Thursday, October 17, 2013
Scream is a 1996 slasher horror film directed by the wonderful Wes Craven, who also directed the very first A Nightmare on Elm Street film. After the brutal murder of one of her classmates, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) starts seeing a masked killer nearly everywhere she goes as the anniversary of her mother's brutal rape and murder some years ago approaches. While her childhood friend and deputy sheriff Dewey (David Arquette) and reporter Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) seeks to uncover the mystery of just who is wearing the mask, the bodies begin to pile up and soon all of Sidney's friends come under threat form the masked killer, Ghostface.
Scream is a smart slasher film, mixing together common tropes of the genre and adding a metafictional sense to the film by making many characters aware of these tropes and cliches, often due to them having seen horror movies in-universe. I personally love Scream, the entire series being one of my personal favorites and I feel like not many people appreciate it for what it is. Before Scream came out, the horror genre, and the slasher genre in particular was becoming rather bland. This was in the later half of many franchises when things started to become rather silly (Jason was fighting psychic teenagers and visiting Manhattan, Freddy was attempting to possess a baby, and Michael Myers was hunting his niece and became merely the tool of really dumb cult). The genre was becoming filled with indestructible monster killers and plots were becoming predictable and dumb. Then Scream came out. Scream changed the game. Scream brought back old tropes and combined them with new ones, in a blend of metafiction and horror, creating a great and enjoyable slasher film. Scream brought back the costumed killer, in this case the iconic Ghostface killer, brought back the whodunnit aspects of classical slasher films (most notably the Italian giallo films from the 60s) where the characters nor the audience really know the true identity of the killer until the very end of the film (in a manner similar to the first Friday the 13th film), and more importantly, it ignored the idea of a superhuman killer in favor of taking a normal human and making him scary. Ghostface is just a normal person in a costume; he runs after his victims, he makes mistakes, and he does it all in a creepy costume and mask. These aspects, as well as the rather brutal kills of the film (the opening kill is one of my favorites in any slasher movie ever), revitalized the waning slasher genre, spawning a wave of copycats (such as I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legend) that attempted this same formula with much more mixed results.
The film still holds up over a decade later, being a good and scary slasher with a good mix of creepy tone and gore elements, and to this day, I still think the twist at the end of the film of the killer's identity is one the best I've seen in a slasher film as it is quite unexpected the first time you watch it. Neve Campbell, David Arquette, and Courtney Cox, all of whom returned and played their characters for the other three films in the series, are all great in this film, though I do think Neve Campbell seems a little vacant sometimes..., but this could also be her dealing with the emotional troubles of the anniversary of her mother's murder as well as the horrific acts now surrounding her in her average life. And lets also point out the fact that Sidney is no damsel. Unlike the characters of many previous horror slashers, who don't really become badasses until the film needs them to, Sidney is quick and smart on her feet, fighting back against the killer from the very first time they cross paths.
I love Scream and the entire rest of the series (though that third one...). They are wonderfully acted, wonderfully directed, and also have an important cultural role in the genre it exists in, making me think that Ghostface definitely deserves to be up their with other iconic killers like Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kreuger, and Michael Myers as a horror movie icon.
My Rating: 4.5/5