Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Scream (Wes Craven)

I put off seeing this movie for a long time. I could have kept putting it off. It's trash. Offensive trash. This is a film with utter contempt for its characters, its makers, its genre, and its audience. It's probably the most cynical film I've ever seen. It pretends to wink at you, to let you into its exclusive club of smarty-pants deconstructivism and self-reflexivity, while instead explicitly laying out the theme that life is just a movie, a movie is just a movie, a movie is not important, and neither is your life. You are a cash machine and a moron. Allow us, the makers of Scream, to make a withdrawal. We don't care about you, we don't care about our movie, and we don't care about anything. We will pretend to provide a self-aware postmodern take on the horror genre and be praised by mainstream critics for our wit and cleverness when what we actually provide is a guided tour into the emptiness of our hearts and minds. This film is disgustingly cavalier about the value of human life. That might sound funny coming from someone who loves horror movies as much as I do, especially someone who loves exploding heads and gushing geysers of blood (yep, me again). Pretty cavalier, right? The difference is that when the average horror director rips someone's guts out or decapitates someone else, the desired effect is to bring pleasure to an audience of real, live human beings. In director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson's world, however, the audience is told life is just a movie (this line of dialogue is repeated several times throughout the film), the characters' behavior comes entirely from other movies, and we're instructed how to respond to these scenes as audience members by the exruciatingly overbearing dialogue (more life-as-movie, behavior-learned-from-movie ironic detachments). We're not allowed responses of our own, just told repeatedly how clever we are and how superior we are to what we're watching while at the same time what inconsequential, pop-culture obsessed, lives we lead. Williamson and Craven's message seems clear to me: Your life is defined by what you consume, not by what you experience, and we are going to take advantage of that to get a piece of your money. To them, I say: Go fuck yourself. Your movie is inhuman, and I'm not interested.

Other observations:
1. The much-ballyhooed self-referential script is a plodding, pointless gimmick. Horror movies are already self-referential, and they have been since at least Bela Lugosi's 1931 performance in Dracula, probably earlier. To use a more recent example, John Carpenter's 1978 Halloween, which is referenced in Scream a gazillion times, is full of movie in-jokes and references that are far more clever than anything in Wes Craven's mega-turd, and they're used without belaboring the point.
2. The killer's outfit is astonishingly non-frightening. The mask is based on Munch's "The Scream," another pointless reference and example of the film's turning art into product, while the rest of the costume looks like Skeletor at a drag ball.
3. Matthew Lillard sucks. His obnoxiousness and his noxiousness are substantial. He makes Chris Kattan look like Harry Dean Motherfucking Stanton.
4. This movie made a shitload of money and spawned two sequels, which also made a shitload of money. Maybe the Craven/Williamson two-headed jerk's cynicism was justified. Sometimes it's hard to be a humanist.


Bartleby said...

Point-Counterpoint continues at

kristykay said...

I don't see how anyone can have a valid opinion on Scream without reading this user's comments on the IMDB. Her love for Matthew Lillard knows no bounds.

Blog Archive