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West Virginia University Practical Magic And Scream Film Questions

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Full Question

Scream (1996).
Dir. Wes Craven
WGST 150
If a grade review was requested, it will be re-read. We are human. Miscalculations
occur. No worries.
250 students = all levels; multiple disciplines
I’m bypassing the grade appeal process for film analysis 1 and taking the time to read
and annotate. Please be patient for detailed feedback.
Lowest film analysis grade drops. 🙂
Email forthcoming with more film analysis feedback and suggestions for next one
Overall Suggestions: Avoid plot summary. Answer the question fully. Use readings
and lecture notes. Use resources available such as TAs, me, writing studio in Colson,
Horror Genre History
•Response and reflection to social trauma
•Metaphor for political & social anxieties;
• representation of modern fears on screen
• What is the true source of horror? Humans
or Monsters?
Slasher Genre
also known as a “splatter” or “shocker” films, slashers as “the immensely
generative story of a psycho-killer” who “slashes to death a string of mostly
female victims, one by one, until he is himself subdued or killed, usually by
the one girl who has survived” (Clover 187).
we experience scenes from killer POV in pursuit
of the victim
camera is hand-held = jerky image,
frame includes in-and-out-of-focus foreground
objects The killer is lurking behind them.
•heartbeats & heavy breathing.
Slasher Genre Conventions
5.Terrible Place
The Final Girl
“The image of the distressed female most likely to linger in memory is the image of the one who did
not die: the survivor… She is the one who encounters the mutilated bodies of her friends and
perceives the full extent of the preceding horror and of her own peril; who is chased, cornered,
wounded; whom we see scream, stagger, fall, rise, and scream again. She is abject terror
personified.” (Clover)
•Masculine Qualities (athletic build, sometimes in name) or Gender Neutral Name (Ripley, Sid, Laurie)
•Virginal / Unavailable
•Intelligent / Resourceful
•Often first to grasp the severity of the situation
•Actively defends herself, often killing or injuring the Killer
•Even though she fights back, she is often saved by a male in the end
Audience identifies with her regardless of gender
Other filmmakers figured out that the only
thing better than one beautiful woman being
gruesomely murdered was a whole series of
beautiful women being gruesomely
–Schoell (from Clover)
“extensions of the body that bring attacker and attacked into primitive,
animalistic embrace” (Clover).
•Guns are rarely used
•Preferred death implements include: knives, hammers, axes, chainsaws, hooks,
pitchforks, needles etc. (many phallic symbols)
•Serve as an extension of the body
Fascination with flesh/meat
Victims- Gender Differences
•Illicit Sex and Drugs = DEATH
Males often die because they make mistakes, females often
die simply because they are female (and usually naked)
•Males die quickly, female death scenes are drawn out
•Male death scenes are often shot at a distance, whereas
female death scenes are up close and very graphic
Killers (default is male)
Urge to kill stems from childhood experience
Large, recognizably human
Virtually indestructible (seems to never die)
Masked or scarcely scene
Misfit / outsider
Female Killers
“Female killers are few and their reasons for
killing significantly different from men’s…they
show no gender confusion…their anger
derives in most cases not from childhood
experience but from specific moments in their
adult lives in which they have been
abandoned or cheated on by men.” ~Clover
Carol Clover, author of Men, Women, & Chainsaws:
Gender in Modern Horror Films
Terrible Place
”most often a house or tunnel, in which the victims sooner or later find
themselves is a venerable element of horror.”
Location is often dark, damp, exit-less, maze-like, filled with ducts and
plumbing for possible escape routes
•house or tunnel
•Victims caught inside
•Appears to be a safe haven to keep killer out’
but holds victim in once killer penetrates.
•Trespassing is a
•popular plot element
Attendance Q.1
Identify and describe
one of the Horror Genre
2.5 points for identification
2.5 points for description (5 pts total)
Postmodernism Approach to Horror: Mixing it up
Questioning of Authority & “Truth”
Fear & Satire
Teen Slasher is resurrected by Wes Craven and
Scream is born
INTERTEXTUALITY – Allusions to other horror
–Notes the “rules” of horror
–Blends other genres (romance, comedy)
–Example: Intertextuality in “The Simpsons”
•While watching…
–There are MANY, MANY references to horror classics;
find them!!!
SELF-REFLEXIVITY (“meta” commentary)
Making reference to artificiality
While watching…
–Think about the film’s move to call attention to horror tropes,
the presence of the camera, etc.
–How is Scream the “same” as other horror films? (i.e. what
tropes does it reproduce?) How is it different? (i.e. how does
it break the rules of the genre?)
Ex: Fresh Prince Breaks the Fourth Wall –

Questioning of Authority & Truth
–postmodernism (post WWII)
–Difference between “Truth” and “truths”
–Break down of order
•While watching…
–Note moments when authority figures (parents, teachers,
news casters, police) fail
–Note moments when the film discusses MOTIVE
–Cynicism meets anxiety meets humor…
–1990s teen audience:
•Targets “cynical, young, new audiences who believe very
sincerely that they’re smarter than the movies they see” (Wee
•While watching…
–What does the film present as terrifying?
Attendance Q2 (5 pts). Write clearly please
Wes Craven wrote the film Scream as
a postmodern horror film, which
A. Intertextuality and Self Reflexivity
B. Fear & Satire
C. The questioning of authority and
Truth & Self Reflexivity
D. Scream is not a postmodern
horror film
E. Self Reflexivity, Intertextuality,
Questioning Authority Truth, and
Fear & Satire
Film Viewing Questions
1.Identify some of the references to horror classics.
2.How is Scream the “same” as other horror films?
(what tropes does it reproduce?)
3.How is Scream different from other horror films?
(How does it break the rules of the genre?)
4.Identify and describe scenes in which authority fails.
5.What does the film present as terrifying?
Attendance Q3
1.How does Scream portray the
final girl trope? Is it reproduced,
changed, or both? Explain how.
(5 pts)
2.How is Scream different from
other horror films? (How does it
break the rules of the genre?).
Answer cannot refer to the final
girl. (5pts.)
•Clover, Carol J., “Her Body, Himself.” Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film.
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992.
•Keisner, Jody. “Do You Want To Watch? A Study Of The Visual Rhetoric Of The Postmodern Horror
Film.” Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 37.4 (2008): 411-427. MLA International
•Lyotard, Jean-François. “The Postmodern Condition.” Rivkin, Julie and Michael Ryan eds. Literary
Theory: An Anthology, 2004.
•Modleski, Tania. “The Terror Of Pleasure: The Contemporary Horror Film And Postmodern Theory.” Film
Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings. 691-700. New York, NY: Oxford UP, 1999. MLA International
•Muir, John Kenneth. Horror Films Of The 1990s. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011.
•Scream. Dir. Wes Craven. 1996
•Short, Sue. Misfit Sisters: Screen Horror As Female Rites Of Passage. New York, NY: Palgrave
Macmillan, 2007.
•Wee, Valerie. “Resurrecting And Updating The Teen Slasher: The Case Of Scream.” Journal Of Popular
Film And Television 34.2 (2006): 50-61. MLA International Bibliography.
•Wee, Valerie. “The Scream Trilogy, “Hyperpostmodernism,” and the Late-Nineties
•Teen Slasher Film.” Journal of Film and Video 57.3 (2005): 44-61. Academic Search Premier.
Resurrecting and Upd
The Case
Abstract: The author examines the Scream trilogy and disputes the perception that the series is conservative and reactionary in its politics. She argues that the films reflect specific 1990s American concerns and contends that the distinctive treatment of the slasher villain and final female survivor reflect a progressive, revolutionary stance.
Key words: Final Girl, Scream, serial killer, slasher film, teen film(s)
n December 1996, Dimension Films, a subsidiary of Miramax Films, released Scream,
a slasher film that actively plays with the established conventions of the familiar genre.
Scream and its sequels went on to resurrect the dormant slasher flick,1 spearhead the
media industry’s interest in the teen market, and reshape the teen movie for a new generation of paying moviegoers.
While the Scream trilogy has received its share of scholarly attention, many of the existing examinations focus primarily on its postmodern elements, with numerous discussions centering on the heightened self-reflexivity and intertextuality that characterize the
three films in the series.2 Less attention has been paid to the ways in which the films have
updated the defining conventions of the slasher-film genre—in particular, how the series
has revised the treatment of the monster-villain and the final female survivor, two of the
key narrative elements central to the slasher-film genre. This article focuses on these two
elements and considers how they have been reshaped to reflect the contemporary issues
and concerns relevant to the teen generation that came of age during the final years of the
twentieth century.
Of the existing studies that have focused on these two issues, the general trend has been
to dismiss the Scream films for failing to sustain the established elements of indestructible
villains and self-reliant female survivors. The films have also been criticized for their
Copyright © 2006 Heldref Publications
ating the Teen Slasher
of Scream
seemingly conformist stance with regard to mainstream ideologies. Sarah Trecansky, for
instance, notes that the Scream trilogy’s villains are distinct deviations from their predecessors; unlike the indestructible Freddy Kruger (A Nightmare on Elm Street, 1984) and
Michael Myers (Halloween, 1978), Scream’s various villains are less-than-formidable adversaries who are comparatively more easily defeated. Trecansky has similarly argued that
Scream’s female survivors represent a regression from the capable, self-determined, more
politically progressive Final Girls (35) of earlier, classic slashers such as Friday the 13th
(1980) and A Nightmare on Elm Street. According to Trecansky, Sidney Prescott (Neve
Campbell), Scream’s heroine of a sort, harks back to an earlier version of the female survivor as victim who relied on others to save her life (72). Finally, in discussing the politics of the Scream films, Trecansky is particularly critical of the Scream series’ depiction
of a relatively benign, if ineffectual, range of authority figures, including fathers and members of the police force (72). Scream’s treatment of all three narrative elements has caused
Trecansky to dismiss the series as largely conservative. While this may be one possible
way of reading the series’ characterization of the slasher villain and survivor, I believe that
a more in-depth study of these elements, with a focus on relating their depiction/revision
to contemporary issues and concerns, would be fruitful in highlighting the films’ complex
attempts at negotiating contemporary cultural and social anxieties. Rather than dismiss
these recent incarnations as simply regressive or reactionary, I would suggest that these
texts were actively engaged in commenting on and negotiating the threats, fears, and concerns that characterized 1990s American society in general, and American teenagers—the
films’ target market—in particular. Indeed, I would argue that a careful consideration of
the Scream films’ revision of the traditional conventions of the slasher genre, far from
being conservative or reactionary, reflects a distinctly revolutionary stance.
The Scream advertising campaign placed shaken, yet strong
women in the spotlight.
To fully grasp the contemporary
state of the teen slasher film and the
ways in which the ‘90s versions represent a departure from its predecessors, we must first address the historical precedents set in the genre’s earlier cycles.
The Teen Slasher Film: Tradition
and Evolution
The teen slasher film came into its
own in the late 1970s and quickly became one of the most popular subgenres of horror in the decade that followed (Clover 24; Ryan and Kellner
191; Tudor 68–72). Scholars generally
agree that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Halloween were the
original films that generated the cycle
(Clover 24; Tudor 198). Both pioneered films in a number of ways:
1. They featured imperiled, sexually
attractive women being stalked by
a knife-wielding serial killer and
included scenes of unexpected and
shocking violence and brutality—
conventions that would eventually
be associated with the slasher
2. They initiated the tradition of having a group of young, often teenage
people as victims (Ryan and Kellner 191; Tudor 70), introducing the
youth-focused element that marked
the arrival of the teen-oriented
slasher film.
3. They inaugurated the virtually indestructible, psychotic villains associated with the slasher film
(Clover 30; Tudor 68).
4. They originated the trend toward
spin-offs, sequels, and imitators,
sparking off a rash of successful
slasher-film franchises (Ryan and
Kellner 191; Tudor 199).
The success of The Texas Chainsaw
Massacre and Halloween paved the
way for other slasher film series, including the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street series. A study of
the box-office gross of key slasher
franchises highlights the popularity
and profitability of these movie franchises. The first Halloween film cost
$325,000 and grossed $47 million.
The first Friday the 13th cost
JPF&T—Journal of Popular Film and Television
$700,000 and grossed $37.5 million,
while A Nightmare on Elm Street cost
$1.8 million and grossed $25.5 million. During the 1980s, the first few
sequels in each franchise grossed as
much as, if not more than, the original—the third and fourth installments
of Friday the 13th (released in 1982
and 1984, respectively) grossed in excess of $30 million, while A Nightmare on Elm Street, Part 2 (1985),
Part 3 (1987), and Part 4 (1988)
grossed $30 million, $45 million, and
$50 million, respectively, marking the
heyday of the teen slasher genre. With
the release of each installment in these
film series, the conventions of the
taboo and encroaching vigorously on
the pornographic, the slasher film lies
[. . .] by and large beyond the purview
of respectable criticism,” notes Clover
(21). Pinedo similarly observes that
the slasher film is generally considered “the most disreputable form of
the horror film” (71).
Despite the narrow constraints of
the genre’s familiar conventions and
the often controversial portrayals of
violence and brutality, the films did attract some scholarly attention, particularly in terms of how they appeared to
deal with a range of contemporary issues and concerns. Film scholars, such
as Ryan and Kellner, Pinedo, and
Despite the genre’s
increased popularity, it remained a largely denigrated
and often-censured genre
among both critics
and scholars.
genre were repeated and consolidated
in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
The popularity of these films has in
fact been tied to the increasing familiarity of these conventions. As Andrew
Britton notes,
It became obvious at a very early stage
[in the slasher film’s cycle] that every
spectator knew exactly what the film
was going to do at every point, even
down to the order in which it would dispose of its various characters, [. . . yet,]
the film’s total predictability did not
create boredom or disappointment [—at
least not initially]. On the contrary, the
predictability was clearly the main
source of pleasure, and the only occasion for disappointment would have
been a modulation of the formula, not a
repetition of it. (qtd. in Clover 9)
Despite the genre’s increased popularity, it remained a largely denigrated
and often-censured genre among both
critics and scholars. “Drenched in
Williams, have highlighted the link
between slasher films and real life.
Ryan and Kellner, for instance, argue
that horror/slasher films, with their extreme depictions of violence and terror
“indicate heightened levels of anxiety
in the culture, particularly with regard
to the family, children, political leadership, and sexuality” (168). Pinedo
similarly remarks how “the horror film
is an exquisite exercise in coping with
the terrors of everyday life [. . .] the
pain of loss, the enigma of death, the
unpredictability of events, the inadequacy of intentions” (39). As Williams
notes, “Although most commentators
dismiss these films as worthless trash,
they are symptomatic of their particular era and deserve attention” (183).
Pat Gill, Sarah Trencansky, and Tony
Williams have argued that the
horror/slasher films of the late 1970s
and early ‘80 reflected the zeitgeist of
Resurrecting and Updating the Teen Slasher
those eras by exhibiting a declining
faith in family and the adult world. In
“The Monstrous Years: Teens, Slasher
Films and the Family,” Gill examines a
range of slasher films, including Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street comparing the
films’ narrative themes to larger social
developments in American society, including rising divorce rates, changing
family structures, and evolving cultural
emphases on adult needs at the expense
of children and youths (18). According
to Gill, Halloween and the other slasher films that followed appear to suggest
that “the horror derives from the family
and from the troubling ordeal of being
a late-twentieth-century teenager” (16).
These films “show teenagers in peril,
with no hope of help from their parents” (Gill 17). As Trencansky points
out, “A consistent theme in these slashers is the depiction of youth subjugated
to an adult community that produces
monsters” (68). Williams concurs, noting that films such as A Nightmare on
Elm Street “indicts the adult world, presenting parents as weak, manipulative,
and selfish” (229).
By the mid-1980s, however, the
slasher film appeared to reach a point
of exhaustion. Many of the films released in the late 1980s and early
1990s were final installments of franchises that were popular during the
previous decade, and a large number
of these were straight-to-video releases. Unlike the profitable earlier installments, most of which earned significant box office, the franchises’ later releases had significantly diminished
box office grosses. Halloween Part 6
(1995), the final installment before
1998’s Halloween: H20, grossed $15
million. The last Friday the 13th
(1993) grossed $16 million, and the
final A Nightmare on Elm Street made
$18 million at the box office in 1994.
While these grosses are still considerable in light of their lower budgets,
there was a significant drop-off in the
films’ box office compared with their
peak grosses in the mid-1980s. It
should also be noted that the films
mentioned here belong to initially
popular, and particularly high-profile,
branded franchises. As such, they were
“Mr. Ghostface,” the indestructible, unrelenting
villain, haunts the Scream series.
able to sustain public interest and popularity for a longer period than lesserknown slasher films.
By the early 1990s, the number of
slasher film releases had fallen sharply.
This decline was due to a combination
of factors. The formulaic nature of subsequent low budget, independently
produced slashers—and the excessive
repetition in the form of sequels, remakes, and imitations—inevitably led
to the audience’s overfamiliarity with
the genre, so that “by the end of the
decade the form was largely drained”
(Clover 23). Furthermore, the teens
who first embraced and nurtured the
genre had aged out of the demographic. Major studios were also turning
their attention away from teen audiences at that point. In fact, as Leonard
Klady noted in Variety in 1997,
The teen audience [. . . has] largely been
ignored by the majors for the past five
years. Major hits in recent memory
aimed at 16- to 24-year-olds have been
scarce [. . .]. Much more attention has
been paid to creating event films meant
to appeal to the full spectrum of filmgoers, or niche appeal family films and
movies for thirtysomethings and older
that had crossover potential. (Klady
Consequently, the teen slasher
genre fell into dormancy between the
late 1980s and mid-1990s. Dimension
chief Bob Weinstein recalled that prior
to Scream’s 1996 release, “There were
no movies being made for teenagers
anymore. It had become an adult oriented business. I knew there was an
audience that was not being satisfied”
(Orwall D15).
By the mid-1990s, however, the
teen audiences that were largely ignored by the movie studios and the entertainment industries in general, were
staging a demographic comeback. Retailers, marketers, and other entertainment industries began noticing the
teen demographic’s increasing numbers and burgeoning spending power.
At the end of the twentieth century,
America witnessed the emergence of a
generation of teenagers who had few
time constraints, large disposable incomes and a growing need to assert
their independence. As Universal’s
marketing president, Buffy Shutt,
noted in 1997, “Young people are beginning to assert themselves in a way
that they haven’t for a long time” (Orwall D15). Studios began attending to
population data that showed “the
North American teenage population
rising to more than 55 million by
2005—larger than the original baby
boom at its peak” (Orwall D15). Entertainment corporations began to realize that these significant demographic
numbers meant that teenagers were
again a viable niche market.
In December 1996, prompted by the
entertainment industry’s growing interest in the teen demographic, Dimension released Scream.4 The film
would eventually result in the resurrection of the slasher film and a reinterpretation of the genre’s overfamiliar
conventions for a new teen generation.
The film’s phenomenal success also
provided proof of the demographic’s
significance and led to the reshaping
of 1990s teen culture.5
In the mid-‘90s, reviving the tired
and disreputable slasher genre posed a
challenge. As a genre, the slasher film
was languishing at the bottom of the
horror heap. Most slasher films had degenerated into straight-to-video, Bgrade releases with low production values and weak acting. If Dimension
hoped to resurrect the slasher film, it
would need to find a way to retain
many of its conventions while simultaneously updating the material and redefining the genre for a 1990s-era
teenage audience. The late 1990s teen
was a new and distinct demographic.
Media obsessed and, hence, popculture literate, extremely self-aware,
and cynical, this brand of teen was very
different from every previous teen cohort. Dimension chief Bob Weinstein
realized that the late-1990s teen generation was probably already overly familiar with the established conventions
of the slasher film and would never accept a mere retread of the old genre
(Eller, “What about Bob?” A1). Furthermore, while the previous conventional target audience for slasher films
was adolescent boys,6 in the mid1990s, adolescent girls were emerging
as the more significant filmgoing de-
JPF&T—Journal of Popular Film and Television
mographic. In 1995, teenage girls were
largely responsible for the $57 million
US box office success of Clueless
(1995), a romantic comedy about a
high school girl’s romantic misadventures. A year later, William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (1996), also
targeted at the teen-girl demographic,
grossed $46 million domestically.7
While traditional wisdom argues that
the slasher genre skewed toward adolescent male audiences, Weinstein, established horror-film director Wes
Craven, and then-unknown scriptwriter
Kevin Williamson were keen to revive
the genre with the conscious intent of
making it more relevant to female audiences, a point that I return to in the
penultimate section of this article.
These considerations would ultimately impact the nature, content, and
structure of the Scream films. How did
the Scream films update the slasher
genre for a new late-1990s teen audience? What identifying characteristics
did these films possess? How did the
Scream trilogy speak to its target demographic of teenagers in general and
teen girls in particular?
Reinventing the Slasher Genre
With renowned horror auteur Wes
Craven and scriptwriter Kevin
Williamson, Dimension embarked
upon a project that consciously tried to
reshape and update the genre. The creators decided to exploit the audience’s
familiarity with the genre’s conventions by creating a film that would
comment on the highly formulaic nature of the slasher films while simultaneously playing off of the established
traditions. A significant portion of the
films’ aesthetic style and content are
almost entirely derived from previous
slasher films. One of the most overt
strategies involved the deconstruction
of the genre’s conventions and the insertion of tongue-in-cheek intertextual
and self-referential comments, highlighting the Scream trilogy’s debt (and
similarity) to earlier slasher film classics. This particular characteristic has
received significant attention and discussion, with scholars like Pinedo and
Tietchen commenting on the highly
postmodern quality of the films. Many
of the Scream trilogy’s elements,
therefore, functioned to highlight the
films’ own artificiality, acknowledging
their status as popular culture and as
consumable media products.
It should be noted, however, that
Scream’s distinction as a ‘90s teen text
is not restricted to its postmodern
qualities. While the films’ postmodern
elements are significant, the trilogy
has also reconfigured some of the
genre’s more traditional, established
elements—specifically, the trilogy’s
reinterpretation of the female victimhero stereotype, as well as its reconsideration of the slasher villain. These
two conventional elements have been
reshaped in ways that redirect the traditional trajectory of the genre and
offer interesting insights into contemporary social and cultural concerns
and ideologies.
Reconsidering the Psychotic Serial
One of the more distinctive ways in
which the Scream trilogy breaks with
the slasher-film tradition involves the
portrayal and reinterpretation of the
familiar slasher villain/monster. In
films such as Psycho (1960) and The
Texas Chainsaw Massacre, through
the Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A
Nightmare on Elm Street series, the
traditional villains are almost consistently characterized as psychotic, virtually indestructible maniacs.
Tudor notes that a psychologically
disturbed, “near superhuman, male,
masked killer who preys upon young
people, mostly females” lays at the
heart of the traditional slasher film
(68). According to Clover, typical villains are often “misfits and outsiders.
[. . .] They are usually large, sometimes overweight, and often masked.
In short, they may be recognizably
human, but they are only marginally
so [. . .]” (30). Acccording to Trencansky, “Freddy, Jason and Pinhead [of
the Hellraiser series] are the rejected,
marginalized underbelly of society, the
traits that suburban America represses
and denies,” and as such, they are representations of the abject (70).8 As
Kristeva argues, the abject is defined
as that which does not “respect bor-
Resurrecting and Updating the Teen Slasher
ders, positions, rules”; the abject “disturbs identity, system, order” and ultimately threatens life (4). These slasher
monsters, therefore, belong outside the
normal, the healthy, the safe, and the
familiar. As representations of the abject, these figures ignore the traditional boundaries that separate the living
and the dead. In almost every case, the
traditional slasher villain is infinitely
revivable, effectively eluding death
and destruction indefinitely, emerging
as “supernaturally resurrected [. . .]
monsters” in sequel after sequel
(Williams 216). Gill labels “Michael
and his compatriot slashers [. . .] the
hobgoblins of childhood fantasy, inde-
alized monsters in the tradition of
Leatherface, or the supernatural Freddy Kruger, nor are they “seemingly invincible psychotics” (Tudor 69) in the
tradition of Michael Myers and Jason.
While still psychologically disturbed
maniacs, Scream’s villains are not
misfits or outsiders, nor are they the
uncharacterized monsters typical of
earlier slasher films. Instead, the
killers in Scream are seemingly normal, attractive, popular people, often
“insiders,” boyfriends or friends who
initially appear harmless until they go
on a killing spree. Trencansky notes as
much when she acknowledges that “in
the Scream and [I Know What You Did
The teen slasher
genre fell into
dormancy between
the late 1980s
and mid-1990s.
structible beings who seem able to be
everywhere and do anything” (24).
Clover, similarly, notes the killers’
“virtual indestructibility. Just as
Michael (in Halloween) repeatedly
rises from blows that would stop a
lesser man, so Jason (in the Friday the
13th films) survives assault after assault to return in sequel after sequel”
(30). Clearly, the convention of the undefeatable psychotic murderer/slasher
has been reinforced historically across
numerous films. Scream, a film that
positions itself securely within the
genre, would have been expected to
recognize and replicate this most significant and consistent element of the
genre. Interestingly, the film’s creators
adopted a novel reinterpretation of the
In Scream (and its subsequent installments), the killers are not margin-
Last] Summer (1997) series, the monster is changed from a supernatural
force to a resolutely ordinary person,
human, personally troubled, and usually a member of the heroine’s close
circle of friends” (71).
If, as has been noted earlier, slasher
films articulate the fears and concern
prevalent in their respective eras, then
Scream’s reinterpretation of the killers
as the evil within, its portrayal of
seemingly ordinary teenagers turned
serial killers seems particularly contemporary and relevant in light of the
real-life incidents of teenage violence
occurring in American high schools at
the end of the twentieth century. As
Ryan and Kellner note,
During times of social crisis, several
sorts of cultural representations tend to
emerge. Some idealize solutions or alternatives to the distressing actuality,
some project worst fears and anxieties
induced by the critical situation into
metaphors that allow those fears to be
absolved or played out, and some evoke
a nihilistic vision of a world without
hope or remedy. (168)
The Scream trilogy can certainly be
read in the above terms. Like its slasher predecessors, the trilogy acknowledges and confronts the key anxieties
of its era. If the 1980s slasher films
portrayed parents and family as ineffectual protection against evil, and in
fact suggested that adults and authority
figures were the source or cause of
evil’s emergence, the Scream trilogy
offers a world in which evil is more
closely aligned with the victims. In
these later films, evil resides within the
teenager’s group of friends; in every
case, it is the victims’ close friends and
lovers who are the unsuspected monsters. As Trencansky argues,
each decade embraces the monsters that
speak to it: If the villains of popular late
1990s slashers are embraced by the
adolescents today, perhaps it is because, in a culture of sudden random violence, exemplified in the school shootings that originate from one of their
own, a villain that looks just like them
makes sense. (73)
Despite recognizing the possible
link between Scream and actual high
school violence, Trecansky does not go
on to interrogate the connection in any
detail, as the focus of her paper lies
elsewhere. While I agree with Trencansky, I also believe that Scream’s reinterpretation of the evil within goes beyond offering its viewers a potentially
recognizable and terrifyingly familiar
villain. Pinedo maintains that “horror
renaturalizes the repressed by transmuting the ‘natural’ elements of everyday life into the unnatural form of the
monster [. . .]. This transmutation renders the terrors of everyday life at least
emotionally accessible” (39). As such,
the trilogy’s portrayal of seemingly ordinary teenagers turned serial killers is
a direct commentary on the demons
and terrors that impact actual
teenagers’ lives in the light of real-life
teenage violence in high schools across
America, of which the tragic events in
Arkansas; and Columbine, Colorado,
JPF&T—Journal of Popular Film and Television
Dial Scream for Murder: Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell)
battles wits and will with her adversary.
are only the most publicized. The
Scream trilogy, therefore, offers its
teen viewers a form of cathartic release
by exploring the terrors associated
with high school, unexpected violence,
and the difficulty of knowing or trusting one’s peers. If, as Trecansky
(71–72) argues, “the objective for the
heroine becomes constant suspicion, a
‘whodunit’ of sorts in which the only
way to survive is to constantly suspect
one’s fellow youth,” then Scream must
be credited for acknowledging and addressing the very real fear and paranoia
experienced by high schoolers during
the late twentieth century. Indeed, the
trilogy’s representation of seemingly
average, ordinary teenagers whose
transformation into disgruntled, dysfunctional youth who slaughter their
unsuspecting friends is particularly relevant to the films’ target audience.
Scream’s exploration of the contemporary situation does not end there.
Each film in the series also addresses
the impact of media violence on the
(teenage) individual, a topic that was
hotly debated in the weeks following
the tragic events in Columbine, and
that continues to resonate with parents, legislators, and media watchdogs. Certainly, much of the trilogy’s
treatment of this particular issue tends
to be ironic and tongue-in-cheek. In
Scream, both the unmasked killers
facetiously mention media violence as
a possible influence while discussing
their actions. In Scream 2 (1997), one
of the villains mentions that he intends
to cite exposure to media violence as
part of his legal defense. Far from approaching the topic seriously, the villains adopt an overtly smug attitude
when discussing the situation, suggesting that media violence is, at best,
a convenient scapegoat. Consequently,
it is difficult not to be cynical and read
the film’s derisive response to the no-
tion that the media play a role in shaping teen behavior as anything but selfserving. Yet, the opposite belief that
violent films are solely responsible for
the kind of high school violence that
had become terrifyingly common in
the late 1990s might also appear overly simplistic and reductive.
Interestingly, the Scream trilogy,
unlike the traditional slasher film, refuses to provide a clear explanation or
motivation for the characters’ turn to
violence. In the Nightmare and Friday
the 13th series, we learn that Freddy
and Jason, respectively, are motivated
primarily by revenge, while Michael,
in Halloween, is driven to kill as a result of his anger at his sister’s neglect
of him. In the Scream trilogy, such
overt and apparent explanations are
absent. While one of the killers claims
to have been motivated initially by his
father’s extramarital affair, this explanation is only offered in passing and
Resurrecting and Updating the Teen Slasher
fails to adequately account for the
multiple random murders he then goes
on to gleefully commit in the first installment of the trilogy. The films thus
seem reluctant to offer any clear motivation for the killers’ actions and seem
almost to imply that it is the acts of
murder and terrorism themselves that
amuse and excite the villains. In the
sequel, Sidney’s murderous classmate
also offers a less-than-convincing explanation for his behavior: he says he
was committing the murders as part of
an experiment to test the effectiveness
of citing media violence as his defense. While a range of familiar scapegoats are mentioned in the films, including dysfunctional families, the influence of media violence, and the
undue influence of a psychologically
deranged and murderous mentor, none
of these ultimately emerge as unequivocal reasons for the ensuing carnage.
In the same way, the Scream trilogy appears to break with the earlier slasher
film tradition, in which larger social
problems are indicted for creating the
films’ monsters. Classic slashers, including Halloween, the Nightmare series, and the Friday the 13th franchise
have been praised for offering progressive critiques of society and its values.
These earlier films tended to adopt a
critical stance on reactionary patriarchal
values, on authority figures, as well as
on middle-class values. In contrast, the
Scream trilogy has been criticized for its
benign representations of society and
Society is presented as functioning well,
in no need of change or transformation.
Authorities, like the sympathetic cop
Dewey who stars in each Scream and
Sidney’s loving father, are likely to be
blameless; they too are on the side of
the heroine against the “other.” (Trecansky 72)
These observations have led Trencansky to dismiss the trilogy as “conservative,” suggesting that “these patterns serve to subvert [the] more progressive ideology of the 1980s films”
(72). I would suggest that rather than
espousing a conservative, reactionary
ideology that supports established authority and existing social values, the
Scream films may actually be offering
another comment on the real-life violence witnessed in the high school
shootings, in which clear-cut explanations and causes, let alone solutions,
are unavailable. The Scream films’ inability to offer a concise, convincing
reason for how these monsters came to
be, in a sense reflects American society’s inability to understand how
seemingly ordinary teenagers can
morph into cold-blooded mass murderers.9
In fact, I would argue that far from
being reactionary or regressive, the
trilogy may be revolutionary, particularly in its treatment of the monstrous
killer and the survivors. In a traditional slasher series, the killer survives and
orchestrates a return to torment and
kill another group of teenagers. As
Clover points out, “the killers are normally the fixed elements and the victims the changeable ones in any given
series of the 1970s and early ‘80s
slasher films” (30). In the Nightmare
series for instance, Freddy works his
way through a series of female hero-
film. This familiar narrative trajectory
is rejected in the Scream series. The
trilogy, in contrast, reverses the tradition, maintaining the longevity of the
victim/survivors and introducing new
villains with each installment. This reversal is noteworthy and resonant because in doing so, the trilogy preserves
the significance and importance of the
(female) survivors over that of the
killer, while inverting the genre’s traditional conventions. The female survivors ultimately displace the killers
as the recurring characters and effectively adopt the central narrative roles.
This effectively allows the female
characters to develop and evolve
across the film’s various installments.
Reinterpreting the Final Girl
The slasher film has always maintained a complicated relationship with
gender. As Clover observes, “the independent, low-budget [horror] film tradition has been central in the manufac-
Renowned horror auteur
Wes Craven and scriptwriter
Kevin Williamson decided to
exploit the audience’s
familiarity with the genre’s
ines: Nancy, from the first film, is replaced by Lisa in the sequel, and in the
third installment, Freddy battles
Kirsten, while Alice becomes his adversary in the fourth. While it is true
that “none of them dies without first
training a new girl to carry on the fight
they have started” (Trecansky 66), the
fact remains that these heroic women
consistently fail to defeat and outlive
their tormentors. Although these earlier women must be credited with ferociously fighting against the monster,
the fact remains that they all succumb
and are destroyed in the subsequent
ture of the new ‘tough girls’ that have
loomed so large in horror since the
mid-seventies,” a period that witnessed the rise of the feminist movement in the United States (6). At the
same time, the slasher film’s raison
d’être is the torture and often brutal
killing of nubile young women.
While we can trace the evolution of
the 1990s slasher film’s tough girl to
her predecessors who populated the
genre in the 1970s and early ‘80s, the
‘90s version has been revised to reflect
more contemporary concerns. The
Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hal-
loween are two of the early films that
introduce the tough teenage girl who
survives numerous violent attacks by
the murderous, psychopathic villain.
This girl’s survival prompted Clover to
dub her the “Final Girl,” for she is
commonly the last person left alive at
the end of the film (35). It is worth
noting that in both The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween, the
Final Girl’s survival is dependent on
an external savior. In the final moments of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Leatherface and Hitchhiker’s
final victim manages to escape to a
highway with the killers in pursuit.
She is finally saved by a passing pickup that takes her to safety. Likewise, in
Halloween, the Final Girl (Jamie Lee
Curtis) is saved by Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence), the psychiatrist who
treated the killer. Clover correctly suggests that horror-slasher films of the
1970s and early ‘80s tend to represent
the female as both victim and hero simultaneously (4). In these early slasher films, female heroism is defined
more in terms of the Final Girl’s ability to survive and escape numerous attacks than in her ability to triumph independently over her tormentor(s). In
the instances in which the female actually does triumph over her persecutors,
Clover points out that the victory
comes at a price. In a number of slasher films of the period, the depiction of
the female hero/victim who independently and successfully defends herself is negatively marked. Such a representation exists in a subgenre of horror that introduces the female victim
as monster. Citing Carrie (1974) as
one example, Clover explores the
complex nature in which the title character morphs from victim to hero to
monster, encompassing all these characteristics simultaneously (4).
By the 1980s, however, these earlier
conceptions of the Final Girl had given
way to a more capable and active version. According to both Clover and
Trencasnky, “in the major 1980s slashers [. . .] the Final Girl is depicted as
more powerful than ever before”
(Trencansky 64). Films like Friday the
13th, Slumber Party Massacre (1982),
A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Texas
JPF&T—Journal of Popular Film and Television
Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) all present Final Girls who manage to both
survive numerous attacks and dispatch
the killers by themselves. These Final
Girls are exceptions to the norm and
are marked accordingly. As Clover
points out, while the typical female
victim is sexually active, the Final Girl
is not; where the former is naive and
oblivious, the latter is “watchful to the
point of paranoia” (Clover 39). The
Final Girl is also “intelligent and resourceful in a pinch [. . .]. The Final
Girl is boyish, in a word” (Clover
39–40). These final girls are clearly
the predecessors to the capable, brave,
and active girls in the 1990s slasher
cycle. However, there have been further developments in the more recent
incarnations of the Final Girl.
loween, A Nightmare of Elm Street,
and Hellraiser] are firmly entrenched
as outsiders within their worlds, even
among other adolescents” (Trencansky 68). In contrast, Sidney is an ordinary high school girl: she is popular,
has a boyfriend, and a group of closeknit friends. While the traditional
Final Girl is distinguished from the
other characters by her virginity and
seeming prudishness, Sidney, initially
a virgin, eventually has sex, though the
audience and the characters on the
screen know that conventionally, “sex
equals death.” In keeping with the conventions, Sidney is consequently attacked and victimized. Yet, against the
established rules, she escapes postcoital death and manages to overcome
the villains. Conversely, the virgin,
Scream redefined the genre for
the 1990s and also successfully
made the genre relevant to the
adolescent female moviegoer—
a demographic and consumer
market traditionally ignored by
the genre.
Along with reenvisioning the monster/villain, Scream also rewrote the
conventional representation of the
Final Girl, offering viewers female
characters who, while victimized, still
manage to overcome their tormentors
and emerge as heroes who triumph
using their own merits and abilities.
Scream also deviates from the tradition by offering two Final Girls: Sidney Prescott and Gale Weathers
(Courteney Cox-Arquette).10 One of
the more interesting aspects in Scream
involves the representation of these
Final Girls who break with a number
of the genre’s conventions. The traditional Final Girl is a “[figure] of rebellion against society, the heroine and
other characters in films [such as Hal-
who, in classic slasher films, was always a female, the main character, and
the sole survivor, was reconceptualized to renovate the genre’s traditional
gender conventions. In Scream, the
requisite virgin is Randy (Jamie
Kennedy), the male slasher-film fan
who articulates the genre’s rules and is
a self-confessed virgin. While he is
just as susceptible to violence, brutality, and death as the sexually experienced, he is little more than a sidekick
in Scream. In a self-conscious twist to
the format, when Randy is violently
attacked and almost killed, he is saved
by the no-longer-virginal Sidney. In
addition to acknowledging (while simultaneously rejecting) the conventions of the slasher conventions, this
Resurrecting and Updating the Teen Slasher
particular development is a noteworthy advancement on the conventional
sex-role stereotypes associated with
the traditional slasher genre. Significantly, Sidney is not the outcast of the
Carrie variety, nor is she the boyish
virgin of Halloween.
Gale Weathers, the television journalist, is an even greater deviation
from the Final Girl norm. She is career
oriented, selfish, vain, ambitious, and
largely amoral, yet she emerges as a
Final Girl at the end, allying herself
with Sidney and helping to destroy the
killer. While these two women begin
as adversaries, they are able to overcome their differences and work together to defeat their mutual demons.
These Final Girls save themselves, and
each other, without acquiring any
monstrous connotations. More important, with the exception of Sidney’s
androgynous name, neither one is
marked as particularly boyish nor are
they actively differentiated from the
other women in the film. Sidney and
Gale, therefore, do not conform to the
traditional characterization of the
Final Girl, whom Clover describes as
“compromised from the outset by her
masculine interests, her inevitable sexual reluctance, her apartness from
other girls” (48). Rather, both Sidney
and Gale triumph over their ordeals
and even forge a bond that includes the
other survivors from the first film.
This group of survivors continues to
support and aid each other as they attempt to put their traumatic experiences behind them and go on with
their lives. And they continue to help
each other through the continuing
cycle of violent events that follow in
the later installments.
Scream also goes against a related
genre convention in which the monster’s victims and the Final Girl traditionally survive only to suffer from
“societal rejection” (Trencansky 69),
which often entails some form of
physical confinement. As Trencansky
highlights, the young people in Freddy’s Dead (1991) are incarcerated in a
home for delinquent youth, while A
Nightmare on Elm Street exiles its
Final Girl to a mental institution. In
contrast, the Final Girls in the Scream
series not only triumph against their
persecutors but eventually transcend
their terrifying experiences to emerge,
in the final installment, as independent, (relatively) well-adjusted, functional individuals with a place in society. At the end of the trilogy, we see a
less-selfish Gale engaged to another
survivor, while Sidney appears to
have finally laid her fears and demons
to rest and appears determined to go
forward with her life surrounded by
her friends.
The fact that these Final Girls survive through all three installments is
significant and represents a clear deviation from the traditional slasher
movie convention of killing off the
Final Girl in each subsequent sequel.
One of the ironies of the conventional
teen slasher film lies in the fact that
while the Final Girl is strong, resourceful, and powerful enough to seemingly
defeat the monster, she almost never
survives for long. In many cases, she
never succeeds in out-surviving the
monster. As Williams points out,
A Final Woman may fight and sometimes defeat the monster. But her ultimate victory is undercut either by eventual death in a sequel (Adrienne King in
Friday the 13th, Part II; Heather Langencamp in A Nightmare on Elm Street
III: Dream Warriors) or insanity (the
heroines in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre I and II; Friday the 13th: Part II
and III; and Hollowgate [1988]). (214)
In all of the films mentioned, it must
be acknowledged that the depiction of
the Final Girl, while progressive, is
also limited. In fact, the inevitable
death of the Final Girl in the traditional slasher series appears to represent a
very conservative ideology in which
capable, independent young women
must inexorably be contained and/or
destroyed for fear they trouble patriarchy further (Ryan and Kellner 192).
By comparison, the Final Girls in the
Scream trilogy subvert this trend. Sidney and Gale are not women who survive a single film only to be summarily dispatched in the sequel. Unlike
previous Final Girls, Sidney and Gale
outlive every psychotic killer they encounter and in doing so, ultimately
emerge physically, mentally, and emo-
tionally stronger. Scream, therefore,
celebrates Sidney and Gale’s abilities
to survive and thrive.
Having Sidney and Gale remain as
the central characters throughout the
trilogy and prompting audiences to follow them on their continuing journey
also emphasizes the female-centered
core of the films. Rather than build a
series around an indestructible monster
who constantly returns to wreak more
destruction on new groups of women
in each new cinematic installment, the
creators of the Scream films have broken with tradition and chosen to highlight the strength, power, and resilience
of the female survivors. This is a new
treatment of the Final Girls, who
emerge as women, are not defeated, do
not die, and most important, continue
to persevere against the various bogeymen/monsters that they encounter in
their lives as depicted by each sequel.
Retaining the surviving Final Girls
through the trilogy was also a particularly effective way of retaining audience loyalty because audiences kept
returning to the subsequent releases to
follow their favorite characters’
growth, evolution, and development
over the complete run of the series.
Unlike the traditional slasher series,
“Scream ‘[plays] more like a continuing serial because it’s the same characters who survived the first movie, and
people have an affinity for these characters,’ Weinstein said, adding that test
audiences cheered when cast members
first appear on screen” (Eller, “Word
of Mouth” D1).
In reconceptualizing the role of the
Final Girl, Scream redefined the
genre for the 1990s and also successfully made the genre relevant to the
adolescent female moviegoer—a demographic and consumer market traditionally ignored by the genre. The
female audiences’ responses to slasher films have been the subject of
scholarly discussion, with the genre’s
ambiguous hostility toward women
prompting debate on whether female
viewers can legitimately find pleasure in such texts. Sarah Trecansky
notes the tendency to dismiss “a female horror viewer [as either . . .]
blindly perpetuating oppressive
norms, or else misunderstanding
what she is seeing” (64). Isabel Pinedo has noted that “the female viewer
[of slasher films is often] accused of
masochism or the female fan [is] labeled an apologist for a woman-hating genre” (69). Clover, however,
claims that the A Nightmare on Elm
Street series had some success in attracting adolescent females (23). The
traditional consensus, however, was
that the slasher film remained a distinctly male-oriented genre.
This perception was revised in the
late 1990s in the wake of a demographic that was becoming increasingly significant and influential. Much of
Scream’s success came from appealing
to this overlooked segment of the horror
audience: teenage girls. According to
Wes Craven, writer Kevin Williamson
intentionally oriented Scream’s narrative toward concerns particularly relevant to teenage girls. Williamson explained, “I try to write very smart
women [. . . who have to] deal with issues of betrayal and trust” (Weeks
1A).11 One of the Scream trilogy’s primary interests focuses upon the nature
of boyfriends, who Williamson presents
as “ordinary people [. . .] capable of
great deception” (Weeks 1A). The
films’ plots essentially examine the
issue of trust in romantic relationships,
using the slasher film conventions as an
allegory through which we explore the
turmoil of female adolescence. Sidney’s
horror at discovering that she had unknowingly dated the boy who raped and
killed her mother may be read as a
metaphor for every teenage girl’s fear
that she does not really know her
boyfriend. The fact that Sidney discovers this after she sleeps with him introduces another issue of concern to
teenage girls: the boyfriend who turns
against his girlfriend after sex. Craven
in fact has remarked that the Scream series “has the emotional appeal of a soap
opera, which he thinks plays better to
woman than men. There are secret
loves, haunting pasts, snobs, nerds and
badly behaved boyfriends, twists that
normally drive soaps” (Weeks 1A). That
Sidney refuses to let these betrayals destroy her and that she learns self-reliance and independence and success-
JPF&T—Journal of Popular Film and Television
fully overcomes the numerous events
that threaten her is a particularly empowering message for teenage girls.
These generic revisions coincided
with, and were perhaps a consequence
of, the rise of the teenage girl as a key
target consumer. If young males were
the target audience for the slasher
genre in the past, the young female
emerged as the ideal(ized) target audience at the box office in the 1990s,
even for a genre as conventionally
male oriented as the horror-slasher
film. Neal Moritz, producer of teen
films, including the teen slashers I
Know What You Did Last Summer
(1997) and its sequel I Still Know
What You Did Last Summer (1998), as
well as Urban Legend (1998), claims
that “all our research led us to believe
that it’s best to target young females.
The guys who want to go on dates will
follow” (Wloszczyna 1D). Furthermore, according to CNN box office
analyst Martin Grove, “[Teenage girls]
tend to go to the movies in groups,
which adds to the excitement of what’s
happening on screen” (Wloszczyna
1D). And as Titanic (1997) proved,
teenage girls are willing to watch a
film over and over again if it manages
to capture their imagination.
It is clear that Scream’s femaleoriented perspective contributed significantly to its box office success. The
film became a cult classic for young
women and girls. USA Today reported
that “Typically, only about 1% of
moviegoers will pay to see a film more
than once. With Scream, an estimated
16% of women age 25 and under who
saw the film in theatres went more
than once, according to polling by Miramax. By comparison, only 3% of
young men who saw Scream returned
for additional screenings” (Weeks
1A). By broadening the slasher film’s
appeal beyond the young male demographic and actively appealing to
young women, the three installments
of the Scream series grossed $293.5
million domestically, the highest combined box office for a horror franchise
(Chetwynd and Seiler 4E), far exceeding the combined box office of other
series such as Halloween and Friday
the 13th, which had multiple sequels.
Scream and its two sequels deserve
credit for breaking away from the traditional form of the slasher and updating several key conventions. In doing
so, the films received both critical and
box office success and resurrected a
largely dormant genre, making it relevant to a new generation of teenagers.
Furthermore, the filmmakers successfully attracted the teenage girl audience, a demographic not associated
with the genre historically. Finally, the
trilogy made a significant impact on
the entertainment industry. Scream’s
success in 1996 proved that teenagers
could be lured back to the multiplex
and sparked off a new cycle of slasher
films for the late 1990s.
No longer neglected by the entertainment industries, teenagers returned
to the multiplex in droves. By 1998,
Variety was reporting that 92% of
teens surveyed by the Artist Rights
Foundation in Los Angeles and the
Boston-based Institute for Civil Society said they regard watching films as
their number-one pastime. The survey
also revealed that 68% had seen a
movie within the previous week; a statistic considerably higher than in the
spring of 1993, when only 55% said
that they had watched a film in a theater in the preceding seven days. According to the survey, 82% of
teenagers watch at least one movie in a
theater each month, while 87% watch
one video at home in the same period;
30% watch at least three theatrical releases a month, while 65% rent at least
the same number of videos; just 8%
buy tickets to five movies a month, although as many as 49% rent that many
films on tape (Madigan 3). In 1999,
when the Motion Picture Association
reported huge box office numbers for
1998, with $1.48 billion in tickets
sold, it revealed that moviegoers aged
12 to 24 years accounted for 37.4%,
while audiences 25 to 39 years old accounted for 27.4% and those over 40
years, 35.3% (Reality Check M1).
This noteworthy increase in
teen/youth film attendance was, in
many ways, a direct result of the increasing numbers of teen-oriented
films that the studios were actively re-
Resurrecting and Updating the Teen Slasher
leasing in the late 1990s. In the five
years following Scream’s release, numerous other teen horror and slasher
films followed, including I Know What
You Did Last Summer, Disturbing Behavior (1998), Halloween: H20,
Urban Legend, I Still Know What You
Did Last Summer, The Faculty (1998),
Final Destination (2000), and Urban
Legend 2 (2000). These subsequent releases provided an indication of the
extent to which Scream had revive the
dormant slasher film.
1. See Wloszczyna.
2. See Tietchen.
3. Certainly, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween were not the originators of these narrative elements. As Clover
points out, Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) is
one of the earliest incarnations of the
slasher film (14).
4. Brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein,
launched Dimension Films fourteen years
after they formed Miramax in 1979. Where
Miramax focused on financing and distributing low-budget, independently produced,
intelligent, art house fare largely ignored
by the established studios in the 1980s,
such as Steven Soderberg’s Sex, Lies and
Videotape (1989) and Neil Jordan’s The
Crying Game (1992), Dimension allowed
the Weinsteins to pursue their alternative
interests in producing low-budget, mainstream genre movies—particularly horror,
sci-fi, and action films.
5. Prior to Scream, there were two other
relatively high-profile live-action teen oriented films. One was Clueless, a 1995 high
school romantic comedy starring Alicia
Silverstone. Aimed at teenage girls, the
film did very well at the box office, grossing $57 million (for some perspective, the
1989 teen “hit” Heathers grossed $1.1 million). A year later, William Shakespeare’s
Romeo and Juliet, starring Leonardo Di
Caprio and Claire Danes, also did well at
the box office. While these two films can
be credited with indicating just how valuable and significant the teenage girl market
could be, as well as hinting at the teen
movie-going market’s potential, I do not
consider them the films that motivated the
resurgence of the “teen pic” in the late
1990s. Neither Clueless, nor Romeo and
Juliet, inspired studios to begin churning
out teen films in bulk the way Scream did.
It was only in the wake of Scream that the
studios began producing a slew of slasher
films intent on repeating their predecessors’ success. In addition, neither Clueless
nor Romeo and Juliet inspired the intense
amount of media discourses declaring the
resurgence of the teen market that Scream
ultimately did.
6. As Clover notes, “the majority audience, perhaps even more than the audience
for horror in general, was largely young
and largely male [. . .]. Young males are
also [. . .] the slasher film’s implied audience, the object of its address” (23).
7. Titanic (1997) later confirmed the
power of the teenage female demographic.
A significant portion of the film’s phenomenal $600 million domestic gross was the
result of teenage girls who saw the film
multiple times.
8. Please see Clover and Trencansky for
a more developed discussion of the slasher
villain’s abjection.
9. According to a 1999 Gallup Poll at, “America’s teenagers put the
blame for tragedies such as the Littleton
school shooting directly on themselves
rather than on parents, gun laws or media
violence. An earlier poll of adults showed
a markedly different result with most surveyed blaming parents and families for the
10. I disagree with Trencansky, who argues that Scream is regressive in its portrayal of the Final Girl, claiming that Sidney harks back to the 1970s victim/hero
who constantly relies on others to rescue
her, suggesting that “these [. . .] films are
not a process of emotional and physical independence for the heroines” (72). Furthermore, Trencansky restricts her discussion of the Final Girl to Sidney and fails to
mention Gale in her discussion.
11. Certainly, Williamson’s Dawson’s
Creek has found popularity with teenage
girls with its presentation of female characters who are grounded, smart, brave, and
Chetwynd, Josh, and Andy Seiler. “Expectations Rise for ‘Scary’ Body Count.”
USA Today 23 June 2000: 4E.
Clover, Carol. Man, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror
Film. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1992.
Eller, Claudia. “What about Bob?” Los Angeles Times 6 Apr. 2001: A1.
———“Word of Mouth; Sleeper Spawns a
Franchise as Sequel to Scream Has Fans
and Execs Abuzz.” Los Angeles Times
12 Dec. 1997: D1.
Gallup Poll. 1999. .
Gill, Pat. “The Monstrous Years: Teens,
Slasher Films, and the Family.” Journal
of Film and Video 54.4 (2002): 16–30.
Klady, Leonard. “Studios Focus on Teen
Stream.” Variety 9–13 Jan. 1997: 11–12.
Kristeva, Julia. Powers of Horror: An
Essay in Abjection. New York: Columbia UP, 1982.
Madigan, Nick. “For Teens, Movies Are a
Big Deal, Really Big.” Variety 2–8 Nov.
1998: 3–4.
Orwall, Bruce. “Teen Tidal Wave Hits Hollywood in the Head.” Toronto Star 19
Dec. 1997: D15.
Pinedo, Isabel Christina. Recreational
Pleasure: Women and the Pleasures of
Horror Film Viewing. Albany: State U of
New York P, 1997.
“Reality Check—What’s Up with All the
Hot Teen Movies?” Seattle Times 4 Apr.
1999: M1.
Ryan, Michael, and Douglas Kellner.
Camera Politica: The Politics and Ideology of Contemporary Hollywood Film.
Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1988.
Tietchen, Todd F. “Samplers and Copycats: The Cultural Implications of the
Postmodern Slasher in Contemporary
American Film.” Journal of Popular
Film and Television 26.3 (1998):
Trencansky, Sarah. “Final Girls and Terrible Youth: Transgression in 1980s Slasher Horror.” Journal of Popular Film and
Television 29.2 (2001): 63–73.
Tudor, Andrew. Monsters and Mad Scientists: A Cultural History of the Horror
Movie. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989.
Weeks, Janet. “Scream Movies Cultivate
Special Audience: Girls.” USA Today 12
Dec. 1997: 1A.
Williams, Tony. Hearths of Darkness: The
Family in the American Horror Film.
London: Associated UP, 1996.
Wloszczyna, Susan. “Scream 2 Takes a
Stab at Sophistication.” USA Today 12
Dec. 1997: 1D.
VALERIE WEE is an assistant professor
of English language and literature at the
National University of Singapore. She has
published articles in Kinema and Journal
of ISSEI. She has also contributed chapters
to Postcolonial Cultures and Literatures:
Modernity and the (Un)Commonwealth
(Peter Lang, 2002) and Teen Television:
Genre, Consumption, Identity (BFI, 1998).

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