Halloween Horror Month: ‘Scream’



Graphic by Mae Bruce

‘Scream’ (1996) satirizes horror cliches in a fun, frightening experience.

The iconic image of the Ghostface Killer has been the face of horror for years, and it all began with the classic horror film Scream.

Scream does something that many films are too afraid to do: address other movies in the movie. The entire film, even beginning with the first scene with the girl alone in her house who gets a sadistic phone call from a voice who asks to play a guessing game about scary movies, which results in her death, is made up of scenes that are representative of a classic horror movie. This represents the essence of the whole film, which has elements of references to common horror films and their cliché scenes, all the while the horror is going on around the characters’ lives as well.

The 1996 film, directed by Wes Craven, follows high schooler Sidney Prescott after a horrific small-town murder sparks a new terror for her when she discovers that what the killer really wants is her. Around the same time as the anniversary of her mother’s murder, and the same time that her father happens to be out of town, she begins receiving odd phone calls from a sadistic-sounding voice and quickly finds herself face to face with the Ghostface killer, a man with the ghostface mask and a knife, alone in her house.

The film combines both humor and suspense, as the characters are often heard making references to typical slasher film cliches, all the while the same thing ends up happening to them. Yet it seems the only person to really take the terror seriously is Sidney, who is the actual goal. This helps create tension throughout the film because it is known that everyone around her won’t be there by the end. The film also introduces characters that are typical to a movie that wants to create diversity, such as the annoying news-journalist Gale Weathers who won’t leave Sidney alone, or Dewey, the dopey brother of her best friend, who happens to be a cop and ends up saving the day. These characters, in fact, bring a sense of purpose to the film, as they are the ones who are truly trying to find the person behind the mask.

The movie and the plot in itself relates to typical slasher movies, with normalities such as the possible notion that the boyfriend could be the killer all along. What Scream does, though, is pull out all the elements of these horror films but actually turn them into a terrifying reality for the characters. What if he was the killer? But that would be too boring. Then who is it? And why are they after Sidney and her family? The film answers all of the pending questions.

Wes Craven also provides elements of different camera angles and shots throughout the movie. In an intense scene, a friend of Sidney, Randy, is seen on the couch while unknown to him, Ghostface comes behind him ready to attack. The camera slowly pans down to the floor and flips upside down, as if we can only see what is about to happen at an opposite angle which gives an eerie effect to the scene.

Overall, Scream succeeded in shedding a light on what we can often expect in scary movies but still was able to scare us at the same time, when the reality of a small-town killer and their identity became one that was never expected.