It is odd to think of Wes Craven’s 1996 film Scream as a comedy, when it is so utterly frightening. However, upon closer inspection, it is most evident that the film is a spoof of the 1980’s “slasher” films like another Wes Craven film A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) or Friday the 13th (1981). Scream achieves a level of satire from the very beginning scene, the scene that I will be discussing throughout this paper. With strategic staging, canted camera angles, over-the-top acting/writing, low key lighting, and a plethora of movie references, the film appears to be more tongue-in-cheek than it would first appear upon the first viewing.
Canted angle frames in film generally signals psychological distress. However, when used over and over again the effect diminishes and actually appears to be more comedic that psychologically unsteadying. One of the first instances of a canted angle is when Drew Barrymore’s character Casey Becker picks up the phone the second time when Ghostface calls.
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Wes Craven’s 1996 film Scream is something of an anomaly, effectively satirizing the typical American slasher film, but at the same time still completely belonging to the genre. The same cannot be said of the flood of “________ Movie”s that followed its release, which were completely comedy centered and wanted little to do with horror, or rom-coms, or whatever genre they were meant to parody. But just how does Craven allow this film to achieve full, very comedic self-awareness without sacrificing its membership of the slasher genre?
Both the comedy of the film and its thrills often come from the same general mechanism: a subversion of one’s subverted expectations. That is, exactly what one would expect – and exactly what the characters say will happen – is often what occurs. Screenwriter Kevin Williamson created characters who are somehow all horror movie buffs, as they constantly make allusions to other horror movies and their tropes, often saying things such as, “If this were a horror movie…”. Additionally, one character (Randy Meeks) works at a video rental store and is even more aware of horror movie tropes than the others. In fact, at one point, he outlines the three major rules that dictate who survives a horror movie:
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