Scream

Scream

****

Reviewed by: Tony Sullivan

What's your favourite scary movie? "Halloween," answers short-lived Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore). Thus begins Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson's homage to scary movies and John Carpenter's 1978 masked maniac movie in particular. Casey is tormented on the phone by our chatty psychopath asking horror movie questions, and if you think Anne Robinson is mean on a wrong answer... well...

This time, a masked madman is on the loose in small-town America, preying on students at the local high school. The killer singles out Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) for stalking preference. Sidney's mother was murdered some months before, it seems, and the murderer apprehended.

Copy picture

Sidney and her boyfriend Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), and friends Tatum (Rose McGowan), Stuart (Matthew Lillard) and movie nut Randy (Jamie Kennedy) are soon caught up in the killer's machinations. Obnoxious reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) is after the scoop story and trying to peddle her new book on the murder of Sidney's ma. Tatum's brother, bumbling Deputy Dewey (David Arquette), is assigned to watch over Sidney.

The entire cast are set up as possible culprits and all (surviving) parties converge on one big party in an isolated house. Sure enough, beer and blood - in that order - begin to flow.

So what's the attraction of one more stupid teen slasher pic, eh? Well, for starters there's Kevin Williamson's genre-loving script, packed full of knowing references to a pantheon of earlier horror movies.

Watch for an unplugged version of Blue Oyster Cult's Don't Fear (The Reaper) borrowed from Halloween. A hero named Loomis, again borrowed from Halloween (which in its turn borrowed the name from Psycho). Director Wes Craven, a veteran of genuinely scary movies, Last House On The Left, The Hills Have Eyes and the cult scare/fun fest Nightmare On Elm Street, brings just the right atmosphere of tongue in cheek and plain old fear to the proceedings.

The cast of youngsters are uniformly excellent, Skeet Ulrich is so good one wonders why he's not a leading man right now. There is also a nice turn by Henry "The Fonz" Winkler as slightly batty Principal. Finally, look fast for Linda Blair and Wes Craven himself, suitably attired.

Towards the end of the party, with Halloween's Michael Myers conveniently frozen in mid lunge on a TV screen, video maven Randy propounds the rules by which one must abide to successfully survive a horror movie:

  • 1: You can Never Have Sex
  • 2: You Can Never Drink or Do Drugs
  • 3: Never Say "I'll be Right Back"
  • 4: Only virgins can outsmart the killer in the big chase scene at the end"

Oh dear, Sidney's upstairs making out with Billy.

The relentless last 35 minutes of the movie is a ruthless attrition of the suspects, setting up a final showdown. I have to warn you this is a film that starts with entrails albeit in long shot and the final psycho rampant scenes are genuinely edgy/scary/gruesome, offset slightly, by the odd witty comment from anyone still left standing.

I'm reminded of the style of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, adroitly mixing the ludicrous with sly humour. Scream wiped out 20 years of movie cliches but promptly gave us some new ones, i.e. all the funny hip Scooby-Doo style teen centered would-be scary movies that followed. Frankly I prefer my horror straight and judging by the recent success of The Others, The Sixth Sense and The Ring audiences are leaning that way too, but this is the best of its own genre.

Oh, and the killer? Well it was me all along and if you meddlin' kids hadn't...

Reviewed on: 15 Dec 2006
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Scream packshot
Clever homage to the horror genre, reinventing scary movies.
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Director: Wes Craven

Writer: Kevin Williamson

Starring: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Skeet Ulrich, Rose McGowan, Matthew Lillard, Jamie Kennedy, W. Earl Brown, Drew Barrymore, Joseph Whipp, Lawrence Hecht

Year: 1996

Runtime: 111 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: USA

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If you like this, try:

Halloween
Scary Movie
Scream 2