The Slasher Franchise to End All Slashers
The 1980s was a prolific decade with the rise of numerous recognizable franchises from the slasher genre. Some of the popular franchises include A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Child’s Play. The ’90s were not as kind to the genre until the end of the decade, which introduced the Kevin Williamson era with films such as I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Faculty, Halloween H20, and most notably, Scream.
Directed by the late Wes Craven, the original Scream film ushered the horror genre into an era of meta-comedies and a new age of slasher, distancing themselves from the cheesy sequels that plagued the late ’80s and early ’90s. The film rose above these cliques by being clever and aware of the genre tropes. Most notably, the franchise also freshened up the slasher genre by adding elements unseen in previous franchises.
A New Slasher Icon
Franchises such as Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street needed to offer creative ways to keep the villain returning for new installments. By the end of most of the films, Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, or Jason Voorhees would be killed or at least defeated by the main protagonist, only to return for another quick cash-in sequel. Whether the character is constantly brought back from the dead, in the case of Jason Voorhees, or the writers would write some bizarre explanation as to how the killer survived the previous installment, such as with Michael Myers, franchises relied on the same killer for each film. Scream took a different approach by having every installment include a different killer.
Unmasking The Killer
Adding to the uniqueness of the franchise, Scream also became known for its whodunit approach. The mystery of not knowing who’s hiding under the Ghostface mask not only provided an iconic mask for the horror genre but also gave a thrill factor in each movie. Like any good whodunit, the film teases the audience by keeping them guessing the identity of the killer. Everyone becomes a suspect as the films typically give the main cast a motivation for the killing spree.
The Rules of the Genre
A crucial aspect of the Scream franchise are the rules that characters will abide by. The original film stated the rules for surviving a horror film, shining a light on the formula of the past couple of decades of films. This paved the way for the characters to be smarter than other horror characters while also making them aware of these other films that are referenced in the movies.
Each subsequent film created new rules for the films. For example, the second film commented on sequels, the third trilogies, the fourth reboots, and so on. These added layers of commentary to each film, allowing them to poke fun at common traits while having fun with them at the same time.
Another typical trope of slashers is that characters usually don’t stick around too long. Protagonists introduced in the first film may appear in the second or third but are usually written out of the story. Sidney Prescott, the protagonist introduced in the first film, remains as the main character for the first four films before being reduced to a supporting role in the fifth. Having Sidney present in multiple films allows for character growth not seen in other horror films, such as seeing the character grow up and transition from being a teenager to an adult.
Besides Sidney Prescott, the franchise also carries other familiar faces throughout the films. The characters Dewey Riley and Gale Weathers became movie mainstays, also receiving character growth and development that is traditionally not given to supporting characters.
A Worthy Continuation
Reboots and remakes are standard in the slasher genre, with too many of them not turning out to hold a candle to the original. The fifth film in the franchise, simply titled Scream, was able to avoid some of the reboot pitfalls. The reboot was able to honor the legacy of the original films while paving the way for a new generation to take over. And as for the most recent movie, Scream VI is a “sequel to the request” and is a bloodier, more shocking storyline.
Scream VI is available to stream on Paramount+.
Scream VI (2023): Official Paramount Trailer
|Mason Kupiainen is a recent Butler University graduate with a degree in Creative Media and Entertainment. His work has been published in Butler Collegiate, The Mall, and Byte BSU. Along with written work, he has a videography portfolio with Indy Blue Video, Byte BSU, and Ball Bearings.|