“Do you like scary movies?” To a horror movie fanatic, you might as well have said, “You had me at hello.”
SCREAM just does it for me. I don’t know if it’s the memorable characters, the cheese-ball dialogue, or the fact that the voice on the phone is mildly disturbing – however you play it, even the most skeptical horror fans have to agree that SCREAM revived the need for blood and guts. I can even forgive the fact that it paved the way for some less-than-desirable teeny bopper gore fests. (Ahem, I Know What You Did Last Summer…)
Director Wes Craven takes screenwriter Kevin Williamson’s rules-infused slasher flick to a whole new level- starting with the intense opening. Going into the movie for the first time, the last thing you expect is for hipster Drew Barrymore’s character to get sliced and diced in the opening sequence. But after playing phone tag with a serial killer and being lured into his deadly game, she ends up on the losing end- hanging from a tree, her insides on the outside.
Wait, didn’t that scene just play into every stereotype in the book? A girl, home alone, talks to a stranger, puts herself in harm’s way, and dies as a result? Absolutely- but that’s the beauty of it. That’s what SCREAM is all about: the beauty of clunky horror stereotypes and their end results.
The story moves on to follow our heroine, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), in the aftermath of her mother’s death one year prior. Killer set up for a drama- but add in a homicidal maniac with a thirst for her blood, and by golly, you got yourself a horror movie.
From start to finish, the film twists and turns in such a way that, despite the vivid self-proclaimed formula, keeps you guessing. The ending is also genuinely satisfying and does little to stray away from the film’s overall theme. You can even say ‘I told you so’ when the killer (or, this case, killers) makes his confession. Once you’ve seen it, go back and watch it for a second time. You’ll be amazed at the in-your-face clues strewn into every scene.
What sets SCREAM apart from other like-films is that it openly makes fun of itself. There’s an underlying cynicism that fans of the genre, even the most casual, will immediately catch. Unlike other ‘scary movies,’ the characters in SCREAM are well aware that those films exist. They openly talk about them. Randy (Jamie Kennedy) even sets forth the rules of surviving a horror movie- all of which play out at one point or another during the film’s 111 minutes.
Even the look and feel of the film was incredible. Craven does a stellar job at bringing to life a small town brought to its knees by an unidentified killer. Using a combination of fast-paced action, dramatic close-ups, and suspenseful jingles, he brings forth the genius we’ve seen in his earlier work to mark his territory as one of the reigning ‘kings of horror.’
Despite a few things I can’t look past (Tatum (Rose McGowan) in general, Dewey’s (David Arquette) blatant stupidity, the death of Principal Himbry (Henry Winkler), and, finally, “My mom and dad are gonna be so mad at me!”), I can’t say anything negative about the film. It did what it set out to do- kill some teenagers, stir up some controversy, and set the wave for 90’s horror.
Too bad others didn’t follow the same set of rules.