Must have been blocked by the cynical tongue in his cheek.

Scream is what Whedon wanted to make when he made Cabin, and what, alas, he thinks he did make, because of all the misplaced acclaim. Scream, though, is the real thing: a movie that manages to poke fun at the genre while at the same time being a part of it. It's an hommage, not a parody.

It's attractive young cast is fun to watch, and it's probably significant that two of its members -- Drew Barrymore and Courtney Cox -- actually approached the producers, wanting to be part of the film. Neve Campbell was evidently a little iffy, fearing being typecast, but she got over it when she got the lead. Henry Winkler, who plays the high school principal, allowed himself to go uncredited so as not to distract attention from the younger cast members. And then there's Rose McGowan, David Arquette, Matthew (Shaggy) Lillard, and Liev Schreiber in the tiny role of the man on death row. For a slasher film, this is what's called a stellar cast.

Because Craven and Williamson keep the faith, you may not like this movie if you don't like at least one or two slasher films. But because it's a well-written, well made movie, you just might like it anyway. And if you liked Cabin in the Woods? Watch it to see the difference between cynicism and true love of genre.