Postmodernism in Wes Craven’s Scream

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Wes Craven’s 1996 film Scream is a perfect example of Postmodernism because it is a scary movie going over the rules scary films have. Craven’s film was a box-office hit that redefined how people view horror movies. After the release of the film (which later became a franchise with four films and counting following pursuit), other horror movie thrillers seemed to mimic Scream, such as I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) and Urban Legend (1998). When Scream was released, the 1996 film also changed how people viewed scary movies into a whole new perspective of the horror/thriller genre.

The official trailer to the 1996 cult-classic film, Scream.

Mike Bedard defines Postmodernism as “a philosophical movement that impacted the arts and critical thinking throughout the latter half of the 20th century. Works in Postmodernism tend to have an attitude of rejection or irony toward typically-accepted narratives.”Scream is a postmodern film because of the unpredictability it provides viewers by changing the rules of how scary movies usually play out.

In a horror/slasher film, one would think a well-known movie actress would be the final girl (also known as the survivor in the movie), but in Craven’s film, a famous actress, Drew Barrymore, gets killed at the beginning of the film. According to IMDB, “Drew Barrymore was originally cast as the main character, Sidney Prescott, but she insisted that if she played Casey, a victim, in just the opening scene alone, then it would make the audience think anything could happen. Barrymore being given top billing and appearing on the poster was meant to mislead the audience.” Drew Barrymore decided to play her part in the movie because, like Craven, she wanted to change how people watch scary movies and show that anything can happen unexpectedly.

Scream made people take into consideration how the movie can affect real life. After the film’s release, the use of caller IDs increased in most households in the country because, in the movie, the serial killer known as Ghostface would taunt victims via threatening phone calls before attacking and killing them (IMDB).

Postmodernism in Wes Craven's Scream 1
Ghostface in action. Donning the iconic mask in the Scream franchise.

After the box-office success of Scream (1996), it grew into a popular franchise with four more movies and counting to follow, all of which define the rules of how to survive a sequel, trilogy, reboot, and, as mentioned in Scream (2022), a requel. A requel is a combination of a sequel and a remake in a film where the movie focuses on the new main characters but still uses characters from the original film because the events in the requel lead back to the events that took place in the first movie.

The Scream franchise has redefined the rules of how to survive since the first film. As mentioned in Scream, only virgins survive in scary movies, but the main character, Sidney Prescott, loses her virginity to her boyfriend, Billy Loomis, who ends up being one of the two killers in the film trying to kill her (the other killer being Billy’s best friend, Stu Mocker). Still, she overpowers them and kills them both. Sidney surviving at the end of the movie is breaking the rules of surviving a horror movie because she’s no longer a virgin. Sidney’s survival also redefined the rules because she is intelligent, and Sidney’s quick thinking was an asset to her becoming the final girl.

Wes Craven’s Scream and the sequels that follow display Postmodernism because of the numerous ways they redefine the rules of how scary movies play out. This movie grew into a franchise, and it goes beyond the means of what usually happens in a horror/slasher movie by showing unexpected outcomes compared to what movie viewers are used to seeing when watching a film in the horror/slasher genre.

Related to Postmodernism in Wes Craven’s Scream

Along with this essay I wrote in my Intro to Cultural Studies class, I also have a blog post that mentions the Scream films. It’s a list of horror movies to watch during the month of October, and the Scream movies are described in that list post.

Works Cited

Bedard, Mike. “What Is Postmodernism? Definition And Examples For Filmmakers”. Studiobinder, 2020,

“Scream (1996) – Imdb”. Imdb,

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