Wes Craven’s, Scream is a postmodern slasher film that not only breathes new life in to its genre; it critiques every slasher film that preceded it. This may seem like another slasher film with an attractive cast, witty dialogue, and a psychopathic serial killer, but it’s more than that. This film takes you, the postmodern audience with a young woman heroine and it makes you relive all the great slasher films in a new and exciting way. Whereas past horror films seemed to follow unwritten rules as a sort of code of conduct to follow in their films, or death will be inventible for the character. Scream manipulates the rules and even breaks them, even though it knows all the rules. This makes the film a gem to analyze, and in this essay I will explain how Scream critiques the unwritten rules of slasher films. (Scream)
To fully understand how Scream breaks the rules, you need to know what the rules are. The film actually goes as far as stating them for you in the form of Randy teaching his fellow friends who happen to be watching the Iconic slasher film, Halloween. “One you can never have sex, two never drink or do drugs, three whatever you do never say you will be right back, and fourth everyone is a suspect.” And another moment in the film Sidney is talking to the killer on the phone and says “It’s the big-breasted girl who is always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door, it’s insulting.” These are just a few of the moments where the film states a couple of the slasher rules of survival. (Scream) Which is an example of postmodern cinema, “where the film shows a visible self-awareness about its own subject matter,” which in this case it’s critiquing the slasher genre and the rules of survival all at the same time. (Boggs 159)
Now with the rules revealed, the audience is fully aware of them. Now Scream can manipulate the rules or break them, so that the outcome of each event in the film is unpredictable. There are three ways Scream critiques the unwritten rules of slasher films, and it can follow the rules, manipulate the rules, or break the rules. When, Stuart’s girlfriend went to get more beers she was confronted with the killer and was killed. This follows the rules of slasher films, don’t drink or you will die. Now, in the opening scene where Casey is asked by the killer on the phone, “Who is the killer in Friday the 13th” she replies with the answer of Jason. You think she is right, and so does she, but the killer says, “I’m sorry wrong answer, Jason’s mother played the killer in the original, and Jason didn’t arrive until the sequel.” This shows manipulation, because once you think she’s safe, he changes the rules unexpectedly. Next, is when Sidney and Billy have sex. This is always the time when the killer comes in and murders the two making love. It happens in all the great slasher films: Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and Friday the 13th. In Halloween, Michael Myers kills the couple that have just finished having sex in the upstairs bedroom.(Halloween) In Friday the 13th, the opening scene has a couple having sex near a campfire and during the act they are killed.(Friday the 13th) Then in Nightmare on Elm Street, early on in film you hear a couple having sex, then soon after the couple is attack violently by Freddy Krueger.(Nightmare on Elm Street) Scream breaks the rule here, by having Sidney the heroine have sex and survive the brutality throughout the rest of the film. This shows how the film took these rules of survival and made it so that the audience wasn’t able to predict how an event would play out. (Scream)
This is Wes Craven’s film critique on the genre he helped create, and it’s filled with references to other slasher films. But this film also takes it to new heights, by really messing with the theory of the final girl. Here are a few traits that a girl must qualify as the final girl in slasher films: brave, strong, only woman survivor and stop the killer, cops are unable to protect her, no sex, and she must stand out among her peers. (Carroll) Sidney follows this theory quite well, but on the other hand she breaks this theory of the final girl in a few instances. She did have sex, she was not the only woman survivor, and she was not the person to do the final blow on the killer. This is interesting because she fills the role as the final girl, but doesn’t on all criteria. This is just another example of how Scream critiques the slasher genre, and its rules. Its saying look I know how this works, and we know you know how this works, but see how I can change everything. (Scream)
Scream is a rare film in which is critiques its own genre, and then goes and deconstructs it, then rebuilds it up all again. It takes the rules of the slasher films, and throws them out the window, only leaving pieces and parts of them making the film fresh and unpredictable. Making Wes Craven’s Scream a postmodern slasher film that critiques the old rules of slasher films and repackages them in new and unprecedented ways.
Boggs, Carl and Tom Pollard. “Postmodern Cinema and Hollywood Culture in an Age of Corporate Colonization.” Democracy & Nature. vol. 7. no.1. 2001. 159-163. Print.
Carroll, Sara. “Female Survival in Horror Movies.” 2010. Suite101.com. 1997. 21, March 2010. <http://slasher-films.suite101.com/article.cfm/survival-of-the-female>
Friday the 13th, Dir. Sean S. Cunningham. Perfs. Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Kevin Bacon. 1980. DVD. Paramount. 2003.
Halloween, Dir. John Carpenter. Perfs. Jamie Lee Curtis. 1978. DVD. Anchor Bay. 2007.
Nightmare on Elm Street, Dir. Wes Craven. Perfs. John Saxon, Heather Langenkamp, Jonny Depp, and Robert Englund. 1984. DVD. New Line Cinema. 1999.