A year after the murder of her mother, Sidney (Neve Campbell) receives a phone call from a killer on her porch. ‘Do you like scary movies?’ asks the voice. She’s attacked by a crazy guy dressed in a ghost/scream mask and black floaty robes. This time she survives, next time she might not be so lucky.
So this sounds like the same old story. Crazy madman in a mask, stalking girls, making crank calls, but this film changes everything. This was 1996. Wes Craven changed all the rules of film making and reinvented the horror film. A design classic as iconic as the coke cola bottle or the original bondi blue iMac. For Craven, this was by no means a fluke. His film making skills are exemplary, creating some of the finest films in the genre. Hills Have Eyes, Last House, Elm Street. All ground breaking and extraordinary. Scream is the icing on the cake and takes into account everything which has gone before. He builds on all the films he’s mastered and lifts heavily from many others too, creating a huge cauldron of horror goodness.
Craven’s signature, the girl next door taking the lead, empowering the female, especially in a genre so dominant with male leads, works perfectly here. Neve Campbell is a great choice with a perfect performance producing a whole range of emotions, creating a rounded likable character. Her supporting cast are brilliant. Skeet Ulrich, Kev Patrick Walls, Matt Lillard and a stunning performance from Rose McGowan. Craven, as always taking a chance on a young, relatively unknown cast, with the exception of Drew Barrymore who he cleverly massacred in the first scene of the film, (One of the greatest opening scenes i’ve even seen in a film) yet still used as the worldwide poster campaign. The acting is spotless.
Script wise, we have one of the best I have ever heard. It’s fast and clever. Written and scripted by Kevin Williamson, who has worked on the rest of the franchise as well as the first I Know What You Did film. It works on many levels. For being snappy in a teen sarcastic kinda way. Believable characters with depth. The dialogue between Courteney Cox and Dave Arquette is legendary. But the winning formula binds the film together; that of film trivia. Not a single scene goes by without some form of reference which is introduced in the opening scene, and carried through to the finale.
One of my favorite things about this film, is the pure cheek when using the score from Halloween to emphasis tension as characters creep around a house, waiting to be hacked up by the killer, whilst the movie plays in the living room. A real quality touch.
From a gore point of view, the film is filled with stabbings and that’s about it. It’s all it needs. There is an moment of inventiveness when Rose McGowan gets it in the garage, but apart from this singular scene, we have a solid knife massacre.
A final note. As the killer bounds from room to room, slaying as he goes, we get a pastiche of the stereotype who cannot be killed no matter what is thrown at them. Usually though, they take gun shots, knives, even machete’s to the head, but here, we see doors slammed in faces, bottles of beer hitting the head etc, more of a realistic scenario, yet still extreme and comic in moments.
This film is faultless. I was expecting this to be a situation of rose tints as I have fond memories of this film, but have seriously not been let down with this viewing. I could write so much more about this film, it’s a landmark in cinema to be studied.