Scream

Scream ★★★★★

I saw Scream the same way every 12 year old should, on premium cable right before going to an all night laser tag lock in with your friend's youth group. More specifically I watched the first half of the movie before leaving for this event, spent the whole night gushing about how amazing the movie was and trying to guess the killer and getting home at 7am to catch the Encore network replaying the movie from where I left off. I may not have been aware of the hype in '96 but I created my own in 2003. I still feel that initial excitement when I think about Wes Craven's self parody slasher but on every subsequent rewatch, it retains all its praise. I find it to tower over its predecessors because it's subversive by having the characters be self aware of the horror movie they're trapped in. I can forgive all the thirty year old actors pretending to be high schoolers because the Kevin Williamson script still sounds relevant even though our technology has advanced over blocky cell phones and whatever computer system Sidney dials 911 on.

Why Scream stands above the 80's slasher greats is that it's more mystery than the Halloweens and Friday the 13ths before it. As much as it's parodying the "guy in a mask who stalks babysitters" as Casey (Drew Barrymore) puts it, it's an Agatha Christie whodunnit and as a lifelong Law&Order addict this is a major bonus. All those other horror movies you never need to try to figure out who is behind the mask because it's usually some undead entity that can keep coming back for the sequels. Scream is actually closer to those low rent 80's flicks like My Bloody Valentine or New Years Evil where one of the many bland teens was the killer with some arbitrary motive. Scream is best of both worlds by having actual worth while characters. It keeps the cast so intimate in this rural community because you get to know those immediate to heroine Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and not bombarded with murders just for a body count's sake except for Principal Himbry (Henry Winkler) and even his death propels the plot by getting the rowdy youth out of the house for the climax. Also you've got two killers with opposite motives, Billy (Skeet Ulrich) is a throw back with a personal grudge to hurt Sidney because of mommy issues and Stu (Matthew Lillard) is of the millennial "motives are incidental" type. In the end they're both psychopaths which is the real push behind their destruction. Most importantly, you can rewatch this movie and see how it's not a stretch that this pair committed the murders. It works out in every scene how they could orchestrate each death.

What makes this film timeless or at least still relevant is the dialogue and how pop culture based almost every sentence is. I can speak on my behalf that I spend most of my days referencing movies because it's such a central part of my life. I'll see something and state "hey, that's like BLANK". That is all of Scream. Their lives are either like The Exorcist or Silence of the Lambs or Prom Night depending on who's describing the situation. It's funny how so many references went over 12 year old me's head like "I Spit On Your Garage" and having no idea what the "Richard Gere gerbil" story was and yet this is how I talk now. When Sidney and her friends are sitting around the fountain discussing Casey and her boyfriend's death it's as if they're talking about a horror movie. They're saying all the things in our head like looking at the clues and who could be a suspect.

Scream is a horror movie made for horror fans. There's passion for the genre in every scene and works because it both calls out the tropes but when it uses them, there's a rational like when Sidney complains that in scary movies "some big breasted girl...is running up the stairs when she should be going out the front door." Only moments later while under attack she can't get out the front door so she finds herself running up the stairs. It's acceptable because Sidney bests all the final girls who came before her. She has sex and kills the man in the mask. Even Wes Craven's previous creation Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) in A Nightmare on Elm Street, Freddy still gets the last laugh. But not in Sidney's movie. Scream is rightfully a classic and will forever be one of my favorite scary movies.

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