Written by: Matt Molgaard
Directed by: Wes Craven
Cast: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courtney Cox, Skeet Ulrich, Matthew Lillard, Drew Barrymore, Rose McGowan, Jamie Kennedy
I see people disregard Scream on a semi-regular basis. It’s rarely given the credit it’s due, and it’s typically downplayed as a good, but not much else slasher. Unfortunately, that may be a direct result of the ensuing sequels. Outside of Scream 2, which still had some life and a couple surprises, the other Scream flicks really aren’t anything to write home about. It’s really hard to utilize the satirical angle that Kevin Williamson opted for in the franchise opener on numerous occasions. You’re repeating the same joke, made modern to accomdate the times, over and over again. It’s almost self deprecating, and to such a degree that the pics begin to feel a little bit like parodies of satires. That’s not a strong quality. But it is an issue with the franchise, which was destined to have little staying power. Two was enough. Four is just a bit too much. And parts 3 and 4 have certainly done something to tarnish the genius of the first film and the magnetism of the second.
But the first film truly is genius. One single film resurrected the slasher subgenre, which had been having defibrillators plastered to its figurative chest for years. We all thought the slasher film was dead. We thought it had run its course, and lacked the inventiveness to linger longer. Again, it really was considered dead on the slab. And then Scream brought it back to life. It wasn’t a culmination of wicked pictures, it was Scream. That’s where revival began. That’s immensely important. I can’t tell anyone what to do, but it sure as hell rubs me the wrong way when genre fanatics refuse to recognize the cultural relevance of Wes Craven’s Scream.
The story works wonders, not because it functions as a dark inside joke, but because virtually every scene in the feature is perfectly assembled. Think about it, it starts with a look at the then-red hot Drew Barrymore (keep in mind she was coming off of highly touted performance in Mad Love, Boys on the Side, not to mention a few major franchise appearances) who we immediately leap to label the survivor girl. She’s Drew Barrymore for goodness sakes. It’s a brutally tense scene in which we witness the infamous first call, Drew (or Casey Becker, as she’s known in the film) being forced to stare at her boyfriend as his intestines dangle from one seriously carved up belly, undergo a lengthy home invasion/torture sequence, be stabbed herself, multiple times and eventually be hauled up, hung from a tree and, like her boyfriend Steve, disemboweled for her parents to see. If that’s not a holy shit moment, I’ve never seen one. This girl was supposed to be our Jamie Lee Curtis. She wasn’t.
But that’s only the beginning of the insanely seamless scenes. It just keeps on rolling. The moment Billy Loomis, Sidney Prescott’s (the film’s true heroine) boytoy climbs through Sid’s window, we get a look into eyes that don’t project honesty. In fact, they project something far darker. It’s memorable. We move forward into an awesome first encounter between Ghostface and Sid, which sees Sid display her wit and her frustration with inadvertently falling into the cliches of horror films. We also learn that Billy is indeed a suspect, and deputy Dewey Riley is a character to absolutely adore. This all happens in the first act. And it never slows down, and each scene has something awesome to take away. Sid decks the pesky reporter Gale Weathers; Billy’s cleared as a suspect when Sid gets a call from the killer while Billy’s locked behind bars; sinister but hilarious pranks are executed at the high school in heaping portions; Principle Himbry gets sliced up; Randy, one of the greatest horror buffs ever put to film is introduced, and also has an awesome spazz out session in the video (VHS baby!) store he works for. These are all awesome scenes. Awesome. And they keep hitting us in steady waves all the way up to the final encounter between Sid (did I mention that Neve Campbell is one of the sexiest women to walk the earth?), Billy and Stu (who, for the record, is another insanely cool character)… and Randy, and Dewey… and Gale.
Clever dialogue that never ceases to pay homage to past horror treasures, top notch performances from a young attractive cast who completely understood the material they were working with and a new killer that actually has an iconic look and presence. That’s the making of something special. The fact that the gore was rather heavy for a commercially released film, and there’s a veritable smorgasbord of genre familiar cameos really push this film into the ranks of the greatest created. It’s time to stop denying the truth, and the truth is, Scream is the definition of the perfect slasher.