I have always had a soft spot for Scream. I grew up in the 90’s, and the film came out when I was about twelve, and I remember everyone at school talking about it. Some of us had older siblings who’d seen it and talked about how awesome it was, and we were all impatient for it to come out on VHS so that we could bribe someone into renting it for us. My father was the one who obliged (never one to show too much concern for my mental well-being), and it was therefore the first slasher (and 18-certificate movie) I ever saw.
Watching it again years later, I realise how much of it passed completely over my head when I first saw Scream as a young innocent. I’ve since caught up on all the classic slashers, such as Halloween and Friday the 13th, which the film was equal parts parody and homage of, and now I get all the jokes and references that were being made, and I can appreciate how clever the film was.
Back when I was 12, however, it was terrifying. Years of over-exposure and parody has made Ghostface into a pop culture icon, and we no longer see him as much of a threat. But when he first turned up all those years ago with the threatening phonecalls and the home invasion and the Edvard Munch mask… Ugh. He was fucking terrifying. I can remember the night after we first watched it at a sleepover, my friends and I lay awake for hours scared that Ghostface was coming to kill us. And is it just me, or was the original Ghostface (Ghostfaces?) a lot more brutal than a lot of his later incarnations? I don’t know, there’s just something about the way he liked to gut his victims rather than just stab them that seemed so much more vicious. Maybe it’s just me. But still, that brief glimpse we get of poor Casey Becker hanging from the tree with her insides hanging out… that was pretty damn horrific.
And then there’s Sidney and Gail, two of my very favourite Final Girls. These two are badass. No matter how terrorised they are, they get back up and they fight back. I love me some powerful women in horror. I also love how Gail especially defies the ‘rules’ of slasher movies – as the bitchy reporter who is hated by our leading lady and is out for all she can get, you’d expect her to be killed off by the time the closing credits roll, but she’s not, and she goes on to be a snarky badass through three sequels. Props to you, Gail Weathers. Of course there’s also Randy Meeks, the horror geek who was responsible for a large part of the self-referential humour in the film. His speech about the ‘rules’ of horror is famous, as much as Scream‘s deliberate defiance and satire of all these rules. One of my favourite moments is when the unsuspecting Randy is watching Halloween, completely oblivious to the real carnage going on around him, and he’s yelling at the screen for Laurie to look behind her, right when Ghostface is creeping up behind him. It’s a moment of tension that’s also pretty damn amusing, and I love that.
Then there’s our *SPOILER ALERT* two killers, Billy and Stu. And seriously, if you haven’t seen Scream at this point, you deserve to be spoiled. I love these boys. Yes, Billy’s reasons for the murders are completely ridiculous (and the motives get increasingly ridiculous as the sequels roll on), but that doesn’t matter. And I have to admit, I ship Billy and Stu. I think that Stu must have been completely infatuated with his friend for Billy to be able to say ‘Hey, bro. So about a year ago I killed Sidney’s mom for boinking my dad. And now I kinda feel like killing a bunch of people who had nothing at all to do with it. Wanna help?’ and Stu to go ‘Hell yeah, Billy! Whatever you want!’ I personally find Stu the most interesting of the two, even though he’s the one who didn’t even pretend to have a motive. It was all a game to him. He was just doing it for shits and giggles, and because Billy said so. This was just another horror movie to him, and I don’t think it occurred that he was actually killing people until right at the very end, when reality began to set in. It was both funny and a little sad when he was sobbing on the phone to Sidney that his parents were going to be mad at him when they found out what he’d done. He was a little boy who was misbehaving, and that was the worst consequence he could think of.
I feel like Scream is a film you can enjoy no matter what your knowledge of the horror genre is. As a child, I appreciated the scares and the violence and the fun characters. Now I can appreciate all the fun little self referential jokes. I love that Billy’s last name is Loomis, a nod to Sam Loomis of Halloween, a little trick to make us think he’s the good guy. I love Wes Craven’s brief cameo as a Freddy Krueger-esque janitor. There are so many fun Easter eggs in the film, and it’s awesome. I even enjoy the Scream sequels, even though I know in my heart that the gimmick has worn off. I don’t care. Scream was my first slasher movie, and it will always have a special place in my heart.