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Peter Chattaway

From American Graffiti to American Pie

The new "teensploitation" films.

There was a time, not too long ago, when conservative pundits liked to argue that family-friendly movies were, from the point of view of the major Hollywood studios, a safer financial bet. Restricted movies played to narrower, restricted audiences, while G-rated movies were free to play to as wide an audience as the market could al low. A number of hugely successful films in the early 1990s—such as Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin—seemed to prove their point.

But there were voices of caution, too. In 1992, Universal Studios chairman Tom Pollock told Premiere magazine that the movie industry was reaping the benefits of a "baby boomlet," a natural result of the fact that many baby boomers now had children of their own. Pollock noted further that these children wouldn't stay young forever: "They're about to come into their teens, so we're going to be having a whole raft of coming-of-age movies again. Everybody's going to lose their virginity again."1

That raft is upon us now. Teen ensemble films are fairly cheap to make, and studios can usually count on at least getting their money back; in some cases, they can reap substantial profits. Clueless and William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet were decent-sized hits, but they didn't prepare Hollywood for the success of Scream, a postmodern high-school slasher flick that opened three years ago and, to everyone's surprise, quietly amassed a domestic box-office gross of just over $100 million.

Sexuality played a significant role in Scream's deconstruction of the horror genre. As Randy (Jamie Kennedy), the film's resident movie geek, explains, there's a "sin factor" at work in the slasher flicks of old. "Sex equals death," he says, and only virgins are capable of defeating the villain. Meanwhile, Sidney (Neve Campbell), the film's heroine, has sex for the first time with her boyfriend Billy (Skeet Ulrich), only to discover immediately afterward that he is one of two unidentified killers who have been terrorizing the town; ...

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