Director – Wes Craven
Cast – Neve Campbell, Skeet Ulrich, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Matthew Lillard, Jamie Kennedy, Rose McGowan, W. Earl Brown, Henry Winkler, Drew Barrymore, Lawrence Hecht, Joseph Whipp, Liev Schreiber, Roger Jackson(voice), Kevin Patrick Walls
Release Year – 1996
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Wes Craven had already made his mark in horror history with several great films during both the 70s and the 80s, and while he lost a bit of steam in the 1990s he still delivered positive experiences in New Nightmare and The People Under The Stairs, however he really made himself a horror icon on a national level and brought back the slasher scene with Scream. Adorned with teen heart throbs, a memorable killer, and a story homage-ing the fun respect associated with the horror slasher scene, Scream is one of the best examples of premier 90s horror, and has remained a highlight in the careers of all associated for just that reason.
10 years after the violent death of her mother, two of Sidney Prescott’s schoolmates are killed in violent fashion. When the killer makes contact with Sidney and she survives a close encounter with him, her world is turned upside down when not only those around her one-by-one fall victim to this killer, but the evidence found shows that everyone around her is a suspect.
I will admit to you right now that I am not the biggest fan of the Scream series. I appreciate Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson(I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Faculty, Scream 2, Scream 3, Scream 4) bringing a slasher film to the masses again, but personally I am not a huge fan for a number of reasons. This does not mean that I think this is a bad film, in fact, I believe that Scream has done much for the modern day horror genre, and I will leave my personal reasoning to low unbiased levels and review this film for what it is.
Williamson’s story is great, and he throws in every great element having to do with the slasher sub-genre. The opening sequence is fantastic and is one of the most memorable opening sequences in horror history, and it definitely sets the tone for the creative high intensity horror that would hit the screen in mostly heavy doses. There is a constant comedic feel going on in the film, and while this is not a devout horror comedy the “fun” factor is high and is another one of those all-too-important slasher elements thrown into the film by Williamson. We get numerous references to the slasher films of the 70s and 80s, as well as some self-appreciation for Wes Craven’s earlier works. True horror fans should take notice to these homages and find joy in them as I did, especially if you are watching with a horror newbie who has no clue to the homages. Simply put, it makes you look smarter than you really are. We get a slew of character that each add their own flair and conflict to the story, with Sidney Prescott serving as the usual lead protagonist who has a dark past and is suffering even more as she is in the process of reliving it during this dilemma. Soon after the comes face to face with “Ghostface”, the killer, evidence comes to light that proves those around her could be the killer. Each character comes with their own suspicious habits, and Williamson used each of the many characters to provide positively to the film’s story. I was quite surprised that this occurred because normally films with this many characters have some that offer nothing but taking up screen time, but that was not the case with this story, and I applaud Williamson for that. Also surprising to me was that this screenplay was Williamson’s debut effort, a testament that your first film does not always have to be a low-budget creation so long as you play the game right. The twists and turns abound in this flick, and I was glad to see that not all of the twists came during the final act of the film. From early on we are thrown into the mystery tale of constant suspects and things never really slow down as far as the mystery goes, which eventually lead up to a strong climax that I am sure nobody saw coming. Williamson threw in quite a few deaths as well, another positive note that aided with the film’s pacing. A few of the deaths were unique and came with a comedic feel(the garage door kill for one) and our killer was used to good potential in delivering deaths in quiet and stealthy fashion.
Craven(A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes, The Last House on the Left, Red Eye, The Serpent and the Rainbow)’s direction and execution of this flick is good, however this is mostly where I found personal faults with the film. I will not say that his direction was bad, because it wasn’t, I just was not a fstrong an personally, simple as that. He manages to create good tension and a positive creep level early on, beginning with the film’s awesome introduction and staying strong throughout most of the film’s 111 minute runtime. His camerawork is great and he uses this to provide good scares involving Ghostface, who was so simple yet so well executed that he came off as a truly creepy killer despite him looking like he was intended as a gimmick to poke fun at the slasher sub-genre. Numerous actors portrayed Ghostface, including Craven himself, which is another testament to good direction and chemistry on set given each of these actors executed the character properly and with good results. The sets used were great, and Craven proved that he could still make any house a creepy one, as he did with numerous films before and did with My Soul To Take, which was not that great but at least had good atmosphere. Craven’s execution of the kills was great, and a few of the kills came with a grisly nature that resulted in some positive gore. While some of the kills took place off camera, including one that we only heard of and never saw, the ones that did occur on camera were great, and Craven did a good job of throwing in the comedic charm that Williamson wrote into the piece. The acting performances involved were so-so, but when are they ever really that great in slasher films? I really wanted to balk at some of the performances we were given, especially from Matthew Lillard(who I usually enjoy) but given this is a homage to slasher films and slasher films never had great actors I let this one slide. You can thank Williamson and Craven for that one, Matthew Lillard.
Overall, Scream is a solid horror effort from Wes Craven and first-time writer Kevin Williamson that gives us a great slasher experience at the cost of all previous great slasher films. The story is good and consists of all the right twists and turns and slasher cliches, and Craven’s direction and usage of Ghostface provides good tension and positive horror that results in one of the best horror films of the 1990s. This film brought the horror scene back to the national level, and made careers out of nearly everyone involved. I recommend this to those with a love for the slasher genre and those looking for a great horror film that has stood and will stand the test of time.