How Scream Saved Slasher Movies | Slash Course | NowThis Nerd

How Scream Saved Slasher Movies | Slash Course | NowThis Nerd

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– Hi everyone, I’m Moose,
and last time on Nerd, we explored the origins of slasher films, from ancient history through the 1980s, and today, we’re picking
up right where we left off to see how slashers
survived the 90s and beyond. How did ‘Scream’ save the entire genre? Why didn’t the movies it inspired have any staying power? And where do slashers go from here? This is the true story of slasher cinema. – [Scary Voice] Part two. Slashers Reborn. – When we last left our go-to genre, ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’
had just changed the game, but as budgets ballooned
and audience fatigue began to set in, slashers
saw a swift decline, and soon, they were
relegated to little more than scary VHS covers at the video store, that your parents would
never, ever let you rent. The box office of the early 90s was all about chasing
that next blockbuster, the next ‘Batman’, the
next ‘Jurassic Park,’ the next ‘City Slickers.’ (Western music) – City folk. – And, with their controversial gore and questionable morals, the big studios stayed far away from slashers. The genre needed a facelift, it needed a change for a new era, and above all else, it
needed to be cool again. In 1996, one movie
accomplished all three goals, and single handedly
kicked off the revival. – (screams) – (screams) – As we know, no individual film created the slasher genre, it was an amalgamation of nearly a century of cinema. But there’s only one movie that deserves the credit for bringing it back to life. ‘Scream.’ Created by screenwriter Kevin Williamson as a spec script called ‘Scary Movie,’ the self-aware screenplay
built a lot of buzz. – [Caller] What’s your
favorite scary movie? – Uh, I don’t know. – And after a bidding war between studios, it wound up with Dimension Films and director Wes Craven. As Andrew explained in
our Franchise Killers video, Craven had already explored a similar meta-textual
theme with ‘New Nightmare.’ But where his failed Freddy film fizzled, ‘Scream’ soared, though
it wasn’t a sure thing. – Oh, you wanna play psycho killer? Can I be the helpless victim? – Early reviews were mixed. Variety said that the
“underlying mockish tone won’t please die-hard fans”, and predicted “modest commercial returns
and fast theatrical playoff”. Hindsight is 20/20. But ‘Scream’ really wasn’t
a smash hit out of the gate. When it premiered on December 22nd, 1996, it opened at number
four, underneath ‘Beavis and Butthead Do America,’ ‘Jerry Maguire,’ and the live-action ‘101 Dalmatians.’ (bark) Positive word-of-mouth
propelled it to profit, and after its initial
run and a re-release, ‘Scream’ raked in a
well-deserved $170 million, against a $14 million budget. Still the highest grossing slasher ever, adjusted for inflation. ‘Scream’ was smart,
funny, and above all else, fresh, playing with the
tired tropes of the genre while still delivering the scares and slaughter sought by slasher stans. In its wake, the floodgates flew open for a new wave of
successful slasher cinema. Films like ‘Urban
Legend,’ Williamson’s own ‘I Know What You Did
Last Summer,’ which he actually wrote before
‘Scream,’ and of course, the ‘Scream’ sequels. Now, where classic slashers
portrayed their cast as cannon fodder, the new wave dressed the dead meat up with drama. They became fleshed-out,
soap opera characters with dreams and desires
and complicated pasts. Basically ‘Melrose Place’
by way of Elm Street. And where older movies mainly featured no-name or up-and-coming actors, shout out to Kevin Bacon, Jennifer
Aniston, Crispin Glover, Johnny Depp, and Paul Rudd, 90s slashers had a lot more star power
right out of the gate, thanks to Drew Barrymore’s
shockingly brief appearance in ‘Scream.’ – Why do you wanna know my name? – [Caller] ‘Cause I wanna
know who I’m looking at. (scary music) – What did you say? – ‘Scream’ set a new
high bar for the genre, but almost as soon as it began, the postmodern era fell apart. Enter the lull. Hollywood wasted no time beating their hip new take on horror right into the ground, and soon we saw a buttload
of ‘Scream’ imitators, with the same sardonic,
self-aware energy… – Don’t you guys get it? C’mon, it’s just like that (voice distorting)
urban legend. – The same ‘TRL’ approved
“teens”, and the same poster. Even the most iconic slashers tried to hop on the hot new bandwagon, to varying degrees of success. ‘Halloween H20’ did the best job of slapping a ‘Scream’ coat of paint onto an aging franchise, and then they completely
blew all that good will with ‘Resurrection’ two years later. – You need to get the heck out of here! Get out, scoot, skedaddle! – ‘Bride of Chucky’ leaned heavily into the weird, meta aspect of it all, and ‘Jason X’ was in space. Don’t worry, your favorite
killers turned out to be just fine, which brings us to another problem faced
by the postmodern era. It failed to create new slasher stars. Besides Ghost Face,
what enduring new icons actually came from the 90s? Cupid? Hollow Man? The Fisherman? The Unseen Inevitability of Death Itself? – You tried to capitalize,
but I caught you, you (beep). – By focusing on the victims and making the killer’s identity a mystery, it was hard for any one villain to make a lasting impression. When you see Jason, it’s Jason Voorhees. When you see Michael
Myers, it’s Michael Myers. When you see Ghost Face,
(ding) it’s Matthew Lillard, Skeet Ulrich, Laurie Metcalf, Timothy Olyphant, Scott Foley, you get the idea. Fatigue and a lack of fresh faces played a part in the downturn, but to me, the biggest culprit was ‘Scary Movie.’ Stay with me. Released in 2000, the
Wayans wacky slasher spook hasn’t exactly aged gracefully unless you just can’t get enough of crappy bullet time parodies, and ‘American Pie; jokes. But in its day it was
a massive, massive hit. It earned $280 million at the box office, $100 million more than ‘Scream.’ And it spawned a huge
new franchise of its own, which also all had the
same (beep)ing poster. ‘Scream’ was a loving
homage to the glory days of slasher cinema. It poked fun, but when
the knives came out, shit still got extremely real. But the overt mockery and huge success of ‘Scary Movie’ made
it absolutely impossible to take straight-up
slashers seriously anymore. And soon, they were replaced entirely by a very different flavor of fear. ‘Scream’s’ influence was fleeting. But, like the vicious villains who gave the genre its name, slashers wouldn’t stay dead for long. So let’s finish up with
a look at the rebirth. Now, horror didn’t go away entirely after the brief ‘Scream’ boom fizzled out, it just moved on to the next big thing, which in this case, came from Japan. J-horror developed independently of the slasher craze, taking inspiration from Japanese folklore and its unique take on ghosts, known as yurei. They portrayed a slower, more psychological kind of terror, still violent, but it wasn’t blood and guts putting butts in the seats. In 2002, Gore Verbinski remade director Hideo Nakata’s breakthrough hit ‘Ringu’ as ‘The Ring,’ arguably a better film than its Asian counterpart, and certainly more profitable. In response, Hollywood immediately green-lit Westernized remakes of ‘The Grudge’ and ‘Dark Water,’ and for a while, our country lived in utter terror of ghostly girls dressed in white with long black hair covering their faces. But as the J-horror fad faded, another even more powerful force gripped our consciousness. Nostalgia. It’s fairly well documented that the nostalgia cycle
operates on a delay of about twenty to thirty years. In the 70s, we became obsessed with the greasers and car culture of the 50s and 60s. In the 90s, the bell-bottoms and bright colors of the 70s made a big comeback. And, as the new millennium dawned, our collective consciousness traveled back to the 1980s, birthplace of big hair, leg warmers, yours truly, and of course, the golden age of slasher movies. And what better way to
capitalize on our fixation with this bygone age than a
shameless stream of remakes? 2003 was a big year for slasher staples, not only did it see the long-awaited ‘Freddy Vs. Jason’
crossover, to this day still the highest-grossing
entry in either series, it also introduced us to
our first slasher reboot. ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.’ (chainsaw whirring) (crashing) (scary music) (screaming) – The slick Michael Bay production lost a little bit of that grimy, snuff film aesthetic of
the original classic, but it didn’t skimp on the scares or the slaughter, and its success not only paved the way
for the revitalization of ultra-violent Grindhouse flicks like ‘The Devil’s Rejects’ and try-hard torture porn like ‘Hostel’ and ‘Saw,’ it also opened up the
floodgates for a stream of absolutely shameless remakes. Between 2003 and 2010, we saw new versions of cult classics like: ‘Prom Night,’ ‘Last House on the Left,’ ‘My Bloody Valentine,’ ‘Black Christmas,’ not to mention the big boys, like ‘Friday the 13th,’ ‘A Nightmare on Elm
Street,’ and of course, Rob Zombie’s ‘Halloween’ and
Rob Zombie’s ‘Halloween 2.’ Now, most of these films
were financially successful, though again, no single
slasher was able to grip our collective consciousness. But that’s just kinda
how society works today. There’s no single monoculture anymore. The internet has made it so that everyone can find their specific niche, and seek out content that
appeals to them specifically. The days of Jason Voorhees dropping in on Arsenio Hall are long gone. But horror is actually
healthier than ever. In theaters, Blumhouse has honed it to a hugely successful formula, churning out a diverse
slate of scary movies about everything from found footage to full-on societal collapse. Simultaneously, Jordan Peele is injecting a vital dose of cultural criticism and fresh perspective
with smash horror hits like ‘Get Out’ and ‘Us.’ And while they’re far from
traditional slasher films, that doesn’t mean the
genre’s gone away either. – If you think I’m gonna settle for just another
sleazeball video promotion, you must be dreaming! – Going straight to
video was the death knell for slashers in the 80s,
but the rise of streaming and prestige TV has made it a much less sleazy pursuit, and series like ‘Scream,’ ‘Scream Queens,’ ‘The Purge’ TV show, and especially ‘American
Horror Story 1984’ have really leaned into the aesthetic and created the next generation of savvy self-aware slashers. Of course, they’re still killing it in theaters as well. – Happy Halloween, Michael. (knife slices) (screams) – Just last year, 40
years after the first film revolutionized the face of horror, a reboot of ‘Halloween’
returned the franchise to its former glory, shattering records and setting us up for two more sequels. A new ‘Child’s Play’ took Chucky in a different, but
still decent, direction. And with reboots of
‘Candyman,’ ‘Black Christmas,’ and ‘Friday the 13th’ incoming, the genre slows no signs of slowing down. From the theater to our TVs, Giallo to Ghost Face,
slashers have endured throughout decades of
evolving mediums and morals. While they may never be
as big as they once were, slashers are here to stay.


  1. Thanks for watching, nerds! What’s your favorite post-Scream slasher? Is I Know What You Did Last Summer underrated? Do you love Urban Legend? Is David Boreaneaz still your Valentine? Let us know!

  2. i never knew Chucky had a reboot! for that matter, i never knew about most of the recent films you mentioned! What are the best slashers for 2017-19???

  3. NowThisNerd: Wes Craven almost ruined slasher films with A Nightmare on Elm's street.

    Also NowThisNerd: Wes Craven saved slasher films with Scream.

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