Alex E’s review published on Letterboxd:
Alex E's Scream Marathon #1
"What's your favorite scary movie?" - Ghostface
Going into the 90s, the Horror genre was slowly dying out of the mainstream spotlight. Asides we've seen it all, we know the killer isn't actually dead at the end. We know the teens are going to act stupid, and then get killed. Like we've seen every Horror trope in the book! But in 1996 that all changed as Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson reinvented the wheel with 1996's Scream.
A year after her mother's death, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and her friends started experiencing some strange phone calls. They later learned the calls were coming from a crazed serial killer, in a white faced mask and a large black robe, looking for revenge.
His phone calls usually consist of many questions, the main one being: What's your favorite scary movie? Along with a lot of scary movie trivia, ending with bloody pieces of innocent lives scattered around the small town of Woodsboro.
Scream has one of the most perfect openings in all of cinema, as we see Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) preparing a meal in her house who then gets a call from who we later know as Ghostface (voiced by Roger L. Jackson). The conversation starts out nice and light, as Ghostface and Casey make small talk about scary movies, but the mood quickly changes as Ghostface becomes more sinister ending with Ghostface chasing down and slashing Casey and her boyfriend to pieces. If this opening wasn't as perfect as it was, I don't think Scream could have worked. But they got the tone perfect with how meta, yet serious the film is.
Sidney makes for a great 'Final Girl' protagonist thanks to Neve Campbell's performance, as well as Sidney dealing with the grief of her Mother's passing. Alongside Sidney, we get Dewey Riley (David Arquette), the police officer assigned to track down Sidney's stalker as well as being the brother of Tatum (Rose McGowan), Sidney's best friend. Another solid character is Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), the news reporter who has ties to Sidney's past.
Dewey is such a likeable cop, and makes him stand out as one of Horror's best cop characters. David Arquette has great chemistry with Courteney Cox in this, as both team up to find out more about these mysterious killings going on in Woodsboro. No wonder David Arquette and Courteney Cox got married in real life, their chemistry on screen is just unbelievable.
One of my favourite scenes is when Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard), the boyfriend of Tatum, Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy), a die hard Horror movie fan, and Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), the boyfriend of Sidney are chatting in the video store talking about Horror movies as they try to find out who the real killer is. Lillard, Kennedy and Ulrich all do a great job in their roles thanks to how well developed their characters are, and you are guessing all the way until the reveal of who the actual killer behind the mask is.
The reveal of who Ghostface is actually just genius. It couldn't have worked out any better which makes the third act that takes place in a house that's in the countryside with all the main characters having a party there so much fun to watch. The film has such a great structure and build, which leads to an amazing pay off alongside a great balance of Horror, whilst also spoofing Horror films that came before it.
Mark Irwin's photography makes the small town of Woodsboro feel real and lived in, which gives an overall very realistic feel to the film. Marco Beltrami provides a solid slasher score with the classical beats, which makes the film still feel like a straight up Horror and doesn't make it fall into parody.
Kevin Williamson's writing is just clever, all the nods and references to the classic Horror films alongside the classic tropes are just genius. It just allows all the characters to be your classic Horror characters, whilst also giving them some nice development to make them stand out from the rest. The writing never disrespects the viewer due to the film feeling self aware with what it's doing, whilst also presenting it as a straight up slasher with meta humour thrown in for good measure.
I've talked endlessly on how much I love Wes Craven and his films. I honestly think he is one of, if not the best Horror filmmaker of all time due to his overall direction style. Here he takes a bit of what his film New Nightmare was doing, but just executes it so much better (I still do love New Nightmare, it's my favourite Elm Street sequel, and I love how it was basically a precursor to Scream). Craven really reinvented the Horror genre with how meta this film is, yet can still make the film feel grounded in reality. Craven provides great camera work especially when Ghostface is chasing down his victims, Ghostface is one of my favourite Horror movie killers with how he talks about scary movies, and then kills you, also that costume is just great. Wes Craven makes Ghostface become one of Horror's fantastic five (which consists of Freddy, Jason, Michael, Leatherface, and Ghostface in my opinion). By the way I would recommend you check out these songs, Die by My Knife and Call Me, Sidney both performed by the Slashstreet Boys, they are so good.
Overall 1996's Scream is one of my favourite movies of all time, it's just a love letter to Horror fans like myself and many others. I do think people that are big on Horror will appreciate this film more than others do, but it still makes for an amazing watch for anyone. 1996's Scream revitalized the Horror genre for many years to come, and this film would give way to the sequels that followed it.