Twenty four years ago, Drew Barrymore in a blonde wig lured people into theatres where Wes Craven was reinventing the slasher flick, and his career, with a little help from a fresh spin on the genre from Kevin Williamson’s script.
A year after her mother’s death, Sydney (Neve Campbell) and her friends are targeted by a serial in a white mask (“Ghostface”) who taunts them with horror movie trivia. The movie was meta and self-referential, it launched a franchise and reinvigorated a flagging genre. In many ways, Scream has influenced much of modern horror. It walked a thin line between satire and homage, carefully peeling back the layers of our expectations while forging new ones, yet still managing its own frights and thrills at the same time.
Craven assembled the ultimate 90s cast: Campbell, Courteney Cox, Skeet Ulrich, Rose McGowan, David Arquette, Matthew Lillard, Jamie Kennedy, some of whom actually spanned the entire four movie franchise. Sydney (Campbell) was hypocritical, Gail (Cox) the most unobservant journalist known to history, and Dewey (Arquette) a remarkably inept deputy, yet somehow they managed to evade even the most determined killers.
Scream broke the fourth wall by naming the standard horror film rules, yet played at subverting them with each new twist: 1. You will not survive if you have sex 2. You will not survive if you drink or do drugs 3. You will not survive if you say “I’ll be right back” 4. Everyone is a suspect 5. You will not survive if you ask “Who’s there?” 6. You will not survive if you go out to investigate a strange noise.
The 5th installment of the franchise is due in theatres (if such a thing still exists) in early 2022. This will be the first without Wes Craven at the helm, but new directors Radio Silence (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett) seem intent on honouring his legacy, although, to be fair, rarely does anyone intend to make a disappointing movie that fucks up an entire franchise. But sometimes that happens anyway. And we’re in a very different place with horror than we were in 1996; Jordan Peele (Get Out), Robert Eggers (The Witch), Jennifer Kent (The Babadook), and Ari Aster (Midsommar) are making arthouse horror and elevating the game. Of course, Radio Silence are the duo behind Ready Or Not, which would seem to suggest they’re up to the task.