How Wes Craven's Scream reimagined the horror franchise.
and how it shaped pop culture.
HOW WES CRAVEN’S SCREAM REIMAGINED THE HORROR GENRE AS A WHOLE.
Horror movies are influential in not only media but the way that we enjoy and experience life. People often say ‘Life imitates art which imitates life.’ Although a moderately redundant statement, It's always been evident that the statement is correct. For artists of all mediums (Including the cinema types) Inspiration can strike at just about anywhere in any moment- And yet there's always a catch; If you draw inspiration from the same place over and over again, Your pool of information dries up and in turn you lose inspiration because your thoughts have become stale, There's nothing to draw from.
When Wes Craven decided to direct Scream, He really decided to lean into the fact that he was working the stereotypes- The very embodiment of the stereotypes lives within the very characters we watch on screen and he decides to pull a move so iconic that it truly couldn't be replicated if someone tried; As an audience we were lucky enough to watch a character that represents us because as we watch all the characters on screen and figure out their roles, We’re greeted with Randy Meeks who represents us all; The viewer, The avid horror movie fan- The one whos already figured it out.
Randy Meeks is show right off the bat as someone who decides to say almost exactly what the viewer is thinking, He’s created to point out the obvious tropes and horror movie references that us as an audience are thinking of. Randy exists to make fun of the tropes we’re watching while also being one of them, In essence his character is exactly what Wes Craven was trying to do with ‘Scream’ as a whole.
In terms of the ‘final girl’ trope; The movie doesn’t shy away from putting that possibility on display. The movie is littered with horror movie references of the time and yet two of the ones that Randy mentions the most are Alien and Halloween; Before ‘Scream’ debuted, Those were the two most notable horror franchises with a ‘final girl’. Generally though, the only movie thats referenced consistently throughout Scream is ‘Halloween’, We watch as Sidney becomes more like Laurie Strode as the film goes on; We even get to see the parallel between Jamie Lee Curtis’ roles and Sidney’s current role in the movie.
Although the horror genre had a few ‘Final Girls’ before Sydney Prescott; Her character and tenacity is a huge part in how popular the trope is now. It's likely that without Sidney, We never would’ve had Julie James in ‘I know what you did last summer’ or even Zoey Davis in ‘Escape Room’. Although we had quite a few final girls before Sidney Prescott came around, For a reason that is still hard to pinpoint; Scream opened the gates for all the ‘Final Girls’ who came after her for the last twenty four years.
Sidney Prescott was tenacious, She was stubborn and refused to die- Even when she was faced with her own trauma over and over again she looked death right in the eye and overcame it; Sidney recreated the final girl trope by simply taking control, She was the first to go on the offensive early on in the film.
Where Nancy Thompson goes on the offensive during the last leg of ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ and Laurie Strode has to take charge in the end to not only protect herself but the kids; Sidney isn’t forced into being the final girl, She embodies that energy and fierciness from the very beginning.
Interestingly enough, The rest of the characters have similar tropes & stereotypes and yet they also refined them. When you meet Tatum Riley, Sidney’s best friend and the younger sister of Deputy Dwight Riley; You can see right off the bat that she's supposed to embody the ‘bimbo’ stereotype, The girl in the friend group that you expect to see die first.
What was so refreshing about Tatum though is that she put her friendship with Sidney before anything else. You watch as she gets increasingly concerned for her best friend and Tatum tries to help her in the only ways she knows how. Rose Mcgowan portrayed Tatum in a way that I’m not sure a lot of other actresses could because she took her beyond the classic ‘bimbo’ role and gave her character depth.
Tatum Riley was more than her stereotype, She was a best friend and a sister- She was fiercely protective and much to the surprise of viewers she was actually smart. One of the things that separates her most from the trope is that her death didn’t catch her unaware and she was more than willing to fight; In fact she did fight.
Something I find the most interesting about Tatum's death is that she didn’t die for the same reason Casey Becker did; Tatum died because she was actively in the way. This entire movie is full of “offhanded” mentions that turn out to be increasingly important; Including her and Sidney grocery shopping while Tatum tells her she’ll never let Billy come near her.
Tatum was so much of an inconvenience to Billy Loomis, She was so far in his way that they had to create a whole new plan specifically to kill her so Billy could get alone with Sidney. That was something so unheard of at the time to have a ‘side character’ be more than just a chance for a jumpscare kill.
One of the most impressive feats however was the fact that ‘Scream’ kept us all guessing and it still does till this day. As Randy Meeks represents all of us; We watch him figure out the killer from almost the very beginning and you connect with him as you realize that he’s playing the very same guessing game as you are.
So many movie fanatics have sat down to watch this movie and figure out which killer did which murder and tried to find their real motives; All the while we still have more questions than answers- Questions that we’ll never be answered because they simply weren’t meant to.
They even twisted the ‘Jock’ and ‘Wingman’ stereotype in such a way that it not only shocks us but leans into the very essence and reasoning of why Billy and Stu partner up to start killing in the first place, In short; Changing the way we see these roles.
‘Scream’ did something that so many movies have failed to do before and after its conception; This movie gave us options that we never would have seen before and even gives us the chance to use our imaginations 24 years after its release. Wes Craven wasn’t afraid to point out the stereotypes and tropes just as much as how he wasn’t afraid to lean into them.
He created a movie that not only thrives inside the genre but completely redefined it.
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