Quentin Tarantino “Didn’t Care For” This Celebrated Slasher Now On HBO’s Max

Quentin Tarantino
Quentin Tarantino, 2007. ©Weinstein Company LLC/Courtesy Everett Collection

Quentin Tarantino loves a lot of movies. In fact, it’s been reasonably argued—especially since Cinema Speculation was published—that he really wants to be a critic more than anything. That reverence for moviemaking is clear in his consistently accomplished works, and like the best critics, he’s always ready to dole out some hot takes that rattle the moviegoing audience to their core. Take It Follows, widely believed to be one of the best horror movies of the century. He doesn’t really like it all that much. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (which I recently saw again at my local theater)? Tarantino thinks Lynch abandoned his filmic principles. Yet, the criticism I take the most umbrage with is Tarantino’s disparagement of Wes Craven’s Scream. After all, it’s my favorite scary movie.

In a 2015 interview with Vulture, the famed director was asked what franchise films he’d have liked the chance to direct. Scream came to mind, and Quentin Tarantino remarked, “I actually didn’t care for Wes Craven’s direction of it. I thought he was the iron chain attached to its ankle that kept it earthbound and stopped it from going to the moon.” Quentin Tarantino similarly shared that in-movie Stab director Robert Rodriguez had originally been approached to direct, which is a fun bit of trivia, if nothing else.

Does Quentin Tarantino have a point? No, not really, but I’ll respectfully disagree. Scream (2022) and Scream 6, both released after Quentin Tarantino’s interview, make it clearer than it had been before that despite one’s best efforts, Craven isn’t so easily copied. Think of James Wan and both The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2. There’s an entire cinematic universe of Wan acolytes aping his style, though more regularly than not, additional entries further solidify how accomplished Wan was in the first place.

I’ve written at length and talked to some much smarter people than myself about what makes Wes Craven’s horror different than his peers. To get technical—and Craven, I must note, is much more than just a technical director—he manages a tactility and proximal fidelity that few horror filmmakers have matched. In a slasher, especially, a sense of space is key. Without it, the scares feel cheap, and the chases fall flat. Something so ostensibly simple, so seemingly inconsequential, helps a movie like Scream to counter Tarantino and make it to the moon. I mean, come on.

Quentin Tarantino has released many movies I’ve liked, and I won’t outright dismiss what he’s said. He’s entitled to feel how he does, and I’ll concede his perspective merits more consideration than most. Plus, it’s not like I haven’t been critical of Scream before. Last summer, Scream Stan Twitter was ready to crucify me for what amounted to a pretty benign criticism. At the same time, it’s disingenuous to conceptualize Craven’s direction as safe, which is really what Quentin Tarantino is getting at. Wes Craven was one of the most profoundly dangerous directors of his time. He was constantly reinventing himself, without fail. While it might not have all worked, it does render the late filmmaker’s output a catalog that will, no doubt, endure for years.

What do you think? Do you agree with Quentin Tarantino? Which Scream movie is your favorite? Let me know over on Twitter @Chadiscollins.

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