Scream opens with one of the more famous scenes in modern horror. Casey (Drew Barrymore) is home alone when she receives a phone call. Casey doesn't recognize the caller's voice, but he is playful and a little flirty, so she goes along with it. The caller asks what her favorite scary movie is (and she somehow didn't choose Poison Ivy?!?) and everyone is having a good time...until the caller lets it slip that he's watching Casey. In fact, the caller has captured her boyfriend and will kill him, unless Casey plays a sort of horror movie trivia game over the phone. How did she do? Let's just say that you don't want Casey on your Trivial Pursuit team.
|"Orange! No, *sob* red!"|
|The answer is "nipples"|
On the surface, Scream is kind of a sketchy idea. A horror movie about a killer who loves horror movies, and victims who are aware of horror movie cliches? There is a high potential for snottiness and finger-quotes irony in that pitch. Thankfully, director Wes Craven had already toyed with this notion in his last horror film, Wes Craven's New Nightmare, and got that out of the way. Craven, along with writer Kevin Williamson, did a very good job keeping Scream from succumbing to its potential weaknesses. The script had clever dialogue and a reasonably likable (by horror standards) lead character. Craven directed his relatively young cast well, and none of the featured characters seemed terribly obnoxious or paper-thin.
|Well, nobody was unusually obnoxious|
|Her "Dancing in the Dark" outfit has aged better than this|
One of the things that separates Scream from its slasher movie brethren is its cast. In the 80s and early 90s, a lot of noteworthy actors started out in horror movies, but established talent didn't stick around. There isn't much prestige or acting challenge in the role of "Bust Campy Councilor #2." Thanks to its script, though, Scream was able to attract some reasonably well-known talent. The biggest name in the movie at the time (and even now) was Drew Barrymore, who was in the midst of her "bad girl" career renaissance. Even better than having a big name actress was the fact that Barrymore took a role similar to Janet Leigh's in Psycho; by taking a smaller, more memorable role and nailing it, Barrymore set Scream up for success. The rest of the cast is not quite as good, but not bad, either. Neve Campbell's character has some angst, but she wasn't out of her depth when articulating those emotions, or showing a reasonable amount of intelligence. I typically ignore people who clearly don't wash their hair in odd-numbered months, but Skeet Ulrich wasn't half bad either.
|That shirt will get washed before that hair|
Jamie Kennedy, who has never not been terrible, is actually okay; granted, he is just acting as a mouthpiece for the writer, pointing out all the horror movie cliches that Kevin Williamson wanted to mock, but credit where it's due. Why it was decided that Kennedy should wear pastel hush puppies and do Jerry Lewis impersonations, I do not know, but the 90s were a very ironic time. Even the always (ALWAYS!) annoying Matthew Lillard played his part well.
|Maybe he should get stabbed in more movies?|
When it comes to the classic horror stuff, the sex and violence, Scream does some interesting things. This is a violent movie, no doubt. We see a few people getting disemboweled and there is a good amount of stabbing. In other words, a lot of fake blood was spilled in Scream.
|The worst was the blood swirlie Campbell got|
|Look at that face! It looks like he's apologizing!|
All in all, I was genuinely impressed with how well Scream stood the test of time. Even though it has had three sequels and revitalized slashed movies in the late 90s, it still feels fresh. The writing is still fun, and even the presence of a moderately anonymous killer doesn't dampen its impact.