Scream was released on December 20th, 1996 in a bold attempt to counter-program the typically family oriented Christmas season. It seemed initially that the attempt had failed, as Scream opened to a relatively soft $6 million take and finished second behind Beavis And Butthead Do America. That's when the funny thing happened. Rather than falling off sharply in its second weekend of release - the historically proven norm for horror releases both then and now - Scream began to gather steam. It's box office actually improved in its second week, and it continued to improve for several weeks thereafter. When all was said and done, Scream worked its way to a total U.S. gross of over $100 million. Not coincidentally, the long moribund horror genre finally came off life support at roughly the same time.
|Ghostface trying to get the damned garage door opener to work in Scream (1996)|
If you don't think Scream almost single-handedly resuscitated the horror genre, you either weren't around at the time, or you weren't paying attention. Scream is plagued by the same oddly horror-centric scenario as Halloween (1978). Namely, it's a stunningly original and successful release that's remembered more for the scads of inferior copies it "inspired" than for its own considerable merit. That's the price trailblazing horror movies often pay for doing something so indisputably right that all the hacks see only dollar signs.
For reasons I've never fully understood, Scream is often derided by genre fans. Is it the self-reflexive humor that prompts the abuse? Maybe some serious horror fans just can't take a little good-natured ribbing at their own expense. The clever, airtight script was clearly written from a place of love, so why the offense? Scream is certainly more respectful of the genre it reverently mocks than dross like the seemingly never ending Scary Movie franchise that appropriated the name.
|Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) losing a high stakes game of trivia in Scream (1996)|
Maybe Scream is maligned by taste-makers because it isn't scary. Well, I call shenanigans on that. The opening segment featuring Drew Barrymore's character Casey Becker being terrorized by the perversely playful Ghostface killer is still as effective a chunk of horror as the genre has ever produced. The already savaged and dying Becker crawling unheard across the grass toward her still oblivious parents is chilling. Director Craven doesn't pull any punches with the horrific elements of the script, and if you think otherwise then you owe it to yourself to revisit Scream.