The Scream Trilogy Fifteen Years On - Part 1: Home Is Where The Heart Is

In this series of three articles, leading up to next week's release of Scream 4 on DVD and Blu-ray, Film Intel examines three major elements of the original Scream trilogy and questions whether they challenged horror films to do better or re-enforced old cliches.

The first Scream film, in which 'we are conditioned' to be terrified of the phone. And dodgy haircuts.

The first genuinely scary part of the Scream trilogy is when, in the original film, Casey's (Drew Barrymore) midnight phone caller tells her that he wants to know her name, 'because I want to know who I'm looking at'. There are several things operating in this scene designed to scare us but chief amongst them is the real genius of Wes Craven's franchise, the trope he returns to again and again, the reason why Scream still has the power to scare. Craven is obsessed with making us afraid in our own homes.

Other horror directors have done this sort of thing before of course - notably in Halloween, one of Scream's much referenced influences - and have continued to do it after Scream - notably in The Strangers, which played heavily on the fear of home invasion - but no-one else is quite as obsessed with bringing the terror home as Craven is here.

Consider the ringing telephone. An everyday occurrence. Every household now has several. Each one of us probably answers one at least once a day. In the Scream trilogy, we are conditioned to be terrified of it. Minutes after the above line is uttered by Barrymore, and after a few more fraught conversations, the phone rings again and Casey, beside herself with fear, screams and drops it. From that moment on any ringing telephone becomes a threat or a symbol of an impending threat, right up until the final scenes when Sidney (Neve Campbell), pondering who Billy (Skeet Ulrich) made his jail-cell call to, watches Ghostface enter the room.

Scream 2's fraternity and sorority houses are dressed to look like the family homes of the first film.

Ever one to extend an idea as far as he can, Craven doesn't stop there. In the second entry in the franchise, the pre-title sequence has passed and Sidney and Derek (Jerry O'Connell) are leaving a party. A phone rings. Sidney can't help but answer it. Emboldened by her success in the first instalment she tells the killer to 'just try' and kill her. A real voice breaks in and the door slams. The killer is suddenly behind her. The phone call has once again literally led to the attack only, this time, the gap has shortened.

The second film presented Craven with problems. How could he continue his home invasion motif when the thing was set almost exclusively on a College campus? The pre-title death scene - the only one of the trilogy not to take place in a house - points to his dilemma. It's grizzly and it features some of the other themes Craven explores in the films but its just not as terrifying as the feeling of someone being in your home, a feeling the two other pre-title sequences in Scream and Scream 3 play on extensively.

Craven's answer was to turn to production designer Bob Ziembicki. His fraternity and sorority houses are dressed and created to mirror family houses as much as possible. The previously mentioned scene with Sidney answering the phone could have been taken directly from the first film. Ditto the attack on Cici (Sarah Michelle Gellar), which should have been the pre-title sequence and goes as far as to show the house having a litter-strewn attic. Craven knows that for people living on a campus the second film will have enough scares but for the rest of us he needs something more, he needs to invoke the fear of our homes being violated.

Scream 3's house explosion. The 'final word' on the trope.

The final word on the trope inevitably goes to Scream 3 where Craven takes it to its only possible conclusion. Chased out of his home town to Hollywood, Dewey (David Arquette) lives in a trailer next to Jennifer's (Parker Posey) house. In a later scene in the film, Dewey and an assorted cast of characters are terrorised in the house by Ghostface. The scene ends with one of them answering a fax - which, by the way, is the natural progression of the phone calls - which leads to the house blowing up. Kaboom. Craven has destroyed your safe place of refuge both metaphorically and literally. It's not subtle, and it lacks the scares of the earlier home invasions, but Craven's intentions are beyond doubt and his realisation that the home is key to exploring our fears, commendable.

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