In honor of the premiere of Scream: The TV Series next Tuesday evening (which I will also be reviewing every week right here on modernhorrors.com), I decided to take a look back at the franchise that started it all. One film redefined a dying genre in the late 1990’s. No one expected a teen slasher to have so much impact on film and popular culture, but along came Scream, which changed it all. For almost 20 years, the Scream series has terrified audiences around the globe. With witty dialogue, twisted plot lines, and popular culture shout-outs, the Scream series has earned its position in classic horror cinema history. So grab some popcorn, dim down the lights, and get comfortable, this is the scary movie retrospective of Scream!
Scream was released in the winter of 1996. To date, the film has grossed over $170 million at the international box office. The first film had great impact on the horror genre, influencing a new wave of teen slasher flicks. The aesthetics and plot lines of these films, matched closely to those seen in Scream. Popular teen stars, hip soundtracks, and glossy cinematography filled the screen in imitators such as, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legends, Valentine, Halloween: H20, and the list goes on and on. Scream quite arguably reignited the dying horror genre, which at the time of the late 1990’s, was in a state of fatigue after the slasher boom of the 1980’s.
Culturally, Scream hit an immediate mark, skyrocketing all of the stars to success. Neve Campbell became a household name in the late 90’s mainly due to her role on the TV show, Party of Five, as well as provocative roles in Wild Things and The Craft. David Arquette became a Hollywood playboy, and Courtney Cox starred in the hit NBC show, Friends. Also starring in the flick was Drew Barrymore. In the late 1990’s, Barrymore was at the height of her fame. Originally offered the lead role of Sidney Prescott, Barrymore suggested she play the role of the opening death. She predicted many people would believe she would survive till the end, and audiences would be shocked by her character’s early demise… she was right. Placing Barrymore prominently on the front of the poster, the studio featured her heavily in the marketing campaign leading audiences to believe that Barrymore was the name star. This marketing technique, taken from the ploy of Psycho (which also kills off the famous starlet early in the film’s runtime) reinforced the twists and turns that Scream had to offer.
Immediately following the hit success of the first film, production began on the sequel, Scream 2. Released almost a year to the day of the first film, Scream 2 matched the success of Scream hitting an almost identical $170 million at the box office. It is traditional for horror sequels to do less business than the film preceding it, however Scream held power. I think one of the main reasons why Scream is such a generally strong franchise, is because the same team of actors, writers, director and producers are behind all of the films. As director, Wes Craven beautifully crafted the picturesque world of Woodsburo, but none of this would have even happened had it not been for the original script by Kevin Williamson.
(Director Wes Craven, on the set of Scream)
For the sequel, many big stars took cameo roles including, Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Jada Pinkett-Smith, Live Schreiber, Omar Epps, and even Luke Wilson. Scream 2 really upped the antsy in satire, blood, and body count. The sequel moved us out of high school and onto college. The level of self-awareness used in the Scream films really allows for the audience to delve deeper in the story on a more real landscape. The films (at least most) attempt to point out exactly what the audience is thinking, and then immediately flip the cliché into the reverse.
In Scream 2, the level of self-reflexivity is broadened by the introduction of the movie within a movie, Stab. This leads me onto the third installment of the Scream series, and in my opinion the weakest entry, Scream 3. Based around the filming of Stab 3, the events in Scream 3 brings our familiar gang out of the fictional town of Woodsburo and places them in Hollywood.
Released in early 2000, a few years gapped between the release of Scream 2 and Scream 3. The box office slightly declined, but was still strong at about $160 million. This entry also held the largest price tag in the franchise at the time (now the budget of $40 million matches that of Scream 4). Littered with cameos, Scream 3 was a hip version of who’s who. Co-starring Jenny McCarthy, Patrick Dempsey, Parker Posey, Scott Foley, and Carrie Fisher. What made Scream 3 different started in the writing. Additional edits were made to the script by Ehren Kruger. At the time of production Kevin Williamson (the writer of Scream and Scream 2) was amounting extreme success, which in turn led to a busy schedule. In fact many of the stars also had time constraints in the production of Scream 3. Neve Campbell has a significantly less amount of screen time in this entry due to her strict 20 day shooting availability.
The level of humor also reached its peak in Scream 3. Due to the success of Scary Movie (a satirical spoof of the first two Scream films and other popular slashers at the time), the Scream series suffered a hit to the reputation behind the scare department Audiences began associating the funny antics in Scary Movie with the story of Scream 3. The blurred lines made it difficult to see Scream 3 as more of a horror film and less of a comedy.
Nearly a decade after the misfire that was Scream 3, audiences were once again ready for a reboot. Scream 4 was released in the spring of 2011. With the load of remakes, found-footage, torture-porn films released in the early millennium, Scream 4 had plenty to comment on. What is interesting about Scream 4 is the idea that it almost acts as a remake itself, yet it obtains particular characteristics from the original trilogy (such as returning actors and character arcs) that ground it in more of the reboot category.
This time around the film featured famous cameos from Adam Brody, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, and Rory Culkin. The new batch of actors served as the new generation for Scream. Even though Scream 4 was critically one of the better received sequels, the film failed to hit home at the box office, failing to make back its $40 million budget with only $38 million in domestic box office sales. All plans to continue a new trilogy came to a halt. At last, it seemed that the franchise was dead… but as Scream itself will point out, the killer never stays dead for long.
This brings us to the present. The now. Scream: The TV Series is a complete remake of the Scream cannon. The show will not feature any of the characters or storylines from the original franchise. Instead it is working with a completely new slate (and mask). With a fresh slate of young, relatively unknown stars, Scream: The TV Series looks as if it might provide the current boom of horror television (The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, Bates Motel) with a commentary of its own. Although fresh, some elements still remain. Including the death of a famous actor in the opening scene. This time around, the victim is Disney starlet, Bella Thorne. You can even watch the full opening 8 minutes right below!
The impact and success that Scream: The TV Series could potentially have on the horror genre, could copy that of the original film. Many studios have scripts for remakes of I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Craft, and other late 90’s horror flicks ready to go out of the gate. Should Scream see high ratings on television, audiences can expect a reboot of the late 90’s slasher trend. In my opinion, I am ready and willing to see where this could lead the genre.
Scream: The TV Series premiers on Tuesday, June 30th at 10 PM ET/PT on MTV. Once again, be sure to check back to modern horrors every week, as I will be reviewing each episode of the Scream series! See you next week, and in the meantime, try and remember the answer to the most important question of all… what’s you’re favorite scary movie?
SCREAM ON, HORROR FANS!