BY ANDREW MOODY
“What’s your favourite scary movie?”
For those who became sentient in the rock and roll nineties, not even the re-releases of A Clockwork Orange, and The Exorcist in 1999 could compete with horror masterpiece Scream (1996), and it’s extraordinary, enormous influence. One of my deepest regrets (along with knowing the ending of Hitchcock’s Psycho), is allowing my sister to tell me the ending of Scream before I saw it. She had snuck into the cinema, not yet 18.
From a young age, I was drawn to horror movies. This was before the digital age, before smartphones, before the internet. I had nightmares about Freddy Kruger and Hannibal Lecter, back then the two biggest monsters in cinema. One Friday in June 1996 when I was thirteen, I crept downstairs in the middle of the night to watch Friday the 13th (1980). Looking back on it, it’s a clumsily made, cheap exploitation picture, but at the time, it was terrifying. I began to make notes on the horror films I had seen, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Carrie, Hellraiser, The Silence of the Lambs, the list went on, until one movie was released that seemed revolutionary to my young mind. Wes Craven’s Scream (1996), from an original script by Kevin Williamson, brought 90’s irony to the horror movie, as if Quentin Tarantino had directed Halloween. Scream is hip, meta-fictional, interspersed with traumatising violence, and legitimately scary. Three direct sequels followed, Scream 2 (1997), Scream 3 in 2000 and Scre4m in 2010, along with a tidal wave of rip offs, homages, reissues and remakes of all manner of grimy seventies slasher movies. Scream made horror movies cool again.
Since the popularity of novelistic TV shows, starting with The Sopranos in 1999, modern audiences are able to commit themselves to lengthy box sets, to dozens of hours of attention.
Moving forward twenty-five years, and Netflix has released the first two series of a TV show inspired by Scream, executive produced by both the late Wes Craven and the ruined Harvey Weinstein. It was one of the last productions that Weinstein was involved in before his term in prison began, indeed he had been involved in the production of the original 1996 smash hit. On July 17, 2018, Hollywood Reporter confirmed that a former output deal between The Weinstein Company and Netflix was terminated in the midst of Lantern Capital’s acquisition of the assets of The Weinstein Company. As a result, Netflix will likely not stream the third season on their platform, which annoyed me, because there is something legitimately haunting about the TV series, and something deeply compulsive for horror fans who have grown up with the franchise.
According to Rotten Tomatoes, the series has a negative judgement and audiences have found it dull and lifeless, but I have to disagree with the common opinion. The makers of the TV series Scream are as ambitious as any writers in Hollywood. Theirs is a tale of trauma and #MeToo abuse, channelled through an elegant post-digital reworking of Agatha Christie. Nineties movies, where the franchise originated, were full of bluster and bold statements, gleeful nihilism, ultra- violence, naïve optimism and Generation X dialogue. But now, twenty five years later, after Columbine, after 9/11, after the trauma of the Gulf War, the invention of social media, and the fall of Harvey Weinstein, this horror story will take longer to tell. That the ghosts of horror genius Wes Craven, and Harvey Weinstein will forever overshadow Scream’s reputation, is no fault of the film makers, who have quietly and diligently ensured the dubious achievement of producing a genuinely haunted work.