Creepy can be comforting: The power of ‘Scream’ and cult horror franchises

Jennifer Moglia, Staff Writer

The sixth film in the beloved “Scream” franchise hit theaters worldwide on March 10. The series, which peaked in the late ‘90s to early 2000s, has an extremely loyal fanbase that has grown exponentially since its first film in over a decade, “Scream” (2022), was released last year.

The original film, “Scream” (1996),  follows teenager Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), who is attempting to cope with the one-year anniversary of her mother’s passing when a string of murders begins to unfold at her high school. Equal parts scary and satirical, the film gained a cult following because of how it made fun of other slasher films while still telling a compelling story.

The first time I saw “Scream,” I was hooked. I had never seen a horror movie that had me on the edge of my seat in that way, equal parts engaged and terrified. I laughed, freaked out and was invested in the story the entire time. It quickly became a movie that I would often turn to when I needed a pick-me-up – not typical of a film about a string of murders.

The first “Scream” would go on to have two sequels in the late ‘90s to early 2000s, another released 11 years later, and one more 11 years after that. While fan reactions have varied from film to film, the franchise gained more fans with each release, fans who also found a home in the campy and chilling world of ghostface and his victims.

Despite growing up fearing all things scary, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve taken solace in watching horror movies like “Scream,” and I’m not the only one. A quick Google search of “comfort horror movies” yields results from sites like Collider, Screen Rant, Reddit and WhatCulture, where writers and users list thrillers they like to get cozy with.

Collider’s Kendra Demeo calls the horror genre a “welcoming place for those who are lost,” explaining how feeling fear in a controlled environment like watching a movie can actually be fun and make viewers feel safe in a strange way. Screen Rant’s Aya Tsintsiraz lists “The Blair Witch Project” as a comforting horror film, acknowledging that reminiscing on where you were and who you were with the first time you watched something can evoke a feeling of safety as well.

My comfort horror movie is A24 director Ari Aster’s sophomore outing, 2019’s “Midsommar,” which I first discovered in the spring of 2020 just before the pandemic. I fell in love with the bright, flowery aesthetic and thought it was incredibly unique for a horror film. Furthermore, as someone with experience in toxic relationships, I connected with the main character, Dani, and wanted to see her get a happy ending away from her toxic partner (which she sort of did, depending on how you interpret the final scene).

If you enjoy the storytelling associated with horror movies but can’t take the blood and guts of it all, there are so many ways to enjoy the tales with none of the entrails. The “Dead Meat” podcast, for example, known as “your horror safe haven,” records episodes including discussion and analysis of scary movies without the skin-crawling visual elements.

I believe that the “Scream” series has the power to become the next comfort horror movie franchise. Its relatable characters, a mixture of humor and horror, and the way it isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself make it the perfect candidate.

“Scream” can also bring multiple generations together, bridging the gap between people who saw the original film in theaters as a teen and members of Generation Z who are being introduced to the newest movie on social media this month. I’ve had conversations with my mom about how she felt the first time she saw the original film, and I’ve seen TikTok edits of scenes from the newest installment.

No matter how you slice it – and whether or not you wear a ghostface mask when you do it – creepy movies can bring comfort, and “Scream VI” could be the latest one to do so.