Saturday, February 22, 2014

#1,286. Scream (1996)

Directed By: Wes Craven

Starring: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette

Tag line: "Someone has taken their love of scary movies one step too far. Solving this mystery is going to be murder"

Trivia: Winner of the 1997 Mtv Movie Award for Best Picture

The phone rings, and teenager Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore), home all alone, answers it. The man on the other end has dialed the wrong number. He asks who he is talking to, but Casey won’t tell him. Ignoring his request to chat a while, Casey hangs up the receiver. 

A minute or so later, as she’s preparing some Jiffy-Pop popcorn, the phone rings again. It’s the same guy, wondering why she doesn’t want to talk. Casey still refuses to tell this mysterious caller her name, yet is intrigued by his persistence, and flirts with him a little. 

Eventually, she reveals that she’s getting ready to watch “a scary movie”. He asks what her favorite scary movie is, and after a slight hesitation, she says it’s Halloween, the “one with the guy in the white mask who walks around and stalks babysitters”. The two flirt some more, and the caller, once again, asks for her name.

Why do you want to know my name?” Casey inquires, playfully.

Because I want to know who I’m looking at” is his chilling reply.

And with that, one of the best opening sequences in modern horror kicks into high gear.

Yes, a killer is on the loose in the small California town of Woodsboro, and his main target appears to be Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), a teen whose mother was murdered exactly one year earlier. The man accused of killing Sidney’s mom, Cotton Weary (Liev Schrieber), is locked away in prison, but there are those who believe Cotton is innocent, including news reporter Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox). 

It isn't long before the killer (wearing a ghost mask and a black cloak) catches up with Sidney, and the frightened teen is forced to run for her life.  With her father out of town on business, she is invited to stay with her friend Tatum (Rose McGowan), whose brother Dewey (David Arquette) is a deputy policeman. As Sidney continues to receive threatening phone calls, her high school classmates, including boyfriend Billy (Skeet Ulrich); Billy’s best friend Stu (Matthew Lillard); and local movie geek Randy (Jamie Kennedy), tap their vast knowledge of horror films to try and determine the killer’s true identity. 

But as Randy points out, one of the “rules” of a good horror movie is that everyone is a suspect, leaving Sidney to wonder who she can trust... if anyone.

Along with its incredible opening scene, Wes Craven's Scream endears itself to horror fans by providing characters who are equally as enthusiastic about the genre. Fully in tune with the clichés and formulas that go hand-in-hand with most slasher films, Jamie Kennedy’s Randy lays out the four essential “rules” for surviving a horror movie, which are:

1. You can never have sex (“Sex=Death”)
2. You can never drink or do drugs (The “sin factor”, an extension of Rule #1)
3. Never under any circumstances say “I’ll be right back (because you won’t be)
4. Everyone is a suspect

Of course, we’re treated to a number of scenes in which both Sidney and her friends break these rules, or do something every bit as stupid as your typical slasher victim. One of the films funniest (and most intense) sequences begins with Sidney talking to the killer on the phone. She tells him she can't stand horror movies because they’re all the same. “Some stupid killer", Sidney says, "stalking some big-breasted girl who can’t act who’s always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door”. Moments later, when the killer breaks into her house, Sidney tries to give him the slip... by running upstairs!

Self-referential humor aside, Scream is also an edgy, frightening slasher film that doesn’t shy away from violence (“Ghostface”, as the killer has come to be known, wields a butcher’s knife, and isn’t afraid to use it). In addition, the film features a finale that is just as intense as the opening, and there's a sweet romance that develops between Gale Weathers and policeman Dewey (like their characters, Cox and Arquette fell in love while making this movie, and would marry in real life). 

For many horror fans, Wes Craven will always be the guy who gave us A Nightmare on Elm Street, but with all due respect to Freddy Krueger, I consider Scream to be his masterpiece.

1 comment:

NyderOfSkaro said...

To add to your review, "Scream" is even more clever with how it plays the cliches. Sidney locks the front door, which itself seems a clever move. But when she is attacked she cannot get it unlocked in time which is what then *forces* her to run up the stairs. There's tons of subtle little moments like this that make it a classic.