Every Friday, we feature a movie one of our staff has chosen as their favorite Miramax film, along with personal stories about what makes it special to them. Consider watching one over the weekend. Today's pick is Scream from our Manager, Receivables and Revenue Accounting, Pete Miranti.
Confession: I was never really into Horror movies as a kid. A child of the 80s, scary movies were kind of a rite of passage, and there was no shortage of scary movies for my friends and I to watch. Unfortunately, I was just a little young when the franchise-starting slashers came out, so we were left with an endless parade of horror sequels - a cavalcade of ever-more inventive and gory ways for the masked killer to dispose of a parade of interchangeable teenagers. Teenagers who made impossibly bad choices, as they found ways to antagonize the boogeyman, then proceeded to trap themselves in their attics and basements, with no escape. Sure, these movies made for some decent jumps, and some unintentional humor, but that was about it.
Scream changed that. By deftly and cleverly satirizing the joke that had become the standard horror movie, while creating a story that both embraced and subverted the standard tropes of a horror movie, Wes Craven found something that reinvigorated and reinvented the genre. From the harrowing opening scene, when the movie's biggest star, Drew Barrymore, was terrorized by a masked killer who could see her every move, I realized that I was in for a ride. That scene is a mini-masterpiece in itself, but it's the aftermath that becomes the legend of the Ghostface Killer.
Trapping the main cast of teenagers together in a "curfew party", spawned by the town's terror at finding itself at the hands of a serial killer was a clever way to isolate the main suspects, who quickly realize that they are living a real horror movie. It's here that we begin to understand what we're watching, as Jaime Kennedy explains the rules of horror. "Never go upstairs!" "Never have sex!" "Never say 'I'll be right back!". Of course, the characters ignore the rules, and are quickly punished.
More than just a clever satire and a good scare, though, Scream succeeds where so many other horror movies failed by creating characters that you cared about - characters that felt real. Courteney Cox's clever but abrasive investigative reporter and David Arquette's bumbling cop are standard character archetypes, but the writing gives them some depth, and the actors create a believable chemistry between characters who shouldn't want anything to do with each other. More than that, Neve Campbell's Sidney is a kickass heroine. She's the quintessential "Final Girl" of every horror movie, but she doesn't wait to be saved. She fights back - hard. She's smart, and funny, and a little scary herself - even if she does run upstairs.
By calling out the silliness of its predecessors, while simultaneously embracing it, Scream found a way to make horror movies fun again. Kevin Williamson's script is top-notch (I still hear "What's your favorite scary movie?" quoted 17 years later), and Wes Craven knows how to build suspense better than almost anyone in the business. It's not all about the blood - sometimes what you don't see is scarier than what you do. Not that the movie lacks in violence, but it's a part of the story, rather than the whole point. It's no wonder that the movie was successful enough to spawn 3 sequels (all of impressive quality in their own rights) - this movie made it fun to be terrified again.