Cravenous: Scream

I’m going to cheat slightly with this review, denizens. I recently reviewed this film elsewhere online, and rather than reinvent the wheel at this point, I’m going to use a lot of what I wrote in that “other” place, for this review. For posterity, yo.

I guess I also should finally point out that I probably will have a lot of spoilers throughout this and other Cravenous reviews. I don’t know why I never thought of mentioning this before. So, yeah. Spoilers.

So now that Wes Craven was (kind of) able to scratch that itch of wanting to direct anything other than a horror movie and found it to be less than the pleasant break he’d hoped it would be (thanks, Eddie…no, really…thank you), it was time once more to turn to what he knew and did so well. It wasn’t an instantaneous “yes” decision, mind you. It took a bit of pushing from Bob and Harvey Weinstein as well as a few of Craven’s close associates to finally convince him that it would be worth his time to take the reins on what practically everyone in Hollywood was convinced was going to be a huge horror hit. The Weinsteins were so convinced by the end of the day, in fact, that they scheduled a Christmas release for the film. A Christmas release? For a teen slasher flick? In the mid-90s?

God damn it, Gump! You’re a goddamned genius!

Seriously, though, with Craven coming on board as director, this turned out to be the “perfect storm” of a horror film. It was a brilliant script filled with admiration and adoration for a genre that, to tell the truth, had seen better days. Horror was, forgive the pun, nearly dead in the mid-90s. Fans had lost interest in tired sequels and cheesy scripts and horrible plots. It took Williamson to come along to remind us what we fell in love with and to show us that there was still life in the genre yet. His story was clever, his lines were catchy and quotable, and his characters were cliches to a point, but cliches with twists and unexpected complexities.

Combine this with a cast filled with up-and-coming young actors just starting to make an impact on Hollywood as well as a couple of established actors who were either making a successful comeback or who brought a delightful sense of nostalgia with their presence, and like I said: perfect storm.

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Watching Scream again for what truly has to be beyond the 20th time I’ve seen the movie, I made a special effort to focus primarily on the look of the movie—the movement and action and choreography. These were Williamson’s characters and plot, but Craven was the puppet master, pulling the strings and placing all the characters into motion.

In that regard, Craven had an impeccable internal sense of timing and pacing. He was the ultimate horror metronome, never letting the rhythm of the story falter, never letting any member of the band fall out of tune.

Also, this movie is visually elegant. For a man who began his career with some of the most disturbingly raw movies of 70s-era horror (not just visually but also story-wise), Scream might be Craven’s most stylistically polished horror film. One might even argue that this was the beginning of the cinematic apex of his career, from a purely directorial perspective. While I would never argue with the sentiment that his greatest original contribution to the horror genre was Freddy Krueger (a contribution, mind you, that helped inspire this film in the first place), I think that Scream was Craven’s directorial magnum opus. I mean, just look at this screen capture and tell me that’s not a thing of terrifying beauty (and, yes, that’s an actual practical shot and not CGI trickery). Craven could compose a shot like nobody’s business. He knew what worked. He knew what would capture the audience. I think only John Carpenter could stand as Craven’s contemporary match when it came to working a frame for full horror effect.

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From the clear inspiration of German expressionism to the beautifully choreographed murder sequences right down to simple subtle touches like keeping the frenetic pace of the opening sequence with the popping and then burning popcorn, Craven was showing his visual acumen. Even when he chose to use something so visually overplayed as slow motion to emphasize with unflinching brutal clarity the moment the killer plunged that knife into Casey Becker’s chest (Drew Barrymore? Dead before the end of the first reel?!), he knew the perfect way to deliver the message that all that what we thought we knew? We didn’t and all bets were officially off.

Even, and this might be me reading too much into this, the decision to film Sidney and Billy from the side as they started to fool around gave Craven the opportunity to show this moment as Sidney started to fall back onto her bed and her ponytail hung oh so briefly in air, looking like a serrated knife blade, as the soundtrack rolled out the musical cue of “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” Again, I’m probably putting way more faith into that scene than I should, but that was honestly the moment I knew who the killer was (at least one of them). Simple brilliance.

Courtesy of Shadow of Reflection
Courtesy of Shadow of Reflection

I’ve yet to grow tired of watching this film. True, it no longer serves that intrinsic horror purpose—it hasn’t scared me since that first viewing almost 20 years ago—but it still exhilarates me, enthralls me, and, yes, terrifies me on different levels. This is a horror master class, taught by one of the maestros himself. Craven knew that the truest form of fear was the fear of the real. No, a dead child molester isn’t ever going to really kill people in their nightmares. But pack mentality could well and truly lead to group vigilantism such as what the parents of those original Elm Street kids did in the name of protecting their own.

And apathy and desensitization could lead to the moral lassitude that led the likes of Billy and Stu down the path they ultimately traveled in this film. Yes, the exacting of their plan was hyperbolic in its almost supernatural perfection (and later sequels would put a new spin on the actions of the first film that would, in some ways, work well and in others make me want to pummel the ticket taker at the theater), but the essence of their actions was very believable. And that is what continues to root this film strongly in the realm of horror power players.

Craven clearly knew his shtick. Who better, then, to direct a movie all about showing how self-aware a horror movie could be? These characters inhabited a world that not only acknowledged the horror genre but acknowledged Craven as one of the architects of its current existence. In some ways, it was also an indictment against the masters like Craven—look at what you’ve done to us with your pursuit of more realistic, more visceral fear. You have left us bereft of human empathy and motivated by vengeance and mayhem. You have pushed us to reach deeper, into ever-darker corners and pull forward whatever resides therein.

Could you imagine a more appropriate message from or to the creator of horror like The Last House on the Left or The Hills Have Eyes?

Photo Fun Friday: Wes Carpenter

First, the source of the inspiration:

Sidney: You know, if I was wrong about Cotton Weary, then…the killer’s still out there.
Tatum: Don’t go there, Sid. You’re starting to sound like some Wes Carpenter flick or something.

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Second, a beautiful quote from John Carpenter and Sandy King in response to the passing of their friend, Wes Craven:

Wes Craven was a good friend. His passing took the world of cinema and his friends by surprise, which is probably how he would have liked it. Shock was his stock and trade.

He was a craftsman and a master storyteller who amused and thrilled audiences around the world with his films. He was a gentleman who leaves his friends missing his fellowship and generosity of spirit.

And now, the point of this post:

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Flashback Friday: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

I thought about doing this on the original 1984 movie, but I wanted to shake things up a bit and go instead with the movie that continued to show Wes Craven as an innovator of the horror genre as well as helped lay the groundwork for the franchise that would once again place his name at the top of the horror movie game. And so it goes with Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.

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Released in October 1994, New Nightmare marked Craven’s return to the franchise that he unwittingly launched 10 years earlier. Craven’s original intention was to make a one-off film. He never intended that first movie to receive sequels. In fact, the movie’s original ending was far less ambiguous than the one that producer Bob Shaye insisted be tacked on at the last minute. Just like any money-hungry producer, Shaye saw the potential of this film to spawn the one thing that producers crave: a franchise (isn’t that right, Spielberg? Could have had a great horror ending to Paranormal Activity, but, no, you had to ruin it with a franchise-friendly ending…just like you ruin most movies you have anything to do with).

Fast-forward through the first sequel, with which Craven had nothing to do and which kind of hangs in this weird homoerotic netherworld among the rest of the franchise as not quite belonging but still being kind of awesome in its own weird right, and Shaye and New Line invite Craven back to pen the third movie (they had actually wanted him back to direct as well but he was still working on Deadly Friend). However, again, Craven doesn’t want Freddy to become a series. His original script for Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors was far more disturbing, dark, and demented than what Shaye finally greenlit. Craven returned as a way to try to take back control of his creation, to take Freddy to those darker places that he always thought Freddy should inhabit. Craven’s original Fred Krueger wasn’t just a child killer; he was a molester. He was so horrific in death because he was horrific in life. Craven’s original Fred Krueger was not in any way meant to be a hero of any kind. Shaye, however, wanted the camp, the lovable child murderer who smacks you down with zingers before gutting you in a haha gotcha kind of way that makes fans love him so. Guess who finally got their way? Craven’s Freddy was shelved…until he returned once more to the franchise to reclaim his monster and ultimately save him from what he had never wanted Freddy to become.

All that being said, was it such a terrible thing that Craven’s original creation became the franchise he became? I’m sure no one whose bank accounts grew from the series ever complained. And as I mentioned in my post yesterday, I discovered Freddy Krueger through one of those haha sequels. I had no idea how gruesome Krueger originally was. Also, because I first discovered him through the campier side of the character, I do hold a special place in my heart for that iteration. But from a more pure horror perspective, I think that Craven’s original monster is, by far, superior. But what about the new Krueger that Craven unleashed in 1994? Not only was this Krueger more in line with that original depraved character, but he also looked more in line with Craven’s original visual concept. Nothing but sinews and organic claws and hideous deformity.

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I know that Craven would later state that he regretted changing Freddy Krueger’s look for New Nightmare. I actually think that it was necessary to make this change for this particular story. Remember, we see the “original” Freddy—the version portrayed oh so many times by Robert Englund and the version that die-hard fans had come to have such a gloriously Pavlovian response to—early in the film. This was “Freddy.” This was the fantasy that fans made real through their devotion to the character and the actor portraying him. It was integral to the story, therefore, to somehow differentiate this Freddy from the darker, more elemental Freddy. This Freddy did not deal in witty bon mots and scenery chewing. This Freddy sprang from the most primal, most basic, most genetically programmed vein of fear within us all.

He had to look different. He was not who any of us had known before this movie. I always felt as though this was one of the concepts that Craven was trying to convey through this film—that Freddy Krueger had become far more than even his creator ever dreamed he would become. He lurked in the shadows of his fictional self, feeding upon the fear released by those films, biding his time until the lines between worlds could blur and recede and he could finally step forward at the franchise’s end to claim his rightful place and begin anew as king of infinite space and unceasing nightmares.

For this reason, it was imperative for Craven to convince Heather Langenkamp to return. Her Nancy was the character who both gave that original Krueger life and then snatched it back (one of the main reasons I chose Nancy as a bad-ass Lady of May-hem). Without Nancy, there would have been no Krueger. His focus on her, I believe, stemmed from his understanding that she was ultimately the only one who could take away his power and his life. Not even Craven could do that, because Craven granted this gift to Nancy in the first film. It’s why Craven tells Langenkamp in the film that stopping this nightmarish Krueger pretty much depended upon her willingness to be Nancy one more time.

Sounds deliciously meta, doesn’t it? While I’m sure that this metafictional approach to what had become a watered-down slash-o-rama was neither what franchise fans were hoping for nor what the horror genre at the time was looking to embrace, it planted the seed that, 2 years later would be ripe for the picking, in part by the man who planted it in the first place.

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Again, while Craven didn’t write the script to Scream, the power of his directorial influence cannot be denied. Neither can the influence of his metafictional approach to his heretofore most famous contribution to the genre. Kevin Williamson’s own metafictional script this time blurs the lines of fantasy and reality on the viewer’s level rather than the creators’ level. He demolishes the protection granted by the fourth wall and subsequently drops us all into the path of a monster we can understand because “we” are creating him. After all, “movies don’t make psychos. Movies make psychos more creative!”

That level of self-referential awareness is part of what makes Scream work so well. We are lulled in by the familiarity of what we think we understand, only to have the floor summarily drop out from beneath us. Nothing is as how it should be in the town of Woodsboro, just as nothing was as it should have been in the Hollywood horror machine of Craven’s New Nightmare. Craven thrived upon facing the ugliest fears within ourselves and by facing them, defeating them. His was the Litany Against Fear, embraced myriad times in myriad ways by characters who helped sculpt and ultimately save us from our worst nightmares:

I will not fear.
Fear is the mind killer.
Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

The Man of My Dreams

It would have to take something big to finally pull me out of the morass of work in which I’ve been trapped all summer. Something bigger than book reviews or navel gazing or even the insanity of the current political landscape (a landscape I’m already tired of looking at, and we’ve still got more than a year to go).

No, it had to be larger than that. It had to be something personally moving…something so important to me that, no matter how many evenings and stolen moments throughout the days that I have stockpile to write this, it will be done. It’s the least I can do for the man who played such an integral role in my conversion to the tried-and-true horror apostle I am today.

True, I credit Poltergeist as being the first modern horror film I ever saw all the way through. That was my gateway film, so to speak. But if I were credit one genre director as being most responsible for completely converting me to the Church of Horror, it would have to be Wes Craven.

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I give John Carpenter full dues for the brilliance that is Halloween. And I attribute the state of the horror genre as I knew and loved it growing up to a particular set of directors/writers who ruled the horror landscape throughout the 80s: Craven, Carpenter, Sam Raimi, Tobe Hooper, and Sean Cunningham (with honorable mention to Clive Barker for the glory that is Pinhead).

These men understood the visceral nature of fear and they harnessed that to full unadulterated effect through some of the genre’s most unsettling movies. They were the fathers of evisceration and unrest, pushing the boundaries of, at the time, a mostly staid genre into territories that even they found too disturbing to explore…which is what pushed them to explore them in the first place. Craven himself stated that The Last House on the Left was one of his movies that he could never go back and re-watch because of how horrific it was to him.

And then came Freddy Krueger. As much as I love Michael Myers and Pinhead and Jason, Freddy was my first horror villain. I actually first met him through the fourth Elm Street movie The Dream Master, which was not one of Craven’s films. However, I loved Freddy from the very first flick of his silver-knived hand right down to his inimitably painful puns. He was horror kitsch of the killer variety, compelling and charismatic and amusingly unique even among the high-caliber villainous company he was keeping at the time. I needed to know everything about him.

I was not anticipating the Freddy Krueger I met in the first film. Craven’s original 1984 movie was disturbing in the ugliest of realistic ways (strange to say of a killer who is himself dead and offs his victims in their nightmares). This character came from the mind of someone who understood that true fear resided in the deepest, darkest, most depraved corners of ourselves. We create the worst fears, whether through our own thoughts or our own deeds. No matter how much I love the campy, “lovable” Freddy of later films, my allegiance will always rest in the gloved hand of that original Krueger. He was only on screen for 7 minutes that first movie…less time than even the Wicked Witch of the West got in The Wizard of Oz…but oh, those 7 minutes.

Thankfully, Craven did return for The New Nightmare, one of my other favorite Freddy films. Additionally, New Nightmare was one of the earliest examples, that I can remember, of that meta take on film-making that blurs reality and fiction into a tasty melange of horror savoriness that I clearly find addictive.

And then there’s Scream. True, Craven didn’t write it and he almost didn’t direct it. But thank the horror deities that he did. Talk about meta savoriness. I have written about this film and franchise many times here at the lair. Two of my Ladies of Horror May-hem come from this film (two other Ladies come from Elm Street). The original film works so well in part because of its clear respect for and indebtedness to the time during which Craven and that previously mentioned collection of amazingly demented directors ruled the horror genre. And while the series holistically was never as solid as the first film, Craven did his best to make it as solidly scary as he could with what Williamson gave him.

Of course, these are only the movies that often rise to the top of any discussion of Craven’s contributions to the horror genre. Let’s not forget, he also gave us The Hills Have Eyes; Deadly Friend, which includes one of my all-time favorite character deaths ever; Shocker (I still refer to Mitch Pileggi as “Horace Pinker”); The People Under the Stairs, which gave me a whole new outlook on Twin Peaks and turned so many traditional horror tropes upside down and inside out in ways that I don’t think many appreciated at the time; Red Eye (sure, I’d like to find flying even more traumatizing!); and The Serpent and the Rainbow, which ranks still as one of my favorite “zombie” movies.

Craven was sharp, well-read, curious, creative, kind, and witty, and he made my horror-loving adolescence ironically brighter from all the darkness he brought to the genre. I have mourned his death every day since I learned he was with us no more. He left behind a brilliant legacy, but his time with us was still far too short.

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BookBin2014: Scream Deconstructed: An Unauthorized Analysis

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This is going to be a really short review because: A) this book isn’t going to be for everyone; and B) my feelings for the book are probably already very obvious to those who know me. Lucky you, denizens.

I bought the Kindle version of Scott Kessinger’s Scream Deconstructed: An Unauthorized Analysis completely on a whim (darn easy 1-click Amazon shopping option). Why? Because I love Scream.

You know, in case you haven’t noticed that before in all the myriad posts I’ve dedicated to banging on about this particular movie/franchise.

/ end sarcasm

In fact, I would even go so far as to say that, if I had to choose one horror movie I’ve seen…just one…that would be my default horror movie from now until forever? Scream would be in the elite list of five from which I would struggle to make my final selection. I’ll let you try to figure out what the other four are.

Do I love the rest of the franchise as much? Not by a long shot. That first film comprised some bit of magic that was so precious and rare that it simply could not be recaptured for the sequels. But I find things to appreciate about the other movies. Well, maybe not the fourth one. I do believe I have already made my feelings about Scream 4 very clear.

Although, to be honest, after reading Kessinger’s analyses of the fourth movie, I was intrigued and impressed enough by his thoughts that I rented the movie to give it a fair shake at perhaps showing me what it showed him. I admittedly still didn’t see what he saw (and still saw a depressingly disappointing addition to the trials and tribulations of Woodsboro’s sauciest survivors), but I still appreciate what he sees in this film and value his opinion.

All that being said, I can’t recommend this book to everyone…or to most people, for that matter. If you don’t like the movies, then this is not a book for you. It’s definitely only for the truly obsessed. Like yours truly. However, if you do love, or even just really really like, Scream and its sequels? Then I can’t recommend this book enough.

Final Verdict: Staying on my Kindle. It’s short, it’s sweet, it’s got some great analyses, even if I don’t always agree 100 percent, and I imagine I will be going back to peruse this one every now and again. Whether or not that means I’ll ever give Scream 4 another go is a completely different story…

Ladies of Horror May-hem: Sidney Prescott

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The gods of randomocity must have sensed my eagerness for this particular draw (either that or they’ve been reading my blog this month and noticed that I keep referring to her, even in posts that have nothing to do with her at all, and they just want me to shut up already).

For all the horror movies that I have watched throughout my illustrious lifelong love of the genre, I keep returning to the greatness, IMHO, of director Wes Craven’s Scream and heroine Sidney Prescott, as played by Neve Campbell.

True, there are myriad horror movies that are very obvious in their meritorious contributions to the genre. Then there are those movies that, on first blush, seem like nothing more than standard cheese-supreme slasher flicks. For every Exorcist there’s 15 Frankenhookers.

[Loba Tangent: Okay, there’s only one Frankenhooker…I don’t think the world is ready for more than one. WANNA DATE?]

Many, myself included, expected Scream to be one of the latter types of horror movie. I figured it was going to be a fun way to spend a couple of hours, watching Craven’s latest foray into horror schlock (he’d come a long way since his Elm Street days…and some of that distance was through utter shite, to borrow a Britishism).

What I experienced, instead, was a revival on so many levels. First, Craven was back on-point. This movie was fun and sharp and scary, with a soupçon of cheese to make it even tastier to the palate. Second, this movie introduced screenwriter Kevin Williamson to my world and, for good (this movie) and bad (almost everything else other than this movie), he altered the horror scene irrevocably. While obviously loving and admiring so many of the great aspects of horror, he was able to objectively pinpoint the problems intrinsic to the genre and dissolve them in high horrific style.

And then there’s Sidney.

I’ve already mentioned so many of the fantastic final girls to grace the genre before Sidney arrived. Just like Laurie, Nancy, Jess, Kirsty, Meg, and myriad others, we at first think that Sidney is just another all-American high school girl, wanting nothing more than to make it through another week of tests and class projects before spending quality time with her boyfriend who looks strangely like Johnny Depp and her small group of BFFs.

The twist that Williamson springs on us, however, is that Sidney already is a survivor. She’s gone through a rather brutal year that has obliterated any semblance of normalcy. Now, she just wants to make it through the week without running into the likes of intrepid sensationalist reporter Gale Weathers. Or having to testify against the man she saw leaving her house…we’re left to assume right before young Sidney discovered something that no teenager should ever have to discover.

Sorry, Sidney. The fates just aren’t in your corner this year.

The other delightful twist that Williamson gifts young Sidney is the acknowledgement and subsequent dismissal of that oft-referenced “virginal survival” trope made so famous by Laurie Strode. No, not all final girls after Laurie had to be virgins…but it sure did seem that way. The message, of course, constantly coming across that to survive, you must be good. Naughty girls are only around for two things: boob shots and slasher bait.

Oh, horror, I love you so, but you really are a pig sometimes.

By granting Sidney the right to be sexually active and a final girl, Williamson completely upends this horror trope and injects a bit of feminism right into the genre’s ass. Even more poignantly, he allows Sidney the right to destroy the misogyny that tried to destroy her. Poor Billy boyfriend, doesn’t stand a chance when all he’s got on his side is whiny entitlement and a stupid best friend.

I know, I’ve written more about this particular character than I’ve probably written about any other this month. I acknowledge that Sidney would not have existed were it not for several others to precede her, both this month’s series and in their respective movies. But Sidney takes full advantage of the trail-blazing that those horror heroines did for her and she veers off into her own unique direction. She personifies the best of her predecessors and she presents her own complex qualities that make her one of my all-time favorite Ladies of Horror May-hem.

Ladies of Horror May-hem: Gale Weathers

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And here we have another often overlooked Lady of Horror May-hem…and an even greater counterpoint to the previous two maternal mistresses of mayhem.

Whenever someone comes up with a list of top-notch horror movie female characters, you can bet your Edvard Munch mask that Sidney Prescott, the reluctant final girl from director Wes Craven’s Scream movies, will be included (and rightfully so). However, I can’t help but notice that I’ve never seen one of these lists give kudos to the other final girl from these movies…the one who apparently is sharing those nine lives that Sidney keeps tearing her way through (between the two of them, they’ve now used up eight lives…wonder what this will mean for Scream 5?).

I love Gale Weathers for a variety of reasons, from the fact that she’s played by Courteney Cox (who will always have a special place en mi corazon) right down to the fact that she is unabashed in her desires and her drive, and she makes no apologies for either. Gale Weathers is not interested in being the stereotypical virginal, placating female so often seen fit to survive pre-Scream horror movies. She is not there to comfort you. If you piss her off or slow her down, then she’s going to rip you like you’ve never been ripped before. She is not there to be your friend, and even if she does let you in, she has no qualm using you as a stepping stone if she sees the chance to rise. She does not shy away from using whatever is at her disposal to get the information she needs to put her ahead of her competitors. She is pure in her opportunism, the only attribute she holds above all else, even justice (“Do you know what that would do for my book sales?!”). However, she also navigates by an internal indebtedness that is the closest she comes to loyalty, especially when it comes to Sidney.

Unlike Sidney, however, Gale is not reluctant to embrace her part in the events transpiring around them, plowing straight into the heart of situations that most would want to avoid. Whatever it takes to get the scoop. It’s no wonder that she is the one standing right next to Sidney so many times in that final reel (spoiler!). Both she and Sidney, in fact, flip a hearty double middle-fingered salute to the dated horror tropes of what it means to be a final girl.

In many ways, Gale owes a lot to predecessors such as The Howling’s Karen White or Hellraiser III’s Joey Summerskill, other reporter grrls who put their fear on the back burner in pursuit of that shot of truth their systems craved. Gale has evolved throughout the franchise, but at her heart, she remains devoted to uncovering the last vestige of truth, no matter the peril.

Also, she rocks highlights like no one’s business.

Saturdays Are a Scream

Hey, there denizens. I was actually planning on doing a holiday-themed Flashback Friday for you last night. However, my plans were thwarted by the subject in question being way too overprotective about YouTube clips. And, trust me, this is definitely a visual.

Instead, I’m giving you this alternative. A few months ago, we took what has become in recent years an annual trip to San Francisco, both for a little bit of work and a little bit of play. Okay, it was all play for me. Part of that play was spending a few days up in the Sonoma region, as any fan of drinking is apt to do. Honestly, though, it’s also a beautiful region; I’ve got loads of photos that I really need to upload here at some point.

Today’s batch of photos, however, are all related to a bit of a pilgrimage that I decided to take this year. Any regulars to the lair know that I have quite a bit of love in my heart for the horror movie Scream. The film, set in the fictional California town of Woodsboro, actually was filmed all throughout northern California, including the towns of Glen Ellen, Sonoma, Healdsburg, Tomales Bay (where Sara Sidle was born; geek love crossover!!), Santa Rosa…places that we go through or to every single time we stay up in this area.

So I did a little surreptitious research prior to leaving, tracked down addresses, made sure I packed my GPS and car charger, made sure I had fresh charges on my camera battery packs…and we were off! Time to track down the locations where director Wes Craven made the idyllicly horrifying town of Woodsboro come to life…and horrorific death.

First stop was Woodsboro High:

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The location they used was in fact the Sonoma Community Center in Sonoma, California:

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The filmmakers were supposed to use Santa Rosa High School, but the City of Santa Rosa reneged after reading the script and deciding that the movie was too violent. If you watch the credits all the way through, you will notice that Craven gives a “special” thanks to Santa Rosa for this decision.

I found it amazing that Craven was able to take such a small space as the community center and make it believable as a public high school. I was honestly stunned by how small the center is, and how tucked away in a neighborhood it is. If you didn’t know its horror history, you’d drive right past it without a second thought, merrily on your way to one of the nearby wineries.

Of course, associated with Woodsboro High was Woodsboro Square, where all the kids could hear Principal Himbry tell them over the PA system how much he cared about them:

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This pavilion is still in Healdsburg’s town square, minus the overhang they built in front of it:

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And of course, the fountain where Sidney and her friends met up?

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It’s still there as well. I hung out for a little while, but Sidney never showed.

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Healdsburg actually doubled for Woodsboro in several scenes, including the police station scenes. The “police station” is now a little market. Ironically, the Healdsburg Police Station is right next door, which means that this alleyway, soon to be the location of “Bam! Bitch went down!”:

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Is still a police-associated alley…just with the police station on the opposite side:

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Next stop on my creepy stalker tour was Casey Becker’s house:

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The house, located in Glen Ellen, actually isn’t visible from the road. I found this to be true for both the houses I tried to visit. These foggy early morning shots of the mountains near where the Becker house is located are the closest I could get:

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Same with the Prescott house:

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The closest I was able to get to this house was to take a photo of the drive leading up into the neighborhood, but the big gate at the beginning prevented me from actually driving up there…unless, of course, I had been daring enough to buzz the guard and explain that I just wanted to creeper-stalk the “home” of Sidney Prescott. I’m sure they would have immediately let me in. Totally.

prescott_driveway

It’s a shame I couldn’t get up to this house…not only because Sidney Prescott is one of my favorite horror heroines, but also because I would have loved to have been able to catch a glimpse or two of this amazing view that the Prescott house overlooks:

prescottvista_screencap

These two experiences with trying to get to these houses got me thinking a bit more about the movie in ways that I hadn’t really considered all that closely. Got me thinking to the point where I started formulating my own “thesis” for some imagined film studies class…I would call it “Woodsboro: The High Cost of Isolation” or something equally undergrad-clever. Almost every house they used for Scream fit this same mold: beautiful, sprawling property, nestled far off main roads, cut off from traffic, from city life, from everyone. The initial purpose of this is obvious: You want your characters to feel cut off, alone, trapped by the killers. But there’s more to this if you keep looking.

Houses like where Sidney, Casey, and Stu live are muy expensivo. Takes a lot to afford these levels of privacy. So you’ve got well-off families, enjoying the privilege of solitude that money can buy. The parents of all these kids also obviously enjoy other privileges of money. Think about it: The parents are almost non-existent in this movie (as is usually the case with teen-centric horror movies). Casey’s parents are out enjoying an evening alone while their daughter settles into an obviously familiar “all by myself” routine, Sidney’s dad leaves her alone because he has an out-of-town work meeting (can’t afford a view that beautiful and sprawling unless you’re working some serious hours, Mr. Prescott), Billy’s dad stays out late, Stu’s parents aren’t even seen. The only parent that seems even remotely interested in her children’s lives is Mrs. Riley, Tatum and Dewey’s mom.

Even worse? Sidney’s dad leaves her alone on the first anniversary of her mother’s murder. Here’s a man either so uncaring or so emotionally damaged by what happened to his wife that he removes himself from the entire scene rather than deal with the emotions that such an anniversary would no doubt incite. Everyone has their own way of dealing with trauma, but he has completely ignored the needs of his daughter at this time. True, he was captured and perhaps he was meant to be home by the actual anniversary…but I don’t think so.

Then there’s Billy. They don’t really go into it a lot, but obviously Mr. Loomis was a bit of a dead-beat dad. Even though he was still there, taking care of his son in light of the fact that Billy’s mom left…well, let’s be honest, Sid…the reason she left was because Billy’s dad was a naughty boy who still liked staying out late, even when his son finds himself locked up by the local police. So the only time we see Mr. Loomis is when he comes to bail out his son. There financially, not there in any other way.

So no real parental supervision, including one parent who disregards the fact that he has a daughter still damaged by what happened to their family a year prior and another father not really that interested in how his son is coping with the fact that he caused the son’s mother to leave through infidelity. Oh yeah, infidelity with the now-dead mother of his son’s girlfriend.

Kids raised in environments in which they obviously never want for anything material…but are sorely lacking in emotional guidance and nurturing.

Of course, I’m probably reading way too much into all this. But I think there’s something there, some commentary on the darkness of material wealth when combined with moral or emotional bankruptcy. Of course, Mr. and Mrs. Macher might have been Ward and June Cleaver. We don’t know, though. Never will.

And now I need to go watch this movie yet again and look for moments to support this new thesis. Hope you enjoyed my tour of Woodsboro. Haddonfield next time?