1996’s Scream changed not just horror, but the movie business. The unexpected hit brought a level of self-awareness and cleverness to the horror genre that was not seen previously. The Scream series is to this day one of Hollywood’s most bankable franchises. A major reason why is the Dream Team, or in this case Nightmare Team, that joined forces for the project.
Scream opened in 1996 and reintroduced moviegoers to a genre that was prevalent in the 1980s – the slasher picture. Scream was a callback to horror franchises like Halloween, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. It reinvigorated a kind of filmmaking that many felt was no longer vital by the time Scream shocked the industry in 1996. The horror classic grossed over 170 million worldwide.
Scream was made on a shoestring budget of 14 million dollars. It featured a young cast that was basically unknown before the picture blew up in in the mid-90s. It brought back a genre that the public seemed to have been nostalgic for. It is easy to imagine executives looking for the next 80s genre to bring back from the dead after the surprise hit. The major takeaway from Scream for Hollywood, based on the many copycat films that followed it, was the value of casting young unknown talent that is likely cheap, a low production cost, and relying heavily on the genre to bring in the audience. Horror was back, after being on a bit of a hiatus in the 1990s.
The Master Of Horror
Wes Craven may be the most prolific horror director of all time. The idea of Nightmare On Elm Street came straight from the mind of Craven. Craven would go on to write and direct Nightmare, which was released in theaters in 1984. The original Nightmare would launch one of the most successful franchises in history. Nightmare on Elm Street is considered by many to be one of the top horror movies of all time.
Before the release of the first Nightmare, Craven was a struggling filmmaker. He made the now cult classic horror movies, The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. Both films were far from hits, despite the esteem they now hold in the minds of many. Because of his lack of financial success in the past, Craven had a tough time getting a studio to make Nightmare on Elm Street. Wes Craven would go on to make a lot of great films, but Nightmare, and his creation of Freddy Krueger, is maybe his crowning achievement.
Wes Craven would work on the Scream franchise later in his career. The Scream series would not exist without Nightmare on Elm Street. Freddy Krueger helped to establish the slasher genre as one of Hollywood’s most successful endeavors. Wes Craven passed away in 2015, but his legacy lives on in his work and with the phenomenon, Nightmare on Elm Street.
A young writer, by the name of Kevin Williamson, would craft one of the greatest scripts of all time when he wrote Scream. The film was influenced by Williamson’s love of horror. But the first Scream was not just a retread of slasher film tropes. The characters in Scream are aware they are in a horror movie, they know the things to do, and the things not to do. The slasher genre had become stale, and almost laughable, because they had become so formulaic. The Scream characters made fun of the slasher tropes, the same way the audience did.
Unique Look At Horror
One of the many things that made the original Scream special was how it used comedy. It had humorous dialog and moments, but it never sacrificed scares. Kevin Williamson’s script does not take itself too seriously, while at the same time never losing its edge or intensity. Williamson would get the chance to write and create more successful projects like television’s Dawson’s Creek. His Scream script would launch his successful career in Hollywood.
Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson were a perfect team. Craven’s experience, mixed with Williamson’s fresh ideas, made for an interesting pairing. A pairing that was ideal for giving audiences something familiar, while at the same time breaking the rules of the genre. Craven would direct 4 Scream films before he passed. Williamson has written or produced every film in the Scream series released, which as of 2023 is six.
The Perfect Horror Film
If you are looking for a good scare, the genre doesn’t get more fun, thrilling and trailblazing than Scream (1996).
- Adam C. Better
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