Friday, October 23, 2009

Notable Shasher Films: Scream (1996)

In the middle ages, a popular genre of story was the “chivalric romance.” It was the pulp, mass consumed, popular style of its day. The most widely known story of this style is actually a satire of the genre when it was already in decline: Don Quixote. It makes fun of and ridicules the conventions of the genre and even lists many of the books written in the genre, evaluating their worth in a scene where the characters decide if any of them are fit to be spared a bonfire.

While it should never be suggested that any movie in the slasher genre is fit to be valued alongside Don Quixote, Scream fulfils the same role for its genre as Don Quixote did for the romance. It came about as the genre had largely played out, made fun of and analyzed its conventions and managed to be one of the best films in the genre it was satirizing. Unfortunately, it also proved successful enough to inject new life into the genre, spawning a decade of mindless-people-dieing-in-elaborate-yet-plot-less-ways movies.

The plot of this mystery is carefully constructed even though audiences wouldn’t expect one… it’s all about people being killed right? Wrong. This is a horror movie about a group of people who know they are in a horror movie, or at least a situation set up according to the conventions of the slasher genre. So, they know the rules and what to expect. So, while it is genuinely scary, it also makes you think. Why are these movies popular? Why do people like violence and being scared? When will the formula eventually collapse? After all, even Scream spawned a franchise. Are audiences as doomed as the characters of this film? They know exactly where the story is headed and still come back for more.

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