Books and Movies Reviews

Scream : Creating Horror through the Transformation of Every

Although its generic title suggests otherwise, Wes Craven's Scream (1996) is a horror film that in many ways transcends the banality of its genre. Indeed, Scream distinguishes itself from other horror movies by an understanding, made explicit within the diegesis of the film, of the horror genre and its standard “formula.” This genre-consciousness is developed through its characters, an ensemble of movie-obsessed teenagers whose identities are inextricably linked with their culture; appropriately, the killers are two members of this group who view life as “one big movie.” Although this cinephelia does make the film unique, Scream self-consciously achieves the goal of any horror movie: terrifying its audience. In order to understand exactly how this horror is achieved, we must look to the opening scene to locate central themes established through the intercutting, mise-en-scene, and dialogue of the sequence. Evident in the bloody deaths of two of the protagonists, the movie becomes horrifying when innocuous everyday phenomena–the telephone, the Jiffy Pop, and the cultural omnipresence of cinema– become threatening.
To understand how Scream functions as a horror film, we mustfirst understand the notion of cinematic horror and the way in which it is typically constructed. In her essay “King Kong and the Monster in Ethnographic Cinema,” Fatimah Tobing Rony discusses the genre of horror and its dependence on the idea of some hybrid “monster” that defies the cultural standards by which we define ourselves. Citing J.P Telotte, Rony claims that the horror film can “play most effectively on its boundary position; monsterlike, it can simply reach into our world and make us part of its nightmarish realm…” (1) Applying this idea to Scream, one might hastily conclude that this theory has no bearing on the film as there is no true “monster” within the narrative; one might also point to the film's modern, suburban setting as precisel…

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