"Horror films don't create fear. They release it."
— Wes Craven
In 1996, my mom dropped my best friend, Matt Orwig and I off at the local multiplex so we could sneak in and see a horror movie that would redefine getting the hell scared out of you at the cinema called SCREAM. This film gave second wind and brought back the hyper-popularity to the seemingly retired slasher sub-genre, and SCREAM opened the floodgates for copycat movies that still follow its formula to this very day.
SCREAM is still so widely popular because it is a scary movie like none other. The very self-aware horror film winks at the audience as it lampoons all of the conventional slasher tropes by comically using them throughout the movie while still making moviegoers fear the reaper. SCREAM bleeds brilliance.
I became tenaciously obsessed with this movie. A year later, my mom took me to Suncoast Video (the same video store to give me my first job at 16) and I bought every version of SCREAM available on VHS, including the widescreen one (which taught me about aspect ratios) that exclusively had a few extra scenes in it. Like many of you reading this, SCREAM changed the way I saw slasher films, old and new.
A true and funny little story: My cousins Cameron and Tyler and I made our own SCREAM movie — I still have the tape, and maybe I'll share it with you one day. I was the maniac behind the mask, and it looked funny watching it on television because I was about 5'3" then and weighed a buck twenty wet. What was so hilarious was that the cousin (Cameron) being chased by Ghostface (me) towered by a good foot and his long arms could have made a fool of the supposed-to-be-menacing killer simply by stretching one out and placing the palm of that hand on the killer's forehead while the little lunatic swings away with the knife feet away from doing any harm to his victim. Circus music would play overhead, and it would have looked like some slapstick comedy skit from the silent era. The one-size-fits-all costume was so long on my little body; it looked like a pissed off Munchkin from the Lollipop Guild was hell bent on raising some terror.
To us, we made an incredible and scary movie of our favorite scary movie. It didn't matter that it was only two minutes long, full of continuity errors, cheap editing, and bad acting, it was a masterpiece, and our parents were kind enough to make us believe so.
Yesterday it was announced that Wes Craven, the slasher master responsible for SCREAM and one of the most iconic horror characters in film history, Freddy Krueger, as well as many other scary movies that would get the remake treatment decades later because they are that good, passed away from brain cancer.
The news of his passing is miserable, but it's comforting to know he lived a long, prosperous life and immortalized himself as one of the most prolific figures in cinema through his movies. He left us with a rather amazing body of work. Wes Craven was a rare breed with copious amounts of creativity who looked though the lens in a different way while taking giant leaps of faith, especially at the beginning of his career when all he had to work with was a shoestring budget and his wild imagination.
Rest in peace, Mister Craven. Thank you for the thrills and chills.