Posted by: joha5 | April 12, 2011

How Influential was ‘Scream’ on Hollywood Horror?

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly fifteen years since Wes Craven’s “Scream” hit theaters in 1996. While the slasher flick can easily be considered a Hollywood horror classic, it was released at a time when it seemed like the genre had little left to give audiences. Saturated with an unending string of sequels to movies like Halloween”, “Friday the 13th”, and Craven’s own “Nightmare on Elm Street”, slasher movies had long since faded as bankable Hollywood fare.

In fact, at the time of “Scream’s” release, the genre was essentially confined to the realm of straight-to-video releases. Keep in mind that the mid-’90s were the days when warehouse-sized video rental stores had shelves lined with bulky VHS tapes. Video rentals and Cable TV arguably helped to keep the slasher genre alive after the luster of big-screen scares had faded for most movie-goers.

One of the most iconic images from the 'Scream' series is - of course - the Scream mask.

Amid this atmosphere of darkened living rooms where fans huddled around VCRs to watch late-night classics, “Scream” was set to change things. The perfect spark to reignite Hollywood horror would end up being a film that poked fun at the slasher genre as much as it delivered on genre-perfect staples. Self-referential to an almost surreal degree, “Scream” worked as both horror and parody, reminding movie-goers what made the genre popular in the first place.

Now that Craven and his original cast have returned to the series after 10 years with “Scream 4”, it’s worth gauging just how influential the original really was. The 1996 film’s blockbuster success not only paved the way for a glorious resurrection of a genre once thought outdated, it spawned a fair share of unabashed imitators.

Hollywood not only re-embraced the genre, it actively sought to capitalize on “Scream’s” success by getting the film’s writer, Kevin Williamson, to adapt the novel “I Know What You Did Last Summer”. Released less than a year after “Scream,” the movie had big studio investment and a cast of hot young stars which included Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ryan Phillippe, and Freddie Prinze Jr. Like “Scream,” it was a box office hit, grossing over $100 million.

The less successful “Urban Legend” was released in 1998, hewing pretty close to its predecessors’ formula. The movie had an ensemble cast of young actors including Jared Leto, Alicia Witt, Tara Reid, and others. “Urban Legend’s” director Jamie Blanks would go on to film “Valentine” a few years later in 2001 with Denise Richards, Katherine Heigl, and David Boreanaz.

While spawning a line of new slasher movies headlined by star-studded casts, “Scream” was also a green light for older franchises to make a comeback. “Halloween,” which provided much of the inspiration for “Scream,” would get a reboot with help from no less than Kevin Williamson with 1998’s “Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later”. Although Williamson was uncredited for his work on the script, he likely helped make “H20” the highest grossing of the “Halloween” series at the time.

The were returns from classic villains Freddy and Jason in “Jason X” and “Freddy vs. Jason”. There would also be brand new sequels in the “Childs Play” series starting in 1998 with “Bride of Chucky”. Eventually, Hollywood opted for big-budget remakes of the originals themselves over more sequels, with remakes of “Psycho”, “Halloween”, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, “Friday the 13th”, and most recently “Nightmare on Elm Street”.” With Hollywood now banking on the same series “Scream” both parodied and paid homage to, the genre has definitely come full circle.

Barrymore was touted as the main lead in Scream. Who knew she would be dead within the first 15 minutes of the film?!

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