New Classics of the Horror Film Genre

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Dracula. Frankenstein. Godzilla. These monsters no longer strike fear into the hearts of viewers as they once did. Formerly the villains of the classic "monster movie," these relics, who now represent all that is archaic in horror film history. The monster movie of the past makes way for the thriller or slasher movie of the present, while the monster villain gives its role to the deranged, psychotic serial killer. Friday the 13th series, Nightmare on Elm Street, Copycat and Seven have become the new classics in the genre of the horror film. With films like The People Under the Stairs, Nightmare on Elm Street, and New Nightmare, Wes Craven has proven himself to be a master of the creation of modern horror films.

With recent masterpiece Scream, Craven shows his audience that he is not restricted by the typical conventions of the horror film. In most of these films, the background is set up before the killer does any actual slashing. However in Scream, Drew Barrymore's character is tormented by the killer from the film's very beginning and both she and her boyfriend are dead less than ten minutes after the opening credits. Craven manages to make Scream a film of less "fluff" and more substance than most thrillers. Recurring themes in the film, such as the lack of teens' seriousness, the callous nature of today's younger generation, the crossover and confusion between reality and movies, and the negative representation of television media not only add to the film's entertainment value, but also often portray a fairly accurate picture of twentieth century America.

Despite all the film's blood and gore, Craven creates a comedic tone so successfully that at times the audience wonders whether Scream might be a comedy after all. Even though the safety of their small town has been shattered by a deranged serial killer, the characters do not seem to take the situation very seriously. The main characters are eating lunch at school the day after the first murders and, as might be expected, the killings make up the topic of their conversation. At one point, the character Randy turns to Tatem, and in a convincing imitation of Billy Crystal, he asks her, "Did they really find her liver in the mailbox? Because I heard they found her liver in the mailbox." Tatem and Sidney, the other female present and the movie's main character, cringe at this tasteless remark. Tatem'...

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...ssuring that we remain productive m mbers of society (King 500). So, perhaps if you are in need of this type of therapy, or in search of an offbeat study in American popular culture, all that you need is a good horror film. Rent Scream or go to a movie theater to see the sequel. You will probably be surprised by what you see, and you might even be impressed.

Works Cited

Craven, Wes. Interview. Fresh Air. National Public Radio. KQED, San Francisco. 16 February 1998.

King, Stephen. ãWhy We Crave Horror Movies.? Common Culture.

Petracca, Michael and Madeleine Sorapure, eds. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1995.

Pinedo, Isabel Cristina. Recreational Terror: Women and the Pleasures of Horror Film Viewing. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997.

Works Consulted

Grant, Barry Keith, editor. Planks of Reason: Essays on the Horror Film. London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1984.

Newman, Kim. Nightmare Movies. New York: Harmony Books, 1988.

Riptov, S.A. Kidnapped Corpus Whasamat Univ. Press, 1984

Scream. Dir. Wes Craven. With David Arquette, Neve Campbell,

Courteney Cox, Skeet Ulrich, and Drew Barrymore. Dimension Films, 1997.
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