Monday, June 13, 2011

Mike Dawson: Is Scream a Parody, Pastiche, or Post Modern Thriller?

Is Scream a Parody, Pastiche, or Post Modern Thriller?
by Mike Dawson
Left Field Cinema

In December 1996 Scream, a film written by Kevin Williamson, and directed by Wes Craven was released for its American audience to see. The film had a unique element, which distinguished it from other horror movies that proceeded it. It was aware of the existence of other horror films. The film follows a group of teenagers in a small Californian town as they are killed one by one by a serial killer. The central characters all watch horror movies, and constantly draw ironic reference from their experiences or what they’re doing to what has happened in the horror movies they’ve already seen. Scream has been referred to as many things, a parody is one of the most common. Critics such as Kim Newman and Barry Norman have described it as a parody, but is this a correct application of the word. Is Scream a parody of previous horror films? The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Literary Terms defines a parody as: “A mocking imitation…ridiculing the stylistic habits of an author…by exaggerated mimicry.” (Baldick, 2001, 185) This definition gives very specific criteria for a parody, and not all of these criteria are met in Scream. It does mock horror movies, which have preceded it and ridicules the conventions that their authors have created. “They’re all the same, some stupid killer stalking some big breasted girl who can’t act who’s always running up the stairs when she should be going out the front door, it’s insulting.” (Williamson, 1996) But as the above quote illustrates the film mostly mocks through the characters references to the horror films, not through imitation. The imitation is done in the film as seriously as the horror films it imitates. It is not exaggerated either, if anything the imitation of films from the Halloween series or the Friday the 13th series is scaled down in comparison, and made more realistic. Both these series of films feature the invincible killers Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees who can be shot, decapitated, blown up, fall from great heights and still come back for more. The killers in Scream are grounded in reality because of their own mortality. The body count reaches ten including the killers. This is substantially lower than most slasher horror movies. Friday 13th Part VII The New Blood gets up to twenty three by its conclusion. It is also approximately thirty minutes longer than the average slasher horror film giving the plot line longer to develop. “Unlike most horror movies, Scream was made on a decent budget and stars people you’ve heard of.” (Hicks, 1997)

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Tommy said...

Hi there!
I've bookmarked a series of Leftfield Cinema articles on slasher/horror movies some time ago as I am writing my MA paper and wanted to quote those in my thesis. I've had a long break, but I need to get back to work. I wanted to read the part about "Scream" once again and it turns out that the Leftfield www is not there anymore! Are you the author of those articles? Could you please help me out by providing them to me via e-mail or something? That would be really great, I found your observations (if you're the author, that is) very inspiring and I'd love to quote you in my thesis some more!
Please e-mail me at eoon91(at) or reply here ASAP.
Thanks in advance!


Michael said...

Hi Tommy, I am not the author -- I'm not sure where Mike Dawson moved his series.

Michael said...

I do not have contact info for him