By Thomas H Cullen (UK)
Here’s why Scream is a problem: it tells a story about why satire has a right to not be abused, all while failing to let satire work. Scream fails to let empathy work, all while preaching about why the source of empathy is moral.
Satire can be thought of as the antithesis of mathematics, and science. Mathematics and science are serious and universal issues, and Ghostface and the victims of Ghostface are the cultural. The story of Woodsboro is about the universal being the terror, and the cultural being the angelic. Casey Becker’s house is angelic, Sidney Prescott’s house is angelic, and Stu Macher’s house is angelic. The town itself is a visual refuge, surrounded by miles and miles of woods and greenery – woods and greenery are the universal.
Casey Becker isn’t tormented by her house, or by her phone, but by the technology of her phone and by outside her house. Sidney Prescott isn’t tormented by her house, or by her phone, but by the technology of her phone and by outside her house. Principal Himbry isn’t tormented by his office, but by outside his office. Stu Macher’s party isn’t terror, but becomes abused. Sidney and Billy Loomis have sex, and then the bedroom they’re in becomes abused. Billy and Stu harass Sidney in a kitchen, which is yet another cultural bedrock.
Billy gets attacked in the Macher bedroom, after a discussion about technology, and it’s then Stu and Billy that get defeated by Sidney after Sidney uses the technology of Stu and Billy. The movie’s moral compass is to defend the source of satire by establishing the disconnect between the source of terror and the source of satire. Ghostface is satire, and the phone used by Ghostface is non-satire, yet the visual absence of seeing Ghostface using a phone is to protect the cultural and to attack science.
The symbolism of Ghostface, is that excessive culture creates the separation between terror and its source. Excessive culture – nationalism, ageism, education, celebrity, Hollywood and wealth – lets the source of terror not know itself, and Scream’s nature is the problem of illustrating self-awareness of this truth but also failing to appear as if it gives a damn about illustrating the same self-awareness.
The movie fails to adequately humanise the teenage characters, and it fails to adequately humanise the adult characters. The convenient symmetry of failure can easily be interpreted as deliberate symbolism, and therefore results in the impression that Scream is designed to mock idealism, even though its story is based around the self-awareness of culture being a source of terror. The movie’s exact self-awareness reaches down to the depth that reality is false acting to begin with, meaning that the movie’s theme of false acting being a source of satire is downright hypocritical.
The bottom line: Scream isn’t just a technical shortcoming, failing to tell a story that is about sympathetic characters and meaningful events, but it’s a product which is the shortcoming of understanding what depth is yet failing to execute that depth. The script by Kevin Williamson is a script which knows about truth, and knows about purity, but deliberately acts ignorant. The deliberate ignorance is something which can work, given the right conditions, but the problem that Scream is faced with is that its own conditions necessitate the subversion of the normal logic that films should be exempt from having to excuse their self-awareness of reality