Scream - 1996
Scream comes from the mind of the late, great writer-producer-director Wes Craven. The mind many consider to be on the Mount Rushmore of the horror genre. Craven is better known for creating one of the most recognizable baddies in movie history, Freddie Krueger from the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. While many would be had been satisfied with the resume he had by 1996, Craven wasn’t and he had another ace up his sleeve with the Ghostface serial killer from Scream. The story centers around a teenager who is being stalked by a horror-movie-obsessed serial killer.
With this movie being old enough to drink, it’s safe to say the following review will be full of spoilers.
In Scream, Craven paid homage to the horror movies that came before it. The biggest homage comes from the opening and how it mirrors Hitchcock’s Psycho. The movie stars a slew of 90’s stars with Drew Barrymore being the biggest name among them at the time. Barrymore is the first victim of Ghostface and this immediately sets a tone for the rest of the movie. Her death lets the audience know, everyone is fair game. Hitchcock did the very same thing with Janet Leigh, during the infamous shower scene, thirty-six years prior. Destroying the audience expectations of who is the hero of the story forces them to play catch-up with the rest of the characters for the rest of the movie.
Scream also plays with the tropes within the genre, calling them out through Jamie Kennedy’s character. One of his most famous scenes is the speech he gives his peers while they are watching Halloween, regarding the rules of the horror genre. The rules are as follows: 1. You may not survive the movie if you have sex. 2. You may not survive the movie if you drink or do drugs. 3. You may not survive the movie if you say, “I’ll be right back”, “Hello?” or “Who’s there?”. Craven calls attention to them and for the most part adheres by them, with Sid being the exception. It takes a good magician to let you know exactly how the trick works and still pull it off without you expecting it.
Quick note: Craven makes a small cameo appearance as the janitor of the school. He is dressed up as Freddy.
Kevin Williamson wrote a dynamic and fast paced screenplay. He doesn’t let the audience get too comfortable in the world he created as there are few moments of lull spliced between the killings. While many of the scenes have humor injected in them, they never stray too far away from their tension-filled core that pushes it forward. Williamson also plays with the “who done it” aspect of the film. He gives everyone surrounding Sid a plausible chance of being the killer, but always pointing out that the one you suspect would be just to obvious, only for it to end up being him all along.
Quick note: Scary Movie did such an amazing job at satirizing this movie. I kept playing the funny versions of the scenes I was watching in my head.
Scream benefits from having a solid cast that never feel out of place. Each actor was perfectly cast in their roles, as they play to their strengths. My favorite character is Gale Weathers, played by Courtney Cox, a reporter who will do anything to get the story she is after. At first, you’re meant to dislike her character, but as the story progresses, you slowly start to root for her. This is a credit to both the writing and Cox’s performance.
While some of the plot points may feel outdated (the cellphone being an incriminating object), the movie holds up beautifully. It’s a classic slasher movie, with enough meta-humor to separate from its peers as a stand-out in the genre. The late, great Wes Craven is why I love movies.
Scream is currently streaming on Netflix. What’s your favorite scary movie? Scream your answers down below.
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