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Scream (1996)

September 9, 2010

VERDICT:
7/10 Ghostface Killahs

Still a great concept and still pretty groundbreaking, but also kinda dated nearly 15 years and several viewings later.

Scream is about a High School girl who finds herself the target of a serial killer/horror movie junkie on the one-year anniversary of her mother’s murder. As the body count rises, so do the suspects and before you know it, our scream queen of the hour winds up answering horror trivia to save her own life.

If there’s one thing to be said about writer/director/blood orgy enthusiast Wes Craven is that the guy’s got some damn good ideas. Freddy (who is treated to an awesome cameo here) may very well be the most inspired slasher villain that’s ever been, and in ’94 Craven started breaking down that fourth wall in a big ol’ way with his New Nightmare (where Freddy starts killing the actors from the Nightmare on Elm Street series) and I think it’s safe to say that the Scream franchise is exactly why he’s synonymous with the genre. It’s part-tribute, part-game-changer and while some aspects don’t quite work as well as others, there’s still no other movie quite like it.

It’s like a horror movie made by a true horror aficionado who took everything we got bored with in the genre and turned it on its head so it seemed new. The weird thing is that when push comes to shove, this isn’t a whole lot different from a lot of stuff that put Craven on the map to begin with, but it’s the first time that a horror movie actually felt like it was set in the real world. On the outset, the victims may seem like every stupid teen that’s ever visited Camp Crystal Lake or managed to die on prom night, but the difference this time around is that they’ve actually seen Halloween and know not to say, “I’ll be right back,” when there’s a killer on the loose. It’s amazing how the moment Craven lets his characters in on the rules of surviving a horror movie so that they’re the ones yelling “TURN AROUND YOU FREAKIN’ IDIOT!” instead of us and then still manage to scare the audience on top of it, that’s pretty damn impressive. Feels like one of those things that everyone was begging for and Wes was the first one to answer the call. Too bad that more film makers haven’t tried to follow in his footsteps in this regard.

And the script for the most part is awfully solid, but too much of the dialogue is far too corny for its own good. While I can dig that a lot of it is there to capture that “classic Craven” feel of teens who are just waiting to be killed, they’re too damn smart and too damn realistic to be calling someone a “fuckrag”. It does hurt the overall package in terms of getting us to connect to these youngsters and keeping that authenticity going, but since they’re also more often than not saying everything that’s on our mind in terms of what’s going down around them, it makes it a bit less noticeable in the long run.

But the acting here does leave something to be desired. Actually, the cast isn’t half-bad, it’s just that whole dialogue thing that screws it up. Courteney Cox and David Arquette are the best of the bunch, Neve Campbell just keeps on making all those squinty Neve Cambell faces, Rose McGowan‘s there for sex appeal, I’m still not sure if Jamie Kennedy is annoying or not, Skeet Ulrich is actually pretty good despite his ridiculous haircut, and then there’s Matthew Lillard.

Geez. Matthew Lillard. Fuck that guy. Has watching this guy act ever not been on the same level as brushing your teeth with a powerdrill? Every moment he’s on-screen is a moment we all have to suffer and I don’t know how Wes could have allowed a jackass performance like this to sully his movie. Awful, just awful.

Although it never hurts to have The Fonz around. He makes the pain all better.

If you’ve never seen it before, Scream is the bomb, it’ll make you want to watch horror movies. But once that’s over, you may be better off just moving on and relishing in the memories since this ain’t all that scary once you know what’s waiting around the corner. Almost interested to see what Scre4m is gonna bring to the table, but it’s sure gonna have a hard time topping the original.

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25 Comments leave one →
  1. September 9, 2010 5:58 am

    Watched this film last year and still can’t believe how well it holds up against 90s horrors! Love how it’s RAMMED full of classic horror references. We also need more Neve and Rose!!!! They were so perky in this flick!

    Unfortunately this kick-started the new wave of terrible teen horrors and horror parodies… looking forward to the new film coming out this year (?) though.

    • September 9, 2010 11:40 am

      Yeah, the knockoffs were endless, and I don’t know if I can forgive it for booting up the Scary Movie franchise. Without Scream, we probably wouldn’t have aaron seltzer and jason friedberg, and that in itself is pretty unforgivable.

  2. September 9, 2010 6:45 am

    It will be interesting to see how well this film holds up over the coming years as opposed to the original slashers still maintaining their longevity (well, the best ones anyway – Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, Black Christmas).

    When I first saw Scream I said – this is the best movie I’ve ever seen! I was 14 at the time…I now don’t agree with that sentiment. But I still think it’s a really good film. But, I actually prefer the sequel…at least I did the last time I watched them.

    • September 9, 2010 11:42 am

      haha, that’s a pretty big statement, but I threw that around like gangbusters as well at 14. never saw the sequels straight through, should probably do that before this next one comes out.

      and i think this one will hold up for a long time if only because the movies its inspired by are pretty timeless.

  3. September 9, 2010 12:25 pm

    Lots of hate for lillard man. I got to say I don’t find him that hard to watch in this movie in fact he makes me laugh, it could be he is as terrible as you say but idk mayeb it just reminds me of Hackers, Neve Cambell is the worst part of this movie no questions asked.

    • September 9, 2010 2:12 pm

      Greg Westphal. Jesus H Murphy, how’ve you been, man?

      Idk, just couldn’t deal with the Lillard, had the same reaction with him in Wing Commander when I saw it as a kid, one of the few things that really stuck out to me from that horrible movie. Never seen Hackers though, could be an epiphany for me. Won’t argue with you on Neve though.

      • September 10, 2010 9:33 am

        gotta watch hackers. One of Angelina Jolie’s first movies, plus the guy from trainspotting plus one of the rare PG 13 movies with a tit shot….yep….hers.

      • September 10, 2010 9:52 am

        hahaha. putting it on the netflix queue.

  4. Chloe permalink
    September 9, 2010 12:32 pm

    I love scream. It’s one of my favorite slasher movies but Wes Craven only directed it he didn’t write it, Kevin Williamson did just putting that out there. How do you feel about the 4th being made?

    • September 9, 2010 2:10 pm

      Damn, I did not do my research on that one. You are on point today, Chloe. More interested in Scre4m than I probably should be only because the first two sequels got churned out so fast and now I’m just wondering what they’re gonna do with it. I’m calling that Neve is the killer this time.

  5. mcarteratthemovies permalink
    September 9, 2010 1:45 pm

    You make a good point about “Scream” losing some pizazz as the years pass. It was a clever reinvigoration of the genre at the time, but some of the oomph has been lost. Still, the way it poked fun at the genre as a whole is solid, and the Rules for Surviving a Horror Film? Still pretty damn funny.

    • September 9, 2010 2:08 pm

      The Rules for Surviving a Horror Film speech was awesome, and so was his comment later on about never being so happy to be a virgin. Only part that had me genuinely laughing was when The Fonz unintentionally calls the janitor a “little shit” and it turns out to be a Freddy look-alike. Still, easy to appreciate the humor here in regards to all the horror cliches it calls out from start to finish.

      • September 20, 2010 4:22 pm

        That Freddy look-alike in the Fonz’s scene is the director, Wes Craven, in Freddy’s original sweater. Great cameo!

      • September 20, 2010 4:24 pm

        No way! Awesome trivia, man.

  6. September 9, 2010 5:09 pm

    What? Matthew Lillard is hilarious in this film. I love the corny flavor he brings and I think he fits into the stereotypical prankster that is often in the slasher films.

    I think this film is fantastic and I think it goes beyond more than just the meta genre deconstruction of the slasher film but even farther into how to create a fantastic satire/spoof. I think the problem with just about every spoof film ever made is that it ultimately becomes what it is spoofing. I think Wes Craven is the only director to have gotten it right because he starts with the scariest bits, shows he can make a fantastic slasher flick and then proceeds to build the film until it completely unravels and upsets genre expectations at the end.

    So yea, I think it’s brilliant, one of the great horror movies, even if it is a bit too ’90s.

    • September 10, 2010 9:55 am

      I can get on board with the “one of the great horror movies” statement. For all its faults, this really is something else.

  7. September 9, 2010 7:18 pm

    I thought Scream was fairly clever the first time around, but it never had any re-watch value for me personally. The sequel was dumb and unnecessary and I never did bother with the third. Can’t say I have any excitement about part 4.

    “Has watching this guy act ever not been on the same level as brushing your teeth with a powerdrill?” Harsh (pretty damn funny, but harsh)! Okay, Mr. Lillard is not a great actor but I didn’t mind him in Scream at all, and I also enjoyed him in Serial Mom.

    • September 10, 2010 9:54 am

      Man, was not expecting a ho-hum review from The Gore Girl. But hey, I agree with every point, only I can see myself getting roped into part 4.

      And I’m starting to feel like I totally owe Lillard an apology here.

  8. September 10, 2010 5:42 am

    I definitely see Scream as a terrific satire above everything else…and that’s why I love it! They combined the parody of side of it with actual scares and the result is a really entertaining film.
    It took the best elements of a true horror film and watered them down to a theatrical result that weaklings like I can handle – The storyline and comedy hold up throughout. Can’t wait for 4. That, and “Buried”.

    • September 10, 2010 9:59 am

      Well said, and I’m really intrigued by Buried, too. Haven’t watched the trailer yet since I hate watching trailers, but it sure sounds like an awesome premise. I’m guessing that he punches his way out of the grave like The Bride at the end.

      • September 10, 2010 10:22 am

        I bet they’ll find him….when it’s too late…da da daaaaa (That’s dramatic music).

  9. September 20, 2010 4:26 pm

    There was another movie a few years before Scream, called “There’s Nothing Out There,” that did the whole self-referential characters who are horror buffs and talk about the “rules” of horror films thing. I heard a 20th anniversary DVD is coming out soon. It was kind of a cult hit and I wonder if Williamson was inspired by it.

    • September 21, 2010 2:12 pm

      Never heard of it, sounds interesting though. Will give it a looksee one of these days.

  10. October 2, 2010 2:44 pm

    It’s been a long time since a teen-slasher movie has offered up anything but dull buckets of gore. With Scream, the genre reclaims its roots. I hope this 4th one can do something even better, nice review, check out mine when you can!

    • October 4, 2010 10:30 am

      Yeah, I’m pretty skeptical about this fourth one, but hopefully all the time off since 3 has given Craven some awesome ideas. Fingers crossed.

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