The Team Catches Up With Wes Craven’s SCREAM [Two Cents]

Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick

Do you like scary movies?

With the passing of Wes Craven, we lost one of the horror genre’s most beloved and prolific filmmakers. His oeuvre is an impressive array of terror, humor, and style. He created and co-created several massively influential hits, as well as a number of smaller, lesser known gems, as our own Frank Calvillo has pointed out in his reverent farewell.

Rather than play it safe with his most obvious hit A Nightmare On Elm Street, we decided to look at the more topical Scream, which has a more mixed reputation, and has recently resurfaced as a new TV series. Interestingly, there was a noticeable division between our mostly laudatory guests and our more critical Cinapse Team on this film.

This didn’t end up being as warm of a sendoff as we anticipated but it’s an honest one. Regardless of how we feel about Scream specifically (and there was a pretty wide range of opinions), there’s no doubt that Wes Craven was an authentic horror legend and one hell of a director, and he will be sorely, sorely missed.

– Austin

Did you get a chance to watch along with us this week? Want to recommend a great (or not so great) film for the whole gang to cover? Comment below or post on our Facebook or hit us up on Twitter!

Next Week’s Pick:

With Cinapse favorite Mad Max: Fury Road slamming onto home video and the annual movie party that is Fantastic Fest looming, we want to highlight a previous FF title that trades in the stock of George Miller’s post-apocalyptic Australian vision — plus zombies! Wyrmwood, aka Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead, is our next Two Cents pick!

Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at)!

Our Guests

Nick Spacek:

Scream stands up to the test of time because, while it might be a self-aware horror movie, it’s still a capital ‘H’ horror movie that takes killing seriously, and whose tropes really haven’t changed in the last two decades. Take, for example, the new MTV Scream series — on paper, it’s something I should absolutely detest. There are technology-obsessed teens trading bon mots like characters in a Dorothy Parker story, the soundtrack’s nothing but a bunch of the hottest new acts … oh. Yeah. No wonder Scream works so well: it’s a distillation of slasher movie tropes into something that defies the viewer’s age. I saw the film when it premiered halfway through my senior year of high school, which might be the absolute perfect time to catch a movie wherein the characters are almost adults, but not quite, and exist in that strange high school world wherein there are adults, but they’re absolutely peripheral to what’s “important”. As a 17 year-old, I thought it was about how clever the kids are, and as an adult, I see that it’s about how clueless the kids really were. Not a bad trick, Wes Craven. Not a bad trick at all. (@nuthousepunks)

Dianna Koch:

There’s no doubt that Scream was made for horror cinephiles like us. We understand what we are watching, we get the references, we know the rules, but that never stops it from being engaging or unexpected. From that opening scene, and the prompt demise of the most well known cast member, we get a peek at just how clever this film really is. It gets so many things right during a time when the genre had run dry, but to call Scream “original” is a bit misleading. It’s almost Shakespearian at times, with its sharp tongued dialogue, conventional archetypes, and themes of appearance versus reality, sin and retribution, and loyalty. It’s smart and compelling, and the film itself is arguably original for owning its unoriginality. Scream critiques the genre, deconstructs it, then builds it up again. The result is a meta masterpiece. (@diannank)

Brendan Agnew:

Wes Craven more than deserves his immortalized stature as a master of horror, and Scream — easily his biggest success — certainly bills itself as a horror film.

But it’s not — not wholly.

This gets into the weeds of genre nitpicking, but so much of the hook that makes Scream compelling years after the 90’s has worn out its welcome and the oh-so-topical references (Tori Spelling?) have sunk into obscurity. The mystery. The constant shell game of motives and “who was where again?” whenever the killer strikes still holds up impressively well. It also helps that Neve Campbell as Sidney is far better than a lot of the movie around her, but the film actually manages to be very smart about its red herrings and misdirections. Which is a good thing, because BOY does the movie ever go out of its way to call attention to its own formulas, genre trappings, and inspirations (“Not you, Fred”).

But for all its mugging, Scream nails the fundamentals and sticks the landing. The finale almost turns into an action film, including a brilliant last-minute turning of the tables by Sidney. Taking out all the flavor-of-the-moment trappings, Craven’s talent still makes it clear why this was such a watershed moment for the genre. (@BLCAgnew)

The Team


Very few films have the ability to bring a seemingly dead genre back to life and revitalize it. Without ever meaning to, the now bonafide classic Scream managed to do just that. The film works in so many different ways. It’s a whodunnit, a slasher film and even a comedy.

The now iconic opening featuring Drew Barrymore being terrorized by a mysterious caller was a kind of energetic horror sequence never seen before and was even said to have inspired Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance in What Lies Beneath. That would have been enough to make Scream a memorable entry in the slasher canon, but director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson were able to craft a film which never lets go of neither the suspense Ghostface brings, nor the self-referential humor his victims possess. Every other scene is able to instill chills and while others feature some truly crackling humor aimed at the very kind of film Scream is.

Scream’s success spawned a series which included three sequels (one amazing, one awful and another pretty decent) as well as a TV series. Yet none of the different incarnations have ever managed to top the power of the original. (@frankfilmgeek)


To paraphrase Indiana Jones, “Scream. Why did it have to be Scream?” Of all of Wes Craven’s variable output, Scream is my least favourite. I know many love its supposedly ironic take on slasher flicks, with many citing it as breathing new life into a nearly-dead genre.

Although Wes Craven orchestrates all the stabbiness with aplomb (the initial Drew Barrymore terrorising scene is actually really well done), even his considerable talents can’t cover up Kevin Williamson’s insufferably smug and rote take on the horror classics of yore. Starring a constantly teary-eyed Neve Campbell mistaking having a jittery voice for ‘emotion’; chock-full of annoying teen archetypes spouting overly-expository smart-ass dialogue; and scattered with vague references to better horror films in a failed attempt at being meta before meta was even a term, Scream is neither as clever, scary, or funny as it thinks it is.

Any film that a) gives divorce as its killer’s motive and b) inspired the Scary Movie franchise does not deserve the critical adoration it received. Hey, I get Scream’s joke. It’s just not done well. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare did it better. (@jconthagrid)


My thoughts, in “scream of consciousness” (TM): I saw Scream in a mall as a teen and had to check the backseats of any cars I drove for weeks afterwards. It was an early foray into horror and at that time, it was fantastic. The movie doesn’t hold up well in 2015. In a post-Family Guy, post-Friedberg/Seltzer world, we’ve learned a collection of pop references and self-awareness do not good comedy make. Nothing felt funny or fresh this time around, just… self aware. That doesn’t cut it anymore. But it did then, and the impact it had upon release shouldn’t be shortchanged. Almost across the board, the acting and character work is poor, all in service to the high concept script and clever dialog. Matthew Lillard, however, delivers an unforgettable over the top performance which stands out from the rest. And while it was awesome to hear Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand” after hearing that track repeatedly through every episode of Peaky Blinders, the music is pretty rough as well. Wes Craven more or less invented meta-horror with the one-two punches of New Nightmare and Scream, but our meta-saturated culture has rendered Scream quaint. (@Ed_Travis)


There are an unfortunate number of dated or sloppy moments throughout the body of Scream, including an embarrassing quantity of ADR’d lines (especially with almost everything said by David Arquette and Matthew Lillard). And a lot of the things that must have seemed incisive or at least clever in 1996 now just seems grating and on the nose. Jamie Kennedy was clearly intended to be the audience surrogate character, and instead you just spend every second waiting for someone to punch his obnoxious, grating tool of a character in the face so he’ll stop yapping about his smug bullshit ‘rules’.

But Scream benefits from both a perfectly executed opening attack sequence, and a final act that is a sustained crescendo of horror goodness. Once the film gets whittled down to its core characters all running around a house with knife-happy murderers chasing them, Wes Craven clearly delights in staging all sorts of cause-and-effect mayhem. The film doesn’t seem as revolutionary in a culture where most everything is self-referential, but Craven’s mastery of the slasher-format and Kevin Williamson’s genuine affection for it gives Scream an energy and sense of play that still really works. (@TheTrueBrendanF)


This is a kind of heart breaking realization to be having, but here we go.

I legitimately do not like SCREAM.

Nostalgia tells me I should love it so much, it was such an important movie to me when it came out. I was convinced, after New Nightmare, that Wes Craven had hit his peak and it was silly to expect much more. Then Scream came out and I lapped it up like everyone else. It was no Nightmare On Elm Street but it was fun and exciting.

So why now, this viewing, am I so utterly bummed on it? The front and back are both fun, but do not do enough to justify this utterly boring middle. I hate the central mystery of it, I hate all the winking and cultural references, I just find all of it so contrived and sloppy and awful.


Are all my childhood joys destined to wither in the harsh light of contemporary scrutiny? Not sure, but this one did. So grating, so self satisfied, so lacking in suspense. I still love Neve Campbell but that is all I got. (@liamrulz)


Scream was an iconic movie of my youth. As a young teenager, the horror genre wasn’t one that I was fully invested in. I enjoyed a handful of “scary movies” and was a huge fan of The Monster Squad, but it was Scream that lured me into the genre in a way I’d never been lured before.

The film was not the first “meta” film in the genre, but it was the one that kicked off the trend. It is a fully self-aware film that uses subtle and clever parody to present a love letter to the genre. Craven’s place in the horror world allowed him to create such a film without anything appearing as mocking or derision.

Scream also introduced many people, myself included, to Rose McGowan. The future Marilyn Manson betrothed and Cherry Darling instantly became one of my fantasy ladies during the remainder of my teenage years and I remain a fan of her work and her beauty to this day.

Scream holds a dear place in my heart for helping develop my love of horror. And it’s still a blast to watch. (@thepaintedman)


Unlike most if not all of the other participants, this was my first viewing. Despite being a huge fan of A Nightmare On Elm Street and Craven in general, I’d never given Scream a watch.

There’s a lot of neat ideas here, pulled off with varying degrees of success. The concept of horror films inspiring real-world violence is a dangerous path to tread, but Scream handles it pretty intelligently, holding individuals responsible for their own actions without denying that life can imitate art.

The self-aware ribbing at the genre isn’t handled as neatly. It’s fun and sometimes clever, but the constant winking and unrealistic dialogue becomes grating and forced. Sure, we horrophiles will catch on, but are non-geeky kids really dropping casual references to films like The Town That Dreaded Sundown?

But criticisms aside, I still really enjoyed the film and am now trekking through the rest of the series. Major points awarded for the film’s mystery angle, which keeps the audience guessing, and a rousing finale that mixes shocks, laughs, scares, and cheers. It’s not Wes Craven’s finest hour, but it’s still an impressive showing. (@VforVashaw)

Wes Craven
 1939 -2015

R.I.P. and Godspeed

Did you all get a chance to watch along with us? Share your thoughts with us here in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook!

Get it at Amazon:
Scream — [Blu-ray] | [DVD] | [Instant]
Scream 1–4 Complete Series (Canadian) — [Blu-ray]

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