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Episode 162 - Scream (w/ Benjamin Lee)


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Poll: Episode 162 - Scream (w/ Benjamin Lee) (27 member(s) have cast votes)

Should "Scream" enter The Canon?

  1. Yes (26 votes [96.30%])

    Percentage of vote: 96.30%

  2. No (1 votes [3.70%])

    Percentage of vote: 3.70%

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#1 Dalton Maltz

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Posted 08 July 2018 - 06:52 PM

Arts editor at Guardian US Benjamin Lee joins Amy for the penultimate episode of the season to discuss the 1996 Wes Craven slasher “Scream.” They break down the movie’s deceptive callousness, how it makes even popcorn seem stressful, and the go-for-broke score. Plus, they get into how “Scream” satirized and revitalized a whole genre with its “judo intelligence.”

#2 mrm1138

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Posted 09 July 2018 - 08:57 AM

I know this is off-topic, but I can't help but feel Amy and Ben both have a fundamental misunderstanding of Cabin in the Woods. Ben seems to have stopped listening to what Whedon was saying after "loving hate letter" and didn't bother trying to parse out what that actually meant. Whedon even explained it in the very next few sentences:

Quote

On some level it was completely a lark, me and Drew [Goddard, co-writer and director] trying to figure out what the most fun we could have would be. On another level it’s a serious critique of what we love and what we don’t about horror movies. I love being scared. I love that mixture of thrill, of horror, that objectification/identification thing of wanting definitely for the people to be alright but at the same time hoping they’ll go somewhere dark and face something awful. The things that I don’t like are kids acting like idiots, the devolution of the horror movie into torture porn and into a long series of sadistic comeuppances. Drew and I both felt that the pendulum had sung a little too far in that direction.


Amy saying that she only remembers characters being "dumber than dumb" is kind of odd because the movie itself directly comments on this. The characters had been selected in advance by the unnamed organization and were prepped to play their roles by unwittingly using mind-altering substances, Marty (Fran Kranz) being the only one unaffected because he was smoking a different supply of pot than the one the organization had tainted and given to him. There's even a scene where Curt (Chris Hemsworth) says that they need to stick together until gas is pumped into the cabin that makes him change his mind and tell everyone to split up. It's basically a different way of making the same point Sidney makes in Scream about "Some stupid killer stalking some big-breasted girl who can't act who is always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door." The difference is that Cabin in the Woods is more directly implicating the makers of horror films for these clichés; they're literally making the characters dumber so that they'll be killed.

It's one thing if you just don't like the movie or if you don't like the way Whedon and Goddard went about making their criticisms, but please don't misrepresent it to do so.

I highly recommend checking out the Faculty of Horror Podcast episode about the movie. For anyone unfamiliar with the podcast, it's hosted by two Canadian women who describe themselves as "horror journalists and occasional academics," and they take a very scholarly approach to the way they examine horror movies (often through a lens of gender studies).

http://www.facultyof...the-woods-2012/

#3 Johnny Pomatto

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Posted 09 July 2018 - 09:31 AM

I saw all the SCREAM movies once and never felt much of a need to revisit them. To me, they were never all that much more deeper or satyrical underneath their standard slasher surface. And the longer the franchise went on, the more strained the satire seemed to be. So I rewatched the first SCREAM this weekend with an open mind I gotta say I was shocked by how much I enjoyed it. I had forgotten how serious the first film was, before it became enveloped in its meta jokes and references. I remember the murder of Henry Winkler's principal at the time of my first viewing really disturbed me. That's not fair. He's not part of this! This isn't how the game is supposed to play. Suddenly this movie of slasher tropes stepped a bit into the real world, which was genuinely shocking and unsettling. The movie doesn't stay there too long though before moving to the last act in the house, and then it mostly roots itself in the ground that the franchise would settle into, but seeing the cheap robe and mask in daylight made that killer seem a lot more human. Anyone could put it on and be a killer.

I don't respond nearly as much to Jamie Kennedy's character and the conceit of following rules of a horror movie. I think a lot of this wasn't as original as fans claimed it to be. I'm a fan of the somewhat similar film POPCORN, and there's another 80's horror film that is even closer to the beats of SCREAM but for the life of me I can not remember the title nor find it online. It's something like "Enter Screaming," "Die Screaming," "Die Laughing..." Any ideas, Forum? I feel like the legacy of this film, aside from inspiring dozens of pale imitations, was that this was the franchise that acknowledged the tropes of horror movies to the point that its characters realized they were inside of one. But although I love the horror genre and have many many favorites, I don't think the lore and mythos of its structure is always so deep and uniform that it lends itself to four movies worth of insight to its themes. By the time they got to the third film they were really spinning their wheels, and the fourth film I remember desperately trying to make you remember what you liked about the first, while hoping you won't notice that they were just copying its same beats with just a rather forced twist ending that was preposterous even for this franchise.

But this film was undeniably hugely influential, and even if it was also influenced by others, this certainly made the bigger cultural splash. We're fortunate enough to have a lot of the films that SCREAM references already in The Canon, so I don't need to make difficult decisions there or weigh their quality against each other. And SCREAM remains influential and is continuously relevant in some ways, whether it be connections to real life school massacres or the rise of the incel movement. I was rather floored by Amy's connection there, never considering that Ulrich and Lillard act out of sexual frustration or revenge for past breakups. Perhaps Lillard's decision to kill McGowan is a preemptive measure to save himself humiliation for when this goddess realizes she's dating such a dweeb. While I've grown a fonder respect for this film than I ever thought I would have, to me the franchise never quite tops that opening sequence with Drew Barrymore. Watching it again, I forgot how much it scared me the first time I saw it. How being home alone did indeed add a new layer of fear from then on out. The sequence really is one of the most iconic for the horror movie genre, and for that alone I think I would vote YES into The Canon, though I'm surprised that there is a lot more to this film than just a great opening after all.

#4 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 09 July 2018 - 11:30 AM

View Postmrm1138, on 09 July 2018 - 08:57 AM, said:

I know this is off-topic, but I can't help but feel Amy and Ben both have a fundamental misunderstanding of Cabin in the Woods. Ben seems to have stopped listening to what Whedon was saying after "loving hate letter" and didn't bother trying to parse out what that actually meant. Whedon actually explained it in the very next few sentences:



Amy saying that she only remembers characters being "dumber than dumb" is kind of odd because the movie itself directly comments on this. The characters had been selected in advance by the unnamed organization and were prepped to play their roles by unwittingly using mind-altering substances, Marty (Fran Kranz) being the only one unaffected because he was smoking a different supply of pot than the one the organization had tainted and given to him. There's even a scene where Curt (Chris Hemsworth) says that they need to stick together until gas is pumped into the cabin that makes him change his mind and tell everyone to split up. It's basically a different way of making the same point Sidney makes in Scream about "Some stupid killer stalking some big-breasted girl who can't act who is always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door." The difference is that Cabin in the Woods is more directly implicating the makers of horror films for these clichés; they're literally making the characters dumber so that they'll be killed.

It's one thing if you just don't like the movie or if you don't like the way Whedon and Goddard went about making their criticisms, but please don't misrepresent it to do so.

I highly recommend checking out the Faculty of Horror Podcast episode about the movie. For anyone unfamiliar with the podcast, it's hosted by two Canadian women who describe themselves as "horror journalists and occasional academics," and they take a very scholarly approach to the way they examine horror movies (often through a lens of gender studies).

http://www.facultyof...the-woods-2012/


Amen! As I was listening to that, I was immediately thinking: "What a bad take on Cabin in the Woods." Also, seriously? Guys like Whedon and Goddard who ran a popular show about vampires for seven years are haters of horror? Please.

This almost biased me to vote against Scream, but no, the cultural impact of the movie is clear. Watching it again this week (I honestly didn't remember much from having seen it in the 90s) also revealed to me how well it works as a pure slasher movie unto itself. You almost don't need the Williamson dialogue to put a button on the references and deconstruction, because it comes through pretty clearly in the story and Craven's handling of it. So it's a yes vote from me.

#5 mjwilson

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Posted 09 July 2018 - 12:34 PM

View Postmrm1138, on 09 July 2018 - 08:57 AM, said:

Amy saying that she only remembers characters being "dumber than dumb" is kind of odd because the movie itself directly comments on this.


Maybe she means that the evil guys have a dumb plot? Or that the characters are dumb at the very end?

Anyway, I wanted to say that the idea that James Bulger's killers mimicked a Child's Play film has, as far as I can tell, been debunked.

#6 HoldenMartinson

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Posted 09 July 2018 - 02:29 PM

Echoing Cabin in the Woods sentiments, even though I don't really love that particular film.

Scream is neat for a lot of reasons. I mean, who better to comment on the state of horror over the last few decades than one of its architects? Certainly, there's an argument for a few different Wes Craven films--particularly Last House on the Left and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Here, though, Craven is firing on all cylinders, bringing all of his tricks and economy in storytelling to one of the great scripts of the 90s--'96 alone boasts Fargo, Trainspotting, Secrets & Lies, Mission: Impossible, Jerry Maguire, and a slew of other terrifically written films. Scream manages to feel tense, funny, and fresh, over two decades later.

As an aside--one of my earlier movie-going memories is my mom taking me to a drive-in double of feature of the '98 Godzilla and Scream 2. And maybe it wasn't The Hills Have Eyes, but I didn't grow up to be a serial killer. I mean, who knows, though.

#7 FictionIsntReal

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Posted 09 July 2018 - 08:37 PM

Horror (or perhaps more specifically) Slasher films can be divided into pre & post Scream. Some have blamed it for killing horror with irony and (in the short term) creating a crop of lamer teen movie imitators, but that kind of impact is the result of canonical movies. New Nightmare may be more "meta" (and closer to Cabin in the Woods), but it didn't have the same impact.

Speaking of Cabin in the Woods, I don't hate it, but I also think it leans too far into comedy to be horrific (the perfect blend is found in "You're Next"). We start out from the perspective of the technicians, so we're mostly laughing at the predicaments of the kids, but it's not so much that we're afraid when things start going wrong for them. Instead it's funny when a bunch of faceless grunts get killed by a grab bag of every goofy creature they could think of. That grab-bag approach (which can work in an Airplane style comedy, but gone overboard can result in a Friedberg & Seltzer "X Movie") makes it a commentary on horror generally rather than focusing on a specific sub-genre, so it can't be a member of a sub-genre either. An example of a movie which examines the slasher specifically while also loving slasher movies enough to be one is "Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon". It's not as polished as Scream, but I think people who enjoy one will likely enjoy the other, particularly if they want something to more explicitly grapple with the implicit ideas behind the tropes discussed in "Men, Women & Chainsaws". It is sort of like a more lighthearted version of the pitch-black Belgian comedy "Man Bites Dog", but you probably won't feel good after watching that.

It seems incorrect to me to refer to Billy as an "incel"*: he's got a pretty cool girlfriend in Sidney, and it's actually a deliberate point (on the part of both the filmmakers and the character) that he deflowers her so she doesn't fit into the virginal "final girl" mold. These two actually don't fit the mold of many previous horror villains who are twisted outsiders. They're reasonably well off and popular (Randy might be popular), but morally defective and enjoying the havoc they wreak. There is a little bit of a sense in which they're returning the slasher to its roots in giallo. Those films were Hitchcockian murder-mysteries in which the mystery took a backseat to the gruesome murders and eventually was discarded to create the simple slasher. Slasher villains were often unkillable and practically inhuman, which is admittedly scarier (and part of the reason The Terminator is sometimes lumped in with them). Craven himself had made a gruesomely disfigured child-murderer back from the dead to haunt dreams in his Nightmare series. Here we begin with the Michael or Jason style mask but end with these suburban Leopold & Loebs. The reveal that it was two killers acting as a team is a good one, as each can be used to prove the other must be innocent under the assumption there's just one. It was admittedly already done in the seminal giallo "Blood & Black Lace", but slashers had reigned long enough for that to work as a surprise again.
*Admittedly not as ludicrous as the Not a Cast guys using the term to refer to a character who is literally a pimp and derives much of his power from seducing a married woman away from her husband, particularly when Chett embodies the trope so much better in contrast.

One possible complaint about the film is that it gave people a stereotype about the slashers which preceded it which isn't entirely accurate. The final girl being a virgin (which is part of the plot of Cabin in the Woods and the more recent The Final Girls) is an example. In Halloween Jamie Lee Curtis' character might be relatively demure, but there's no indication that teens are being punished for breaking any of the rules laid out by Scream. Michael Myers is just an indecipherable malevolence who kills anyone in his path. Friday the 13th (which I admittedly haven't seen and only heard about) DOES explicitly have a killer punishing camp counselors for screwing around rather than doing their job to save a mentally challenged kid from drowning, but the final girl isn't a virgin and still triumphs in the end. I suppose the different movies got conflated together.

#8 jjulius

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Posted 10 July 2018 - 04:50 AM

View PostFictionIsntReal, on 09 July 2018 - 08:37 PM, said:

The final girl being a virgin (which is part of the plot of Cabin in the Woods and the more recent The Final Girls) is an example. In Halloween Jamie Lee Curtis' character might be relatively demure, but there's no indication that teens are being punished for breaking any of the rules laid out by Scream. Michael Myers is just an indecipherable malevolence who kills anyone in his path. Friday the 13th (which I admittedly haven't seen and only heard about) DOES explicitly have a killer punishing camp counselors for screwing around rather than doing their job to save a mentally challenged kid from drowning, but the final girl isn't a virgin and still triumphs in the end. I suppose the different movies got conflated together.


Scream never says you have to be a virgin to survive, just that you need to stay away from sex during the movie, which works for Halloween and Friday the 13th. We don't know if the final girls in those films are virgins, but they certainly don't have sex during the plot, as many other characters do.

#9 jjulius

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Posted 10 July 2018 - 05:01 AM

View Postmrm1138, on 09 July 2018 - 08:57 AM, said:

Amy saying that she only remembers characters being "dumber than dumb" is kind of odd because the movie itself directly comments on this. The characters had been selected in advance by the unnamed organization and were prepped to play their roles by unwittingly using mind-altering substances


Just because the movie acknowledges that the characters are dumb, and that's the point, doesn't make it less annoying if you don't like dumb characters, I suppose.

I don't care much for Cabin in the Woods, partially because it's much too pleased with itself. It's clever, but not as clever as it thinks it is, and not all that funny or scary. Plus, a huge part of it is the idea that the stock characters of horror are the virgin, the whore, the athlete, the scholar and the fool, which is dumb because no, they're not. I can't think of a single slasher or spam-in-a-cabin film that has those exact five characters.

#10 jjulius

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Posted 10 July 2018 - 09:29 AM

Yes!

I was twelve when I first saw Scream, which is probably the best age for it, because you're still looking forward to the life that the main characters are living. Horror is often more effective when it's about your future. I think that's one of the reasons Scream became a huge deal for my generation. As did, in my group of friends at least, its many imitators; to me, Urban Legend was just as good. Of course, I now see that Urban Legend is nonsense, but I am grateful to Scream for starting the wave of teen movies that played such a big role in coloring my pre-teen life.

As a Dutch person, I look at American movies from somewhat of an outsider's perspective, but they're so influential on the Dutch pop cultural experience that they feel very familiar as well. Weird things about American culture -- pancakes for breakfast! asking a date to the high school prom! baseball! -- don't stop being fascinating, but they also feel trusted. There are movies that make this exoctic culture feel close and palpable, like a good Western really makes the old West feel lived in. To me, Scream is one of those movies, filled with little details that give its world a sense of reality, making it really matter when people get killed.

By the way: it's funny that Amy mentions Slumber Party Massacre as an example of a trashy 80s slasher movie, because it was written by feminist activist Rita Mae Brown as a parody of slasher movies, and directed as a straight horror film by Amy Holden Jones. It's more a Cabin in the Woods than a Scream, though.

#11 EvRobert

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Posted 10 July 2018 - 12:50 PM

I saw Scream in 96 as a budding film buff studying television, radio and media. I didn't see it in the theaters but did catch it on video (so it might have been 97 at that point) and enjoyed it quite a bit.

Like Amy and Ben, I hadn't seen the films Scream was referencing. My first Nightmare film was New Nightmare. I didn't grow up on horror films, I grew up on action films, so while I understood that certain things were references, I didn't catch that they were references. That however, made me enjoy Halloween, friday the 13th, Hills Have Eyes, all that more.

I think Scream deserves to be in the canon because it is the perfect combination of Kevin Williamson's script (I don't feel he has written anything better--and I love The Faculty, but it is following the same beats) and Wes Craven's direction. It is the warm front of a new hungry scriptwriter hitting the cold front of a hungry older filmmaker who many probably considered past his prime.

As for Cabin In The Woods, I love that film to bits, but it leans a bit to much into the comedy to really comment on what they are trying to comment on, in my opinion. It's fun as hell, I love Bradley Whitford, I love Sigourney Weaver's character and I love the Lovecraftian meets Shirley Jackson idea it's working on, that there is a random lottery and people must be sacrificed to keep the old gods at bay, but I think it would have worked better if

(going to go ahead and spoiler tag this)

Spoiler


I still think the most natural film in the connection between Halloween to Scream to what SHOULD have been next isn't Cabin In The Woods, it's Trick R Treat. The anthology nature of that film really just worked for me in utilizing urban legends, stories we've seen before and a bit of moralizing.

#12 caringtype1

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Posted 10 July 2018 - 05:26 PM

I have never been a huge fan of horror movies, but I've loved Scream and its sequels since I was like 13. I only watched it because Drew Barrymore was in it, and since I already knew she died early, I was expecting to turn it off after Drew's death. To my surprise, I found those first fifteen minutes to be so gripping and chilling, I watched the entire movie and loved it. After that, I sought out the sequels, and after that, I went back to watch movies like Halloween. So it was definitely my gateway to horror movies. I'll never forget the time in my life when I thought of Scream as my favorite movie ever, and most of the reasons I loved it then still hold up. It has a smart script, genuine scares, and resonant performances. It's a definite yes from me.

#13 gloriacassidy1999

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Posted 10 July 2018 - 07:18 PM

I've never been particularly impressed by Wes Craven. He always struck me as derivative and inept. Did a crappy version of Bergman with Last House on the Left,a silly version of Texas Chain Saw Massacre with The Hills Have Eyes; Nightmare on Elm Street was a low grade patchwork of themes out of Brian De Palma, from Carrie through Dressed to Kill. Scream is Craven's bland synthesis of Tarantino; the Mathew Lillard character may even be a dig at Tarantino.

And I never found this film scary; the mystery seemed obvious, the style Dawson's Creek--the only thing that really surprised me about it was Courtney Cox's survival. I do think Nev Campbell isgood, but she's good in the wrong way. By giving a conventionally serious performance she reassures the audience that they are watching a normal movie,
can relax and have the usual pop reactions to it. Only Rose MGowan's character starts to reveal the kinky, creepy satirical potential underlying the material. There's no resonance to the killers' publicity-oriented motivelessness, not even a queasy homoerotic subtext to bother us; they appear to be nothing more than empty abstract plot functions clowning around about the fact.

Like Jurassic Park the movie makes fun of the very thing it's selling the audience, that viewers of horror movies ultimately have become de-sensitized to death, view even real murder and mayhem as movie-like entertainment; are prone to becoming copy cats just to get attention. But this idea is weightless and winkingly hypocritical, written with the glib contempt of a sharp advertising man using Tarantino's self-consciousness for op-ed zinginess. It has none of the idiosyncratic love-hate-love you sense working through Tarantino, whose Pulp Fiction was not only pastiche parody but a satirical rhapsody on the weird Quixotic essence of Pulp itself; how shockingly seductive cheap tawdriness could be even as it revealed a total moral vacuum. The movie deepened our understanding of how we interact with the fantasy of films and the way movies get at our secret desire to have our ids liberated and to transcend ourselves. Scream is merely a slick byproduct of this, and though it spawned several ripoffs it didn't really take horror in a new direction the way that Psycho or Chainsaw or Carrie or Halloween did. I am therefore a no on this one.

#14 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 10 July 2018 - 10:10 PM

View PostEvRobert, on 10 July 2018 - 12:50 PM, said:

As for Cabin In The Woods, I love that film to bits, but it leans a bit to much into the comedy to really comment on what they are trying to comment on, in my opinion. It's fun as hell, I love Bradley Whitford, I love Sigourney Weaver's character and I love the Lovecraftian meets Shirley Jackson idea it's working on, that there is a random lottery and people must be sacrificed to keep the old gods at bay, but I think it would have worked better if


I'd say that Scream and Cabin in the Woods take almost inverse approaches to deconstructing the genre (which is not to say that I think either approach is superior or evidencing of a greater "love" for horror). In Cabin, the plot itself is the commentary and the characters behave mostly normally within it. In Scream, the plot mostly works as a normal slasher film, but the characters are self-aware and comment upon it.

#15 bleary

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Posted 12 July 2018 - 07:24 PM

I'm not drawn to most horror films, but I especially don't like slasher films. And the first half of Scream played to me like a standard slasher film, and therefore was as disturbing/uninteresting to me as a standard slasher film.

The second half of the film was much more enjoyable to me. I liked the Scooby-Doo mystery aspects, and I thought the meta-commentary worked extremely well, particularly given how tricky meta-humor can be to pull off. I also enjoyed the slapstick aspects of it, as Ghostface's many pratfalls satirizing the unstoppable killer trope so effectively that Scary Movie could only copy it rather than parody it.

I was mostly won over by how fun the second half of the film was, but I'd probably be a soft no just on the film itself. However, the influence this film had in resuscitating a fading genre and inspiring movies for decades to come is substantial enough for me to give it a yes vote.

#16 Susan*

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Posted 12 July 2018 - 08:57 PM

I've only seen a few true horror movies, but I really liked Scream. You don't need much exposure to catch the references. In some ways, I like Scream 2 better -- I thought some of the actors were more fun to watch and I enjoyed the sequel references.

#17 davidpatricklowery

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Posted 14 July 2018 - 01:33 PM

Easy yes here. Definitely love SCREAM. I rewatched the original three a few years back and was amazed at how fresh and vital the first one still felt (although I do have a deep nostalgic fondness for the sequels - and yes, the fourth was legitimately pretty strong). Special shout-out for the consistent use of Nick Cave's Red Right Hand across the quadrilogy and for Marco Beltrami's fantastic score, which still sounds fresh and distinct and memorable twenty years later. Also, while listening to this episode, I realized that it was almost certainly this movie that instilled in me a deep fondness for dopey small-town deputies.