“Where My Love of Cinema Began” – ‘Scream’ and the Awakening of Kieran Judge as Film Aficionado

Some of the guys here at The Film Magazine are discussing actual romance in films for this Valentine’s Day – deep articles with analysis of movies and stuff. I’d usually take that approach, but this time I’m not. Sorry.

For some people, they’ve loved movies their whole life. Most people like movies, but it isn’t a proper ‘love’ for the medium. I was one of those people, the kind that would enjoy movies but not really spend all night following up on the Oscars, or rooting out classics in bargain-basements. I certainly had no intention to study them at any level; I was a straight literature person. But that changed in 2011 when I went onto YouTube and saw they were advertising a new movie coming out in about a month’s time. The movie was Scream 4, and all it took was one look at Ghostface’s mask to change me forever.

I watched the trailer and loved it, and, knowing nothing about horror or most classic movies, decided that I was going to try and see it. Did the prospect of sneaking into a 15 rated movie, at the age of 13, daunt me in the slightest? Nope. I was going to see this thing or die trying. But first I needed to see the other films to make sure I knew what the hell was going on in this one.

It was incredible. Never before had I seen a film take tropes that even I was aware of, and break them down to such an extent. It had of course been done before (Wes Craven himself did it in New Nightmare a few years earlier), and perhaps done in a better way, but I was a movie novice. It was like standing at the front gates of school on the first day, looking into the yard and seeing hundreds of networks of corridors, thousands of rooms waiting to be entered. The original Scream became my favourite movie of all time for a long time.

I lived and breathed those characters. I recited Randy’s rules to surviving horror movies. I tried to educate my classmates with the same principles of meta-horror. I doodled Ghostface on every available square of maths book I could when bored in class. When my friend and I teamed up for an exercise in class, we nicknamed ourselves Billy and Stu, after the characters from the film. A bit morbid, maybe, considering the end of the movie, but that was what happened; it intoxicated me.

I watched everything I could; from The Shining to Dracula, anything horror would work for me. Did my parents worry about me? I’m sure they still do, but after a while I think they just accepted it. As long as my exam results didn’t slip, I could keep up this strange habit of delving into the world of ‘trash’ cinema. I followed up all the references made in the movie; every little alleyway I could find into more and more films. I was like a dog following a trail of biscuits into cinema.

After a while, I decided that I probably needed to expand away from just pure horror. And so I made tentative footsteps into Science Fiction, Crime, Fantasy, and Western, all of that good stuff. One of the only major sections of film I never really explored was the Superhero movie, and it’s only recently that I’ve been watching them. I still wouldn’t say I love them, but they’re a decent way to pass the time if you want to kick back and munch some overpriced popcorn for a bit.

Suddenly I was watching everything I could find. Somewhere not too far into my filmic exploration, I found some videos on YouTube explaining some analysis of The Shining. I think it was Rob Ager’s videos, though I can’t be too sure. From nowhere, I had another awakening; that films were complex, layered with meaning and psychological tricks that were designed to evoke emotions in such subtle ways that I had never realised before. Thanks to this moment, I managed that transition which only a very, very small portion of the population make; to realising that films were not just popcorn-munchers, but intricate pieces of craftsmanship that were not only engaging, but worthy of study and appreciation, in the same way as any other art form.

I went on to take Media Studies at A Level, and to study Film and Television as part of my BA degree at University. I’ve been to Abertoir Horror Festival for four years running, events at Pinewood, and been President of Aberystwyth University’s British Film & Television Society for a two year stint. In my final year of my BA, the University brought in Huw Penallt Jones, (Hollywood producer on films such as Cold Mountain and, recently, Damascus Cover, which will probably be most notable for being John Hurt’s final film), who helped me get the final film I wanted. I’ve met Gareth Evans (The Raid), Sean Cunningham (Friday the 13th), along with many more. I’ve sat in on workshops and screenings with Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now, The Godfather trilogy, Ghost, A Touch of Evil).

Not only has film directed the path I wanted to take in life, it’s got me where I am today, writing this.

Even so, every so often I’ll go to my DVD shelf and pluck out a copy of Scream. I put it in and watch in amazement. It’s not my favourite film anymore by any stretch of the imagination (the current title holder curre is Blade Runner), but it’s always going to hold a special place in my heart. That film put me on track for eight years of my life. Sometimes, a film like that will live with you forever. And so, though it isn’t my favourite film of all time, the one that will forever hold the sacred place in my little egocentric scribbler’s heart, is Wes Craven’s 1996 masterpiece, Scream.

[Follow me on Twitter: @KJudgeMental]