Let’s talk about horror.
Scream has some surprising staying power. My wife had never seen it, so I immediately made her watch all four (that’ll teach her for marrying my dumb ass).
We follow Sidney (Neve Campbell), a “young” high school student (who is actually in her mid-20s) after a brutal murder occurs in their small town. The killer seems to have a bone to pick with Sidney specifically, and everyone becomes a suspect.
What makes this movie still work today is that the film does a great job at actually making everyone seem potentially guilty. The obsessive boyfriend Billy (Skeet Ulrich) is an obvious choice, but so is just about everyone else, including Sidney’s father and possibly Sidney herself. (Honestly, having it be Sidney and any interactions she has with the killer being a fever dream could have been cool). We end up with a whodunnit that doesn’t overact or overdo any aspect.
The story moves quickly and the only way someone is ruled out is when they become a victim. While some suspects are more obviously, well suspect, I was surprised at how long we keep the possibilities open. The story is simple in some ways, but instead of allowing it to be shallow, Wes Craven created a focused experience for viewers.
The film is surprisingly didactic as Randy (Jamie Kennedy) constantly reminds us of the tropes and clichés of the horror genre. A lot of people point to the metacommentary of these films as a plus, and this is cool, but phrasing it that way takes it too seriously. What we have is a film that holds the mirror up to itself and the genre and feels free to make fun of everything in the reflection.
Oddly, I wouldn’t consider this a horror film. I mean, it is, but it isn’t. We have all the features of a horror film, but in the end, it is more of a social satire than anything else. However, there are some genuinely tense moments throughout. The opening sequence still manages to be intense.
Horror never seems to know what to do with technology. We end up with stories that go out of their way to avoid it or mangle it somehow to where it makes no sense. Scream leans into the pre-social media days where everyone was always on the phone (and when cell phones were a rarity). We get a lot of dialogue from the killer (no spoilers here) and this is something that works better here.
However, we do end up with a lengthy scene where the logic behind the crime is explained ad nauseum and we have to wonder why the plan wasn’t followed through before the explanation. It really is the classic “I’m going to kill you, Bond, but first let me tell you all my secrets.” The meta elements of the film can’t cover this either, it is simply an info dump in the final act for reasons.
Scream is a good film, and in some ways, it is one of the greater slasher films in general. It led a troubled renaissance of poor copies and shitty parodies, but by itself it works well. It is hard to view this by itself today if you know about everything that came after. However, if you are looking for a surprisingly funny, albeit not scary, film that manages to hold a lot of moving pieces together this one is worth watching.
The dumbest thing they could do would be to turn this into a franchise…
Scream 2 review coming in 2 days!