Scream changed the rules. Following the decade of gore was a challenge nobody wanted to take on. Wes Craven himself shied away from the slasher genre opting for more psychological horror in the 90s. It was no surprise he would follow up The People Under The Stairs with Scream, a combination psychological horror and slasher film that picked the genre apart and dissected it piece by piece.
In the science fiction sub genre I forgot to mention films like Alien or The Faculty, absolutely slasher films in their own rights one from the 70s pre-Halloween and one from the 90s, Post-Scream. Then there is I Know What You Did Last Summer, a slasher that took the playbook and ripped pages out but wrote it’s own rules.
Let’s get back to Scream for a second. The meta horror genre became big business in the 90s and 2000s. Once audiences were made aware of what components went into a slasher film they became bored with the stagnant genre. Now the genre has experienced quite a revival in recent years but there were those dark days when it felt like the meta horror was going to kill the sub category entirely.
Scream changed horror forever. That has been beaten to death. I want to side step that and instead take a look at why it worked instead of what it accomplished.
Scream was simple. It laid out the rules of a horror movie on the table. It followed the rules to a T while breaking them only as needed to further the plot. While Scream is a brilliant analysis into the minds of horror icons, it is itself quite a useful scary movie in its own rights. That is what makes it work, unlike all the copy cats and yes I consider Saw a Scream clone, and not a very good one but for different reasons.
Horror is a funny topic. It always goes back to what is scary and makes us think about life and death. I believe death is the central element that is necessary for something to be considered horror. Defining a slasher film by strict rules is a point in futility as it leaves out some brilliant movies that otherwise might not make the cut.
The genre has had it’s ups and downs but it remains, largely, my favorite style of horror movie to this day.