‘Scream’ at 25: How Meta Can You Get?

As a result of the success of “Scream,” directors now feel an obligation to acknowledge that their audiences are familiar with the tropes of the genre and to use that knowledge to their advantage. This applies to genre films as well as mainstream ones. This is evident in the way modern movie characters debate other films, aware of the conventions and traditions that govern comparable storylines and eager to expound on them.

Furthermore, you can see it in modern superhero films, which employ an edgy sense of humour in order to undermine any impression of seriousness and reassure viewers that those behind these generic entertainments aren’t merely joking around with their characters. In order to protect yourself from the possibility of being criticised, it’s a good idea to purchase insurance.

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But the reason “Scream” continues to be popular is not because of its wit or self-awareness; rather, it is because of its enduring appeal. Metaphorically, “Scream” is a horror movie about horror movies, but it’s also portrayed as a horror movie. Even if you’ve seen slasher films before, a well-made one can still terrify you.

This film does not undermine the genre or just satirise cliches; rather, it exemplifies the genre and exploits those conventions extensively and expertly. “Scream” would be as tedious and predictable as the movies it mocks if it were just a jokingly long riff on horror cliches. But director Wes Craven was well aware that “Scream” still had to be scary, despite all the winking.

A killer attempts to “remake” the original Scream murders in Craven’s final picture, “Scream 4” (2011), which is essentially a criticism of the clichés of horror sequels. It has a smug air about it, as if it’s trying too hard to be witty. Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) ponders, “How meta can you get?” as she unravels the story.

As it turns out, it was a bit meta for my taste. Since “Screamoverwhelming “‘s popularity, there have been a number of films in the meta-horror style, including “Cabin in the Woods,” “One Cut of the Dead,” and “Scream 2.”

As a result of the success of “Scream,” a number of new horror subgenres emerged, including found footage (“[REC],” “Paranormal Activity”), Japanese horror (“The Ring,” “The Grudge”), and so-called “torture porn” (“Saw,” “Hostel”), all of which eschewed humour, irony, and any sort of self-awareness in favour of shocking violence.

When “Scream” poked fun at its own style and tropes, it felt like it was simultaneously inventing a new genre of horror film and coming to its natural conclusion. After “Scream,” how do you do “Scream”? Not at all. “Scream” was a one-of-a-kind film. Accept nothing less than the best.