Listeners to the show might recall me saying at one point (or two, or fifteen) that I’m not big on horror movies. But it’s October. And needs must.
Normally, around this time of year I’ll seek out some old, putatively scary (but really, whom are we kidding) Roger Corman films. The Raven, say, with Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre as three bitchy sorcerers plotting against each other. Or The Masque of the Red Death, a gorgeously, garishly-colored fantasia about a deadly plague that forces people to quarantine indoors and yeah you know now that I think about it maybe not that one, this year.
This year, I dove into a horror franchise that I’d never bothered with, due to both its cultural ubiquity and my abiding status as a cat of the scaredy breed:
The Scream movies. The first three, anyway. I know, I know. You’ve seen ‘em. Everyone’s seen ‘em. I avoided ‘em.
Here’s what I knew about them, going in. (Note: Just in case I was not, as I strongly suspect, the last person on Earth to watch these movies – SPOILERS FOLLOW.)
They’re famously meta, with characters ticking off the “rules” of horror movies even as they fall prey to them.
The cold open features characters who don’t make it through the cold open.
The TV tabloid journalist played by Courtney Cox at some point attained Gay Icon Status (or at least Gay-Twitter Icon Status, which is a very different, lesser thing.)
Here’s what I didn’t know. What I was NOT PREPARED FOR.
Courtney Cox’s hair choices. Bold! Severe! Puzzling!
The “rules” in question (Don’t have sex, Don’t do drugs, Don’t say “I’ll be right back”) are surprisingly obvious, even basic. Even I, a shunner of horror flicks, already knew them – and, more surprisingly, already knew them back when the Scream films were made. I’d assumed they’d coined these rules, but I should have remembered that critics like Roger Ebert and Danny Peary had started ticking them off as far back as the early ‘80s.
Scream 2’s the best of the original trilogy, by far, due to the presence of: 1. The best set of rules, 2. Lines like “Hi. And I really mean that,” and 3. Laurie Metcalf.
These films are shot in EXTREME CLOSE UP. Unnervingly so. (Scream Trilogy? More like PORES! Trilogy.) And there is so much close talking. It’s easily the creepiest thing about them, if you watch them during a global pandemic. Every character talks to every other character like they’re juuuust about to make out, especially Matthew Lillard and Jaime Kennedy.
In 1996 you could cast Skeet Ulrich, at Peak Squirreliness, as a romantic interest and somehow expect that revealing him to be the killer would surprise your audiences. Imagine. We were such sweet summer children.
You can rent these movies on Amazon Prime, if you’re looking to trade your base-level inchoate pandemic anxiety for something more specific and gratifyingly tangible – a source of scariness that you can point to (and that other characters can punch on your behalf, which happens … just a whole lot, to Ghostface).
Newsletter continues after sponsor message
I’ve talked up the podcast Newcomers before, in which comedians/non-nerds Lauren Lapkus and Nicole Byer force themselves to watch a nerd franchise and stew in their own bored, outraged confusion. But last time I did so, they were watching the Star Wars films. This time they’re helm’s-deep into The Lord of the Rings, and their abject suffering is hilarious.
If you ever watched Tosh 2.0 and thought to yourself: What if this show, which makes mean-spirted fun of people on the internet, were not pitched to the basic sensibilities of truculent mouth-breathing 14-year-old straight boys, but instead to … literally everyone else? Enter: Beatdown, a YouTube series in which the drag queen Willam trashes internet culture and its practitioners in her inimitably witty (and, heads up: blithely filthy) way. And provides the hair and makeup tips that Daniel Tosh only dreams he could.