Monster Theses in Scream

By: Nikki Schrumpf

First off I may want to warn you that if you have never seen the movie Scream and don’t want the plot ruined then do not read this post. Scream is a movie about a serial killer known as Ghostface, who kills off the friends of the main character Sydney Prescott. The movie starts off by Ghostface murdering two students in Sydney’s group of friends. After that the killer comes for Sydney but she successfully escapes. Due to the murders, the town decides to close school and Sydney’s friends decide to throw a party. At this party the characters contemplate the “rules” of horror films realizing that they are in a real life version of one. At the end, Sydney finds out that the murderers are her boyfriend, Billy, and his best friend, Stu, and kills them both in a struggle to save her own life. Throughout the entire movie the writers attempt to mimic the basic idea of a horror movie by containing many details that are included in all horror stories; the victim runs upstairs when being chased by the killer and after the monster or killer is killed he comes back for one last scare.

Watching the movie Scream, I have realized that it has many ideas relate to themes found in Jerome Cohen’s writing, “Monster Culture”. Cohen comes up with seven general ideas that pertain to all horror stories, which he refers to as his Seven Monster Theses. For example three of his theories that I found strongly relatable to Scream were, “the monster polices the border of the possible,” (Cohen 12) “fear of the monster is a kind of desire,” (16) and “the monster always escapes.”(4)  I first realized its relation to Cohen’s theories in the scene where the character, Randy, lists the rules of a horror movie. He says the characters can never have sex, drink or do drugs. Randy generalizes his “rules” similarly to the way Cohen does. Instead of mentioning specifics they both list off general “givens” found in any scary story. I also believe that Randy’s rules relate to the theory, “the monster polices the border of the possible,” explaining that when people cross the line of right and wrong the monster will be there to get you. In Scream that line is defined as having pre-marital sex or participating in illegal activities, such as drinking or drugs. The movie also relates to the theory, “fear of the monster is a kind of desire.” This means that each character that comes in contact with the monster has an underlying fascinating with the monster, sometimes giving the monster its chance to get closer and attack. The characters in the story represent this very well by being more fascinated with the murderer than really afraid of it. News casts follow the killer hoping to make a story out of it, students put on the mask to make jokes about it and they all throw a party showing scary movies when the get off from school because of the murders. While Ghostface is out attacking their friends everyone is acting as if they are watching a scary movie waiting to see what this monster does next, instead of fearing that they may the next victim. Another theory the movie follows is that “the monster always escapes.” Although both murderers in the first movie die or get caught, the writers of the film make the creative choice to make them wear a mask so that the monster can become whoever wears the mask and not the specific person behind it. This allows the monster to be immortal and last long enough to make a series of 4 excellent movies.


9 thoughts on “Monster Theses in Scream

  1. I completely agree with this post. I have never thought of applying Cohen’s Monster Theses to this movie because, although it is a horror movie, it is more about making fun of scary movies than being one. “Scream” and its sequels are not my favorite movies, but always entertaining to watch. When I first watched the movies, I was very scared. But as I got older, the movies became more funny than scary. This is like the movie “I Know What You Did Last Summer”. Getting back to “Scream”, do you think the writers thought about the ideas of these Monster Theses while making the movie? Or were they simply trying to make an engaging scary movie while playing on the stereotypes of the genre?

  2. I agree. I also think that Cohen’s Monster theses applies to other movies too. Have you ever seen The Cabin In The Woods? That movie also lists of the general rules/givens of horror films in that it says what type of people will die first, second, third, etc. I know that this is present in other films, but this is the only one that I can for sure remember off the top of my head. Interesting point though, I never thought about how much Cohen’s Monster Thesis relates to Scream.

  3. That’s really interesting that you connected Cohen’s Monster theses with the movie Scream. I am not a huge fan of movies like these because I think they are extremely predictable but after reading Cohen’s writing, I think it makes analyzing the movie a lot more intriguing. I would’ve never thought about some of the things you pointed out before. I feel like a lot of movies are like this one too. I wonder if there are any horror movies that don’t follow any of Cohen’s theses? I’d be interested to watch one that doesn’t.

  4. I liked that you applied Cohen’s monster theses to a movie that may appear very basic on the surface. Your post proves that you can apply a literary analysis to any type of text or film, and that it can reveal a lot about the writer’s intentions and underlying themes. On another note, I agree with your point about fasc ination with the monser. Interstingly enough, when I first saw this move at age five (babysitting at its finest) I was completely terrified of ghostface. However, as I got older and kept watching the movie, I was more intrigued and curious about why he was killing people and less scared of him.

  5. I thought it was really interesting how you applied Cohen theses to a movie, because I tend to think of his theses as only applying to literature, but you proved that they can be applied to movies just as well as books or stories. You applied all three of the theses very well to the movie “Scream,” although I would argue that the only monster thesis that is true in every single horror story is the idea that “the monster always escapes.” I personally don’t think any horror story would be truly scary if we left thinking that the monster was completely gone and never to return. The six other theses apply to many horrors, but not all of them like “the monster always escapes” does.

  6. Like everyone else, I think it is super cool that you applied these theses to Scream. What makes it cooler is that Scream is not a traditional horror movie as Alana pointed out. To me, this shows exactly how applicable Cohen’s Monster Theses are since they work with even funny horror (…can those two words go together?) films. I am not one for dissecting movies but I think it would be fun to randomly pick a horror movie and see what theses apply.

  7. The scream movies are decent but I think the first one was the only one that matters. Sometimes, directors and producers, (like in poltergeist ) should just end it at one movie. I’m glad that Sidney was the person who at least stayed in all the movies. She is the constant. Cohen would surely agree the monster always returns.

  8. I wonder how these would apply to the Scary Movie films, being similar to Scream. Would they work for a parody, or do they only work for “serious” piece? I think this is a really excellent post, and some awesome analysis of the Scream movies. Great job!

  9. I have to be honest. I never saw Scream. However, I am very well versed in Scary Movie, so hopefully that will help. I agree that Scream uses these monster theses very well, and horrifies the viewers, but why do you think Scream became such a cultural phenonenom? Meaning, what specifically about it, not just the monster theses, is attributable to this?

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