Scream ★★★★½

A smart, sneaky & subversive delight that’s as amusing as it is tense & thrilling, Scream is one of the most impressive, inventive & influential works of horror that ingeniously blends the violence & gore of a slasher film with elements of black comedy, keeps its audience guessing from beginning to end, and not only parodies all the clichés of its genre but also embraces them wholeheartedly.

The story concerns a teenage girl who becomes the latest target of a masked killer after one of her classmates is brutally murdered. Still reeling from her mother’s death about a year ago, she finds herself being tormented by a mysterious caller who also attacks her in person, following which the whole town goes into frenzy mode while a tabloid news reporter attempts to carry out her own investigation.

Directed by Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Scream opens on a bold note by removing the poster girl from the equation within minutes into the story, which not only signifies that everyone in this tale is expendable but also grabs hold of the viewers’ attention & never lets it slip till the end. Craven’s direction is top-notch as he skilfully plays with many genres at once here to deliver a ride that’s fresh, exciting & unique.

Written by Kevin Williamson, the screenplay is an absolute gem, for it not only packs a horror story but is also self-referential, intentionally ironic, and jam-packed with horror trivia. Taking inspiration from numerous horror classics, which are referenced throughout the film, it carves its own identity while cleverly masking that of the killer, and is full of twists n turns yet keeps throwing subtle hints every now n then which become obvious on subsequent viewings.

The aptly chosen shooting locations help recreate the required suburban environment with ease while production design team come up with set pieces that add more details to its iconography. Camerawork is controlled yet fluid and captures every moment in a concise fashion. Editing is one of its finest aspects, for it keeps the viewers on the edge of their seats by sustaining the mystery & foreboding aura. And Marco Beltrami contributes with a haunting score that greatly elevates the tension.

Coming to the acting department, Scream marks another departure from an established trope of slasher films back then by casting known actors instead of an unfamiliar ensemble. Leading from the front is Neve Campbell, and she is well supported by Rose McGowan, Courteney Cox, Matthew Lillard & Skeet Ulrich who are all brilliant in their respective roles, while Drew Barrymore leaves a lasting imprint within the opening segment. Also worthy of mention is Roger L. Jackson who brings Ghostface to life with his menacing voice.

On an overall scale, Scream was a fresh breathe of life for its genre at its time of release and its reputation has only grown over the years. Possibly Wes Craven’s finest, it is a masterly directed, deftly scripted, smoothly photographed, expertly edited, excellently scored & finely acted thriller that merges horror & comedy into one deliciously satisfying extravaganza that shocks & entertains in equal doses. One of the best films of its decade, this slasher is a welcome entry in the world of horror that presents its esteemed director at the apex of his talents and is every bit worthy of the legacy it has acquired over the years.

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