It says something about the sheer volume of horror movies made in the 70s, 80s and 90s that in 1996 Wes Craven, himself creator of such classics as A Nightmare on Elm Street and the Hills Have Eyes, was able to create a film almost entirely about other horror movies, whilst still existing as a genre-defining horror-comedy along the way. Namechecking the likes of his own works (whilst having a dig at the sequels he wasn’t directly involved with) as well as Halloween, Friday the 13th, the Exorcist, Basic Instinct, Frankenstein, Prom Night, the Howling, Evil Dead, Hellraiser, Clerks, Psycho, Carrie, I Spit on Your Grave, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the Silence of the Lambs to name but a few, the script revels in its horror knowledge, with one character, Jamie Kennedy’s Randy, working in a video store (remember them?) and dictating the rules of surviving a horror movie (don’t have sex, never drink or take drugs, never say “I’ll be right back”).
Typically with all franchises, the sequels deteriorate in quality, but it’s clear this was set up as a franchise from the beginning, with Sydney predicting Tori Spelling would play her if they made the story into a movie (as happens in Scream 2’s film within a film, Stab), and Liev Schreiber’s role of convicted killer Cotton Weary beefed up a great deal for part 2. This is exactly the horror film needed to reinvigorate the once tired genre; a horror film made for people who love horror films, by people who love horror films, about people who love horror films.