SCREAM (1996) Reviews and overview


‘Don’t answer the phone. Don’t open the door. Don’t try to escape.’

Scream is a 1996 American slasher horror feature film written by Kevin Williamson and directed by Wes Craven. The movie stars Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Drew Barrymore, and David Arquette.

Scream follows the character of Sidney Prescott (Campbell), a high school student in the fictional town of Woodsboro, who becomes the target of a mysterious killer known as Ghostface. Other main characters include Sidney’s best friend Tatum Riley (Rose McGowan), Sidney’s boyfriend Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), film geek Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy), deputy sheriff Dewey Riley (Arquette), and news reporter Gale Weathers (Cox).

The film combined comedy and “whodunit” mystery with the violence of the slasher genre to satirize the cliché of the horror genre popularized in films such as Halloween and Friday the 13th. The film was considered unique at the time of its release for featuring characters who were aware of real world horror films and openly discussed the cliché that Scream attempted to subvert.

Based partly on the real-life case of the Gainesville RipperScream was inspired by Williamson’s passion for horror films, especially Halloween (1978). The script, originally titled Scary Movie, was bought by Dimension Films and was retitled by the Weinstein Brothers just before filming was complete. The production faced censorship issues with the Motion Picture Association of America and obstacles from locals while filming on location.

Scream went on to financial and critical acclaim, earning $173 million worldwide, and became the highest-grossing slasher film in the US in unadjusted dollars. The soundtrack by Marco Beltrami was also acclaimed, and was cited as “[one] of the most intriguing horror scores composed in years”. It has since earned “cult status”.

Scream marked a change in the genre as it cast already-established and successful actors, which was considered to have helped it find a wider audience, including a significant female viewership.

Scream was credited with revitalizing the horror genre in the 1990s, which was considered to be almost dead following an influx of direct-to-video titles and numerous sequels to established horror franchises of the 1970s and 1980s. These sequels drew decreasing financial and critical success, as they exploited clichés that films in the genre had become reliant upon.

Scream‘s success spawned a series of sequels, though only the first of them achieved a level of commercial and critical success equal to the original film. In the years following the release of Scream, the film was accused of inspiring and even inducing violent crimes and murders.

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In many ways, it’s a perfect blend of an American body count film and an Italian giallo; the former is a template for the film’s tone, while it borrows narrative elements of the latter. Though it misses the overly stylish Italian flair (particularly during murder sequences), the film’s plot sprawls and unfolds as well as any giallo–there’s red herrings, a couple of elaborate murder sequences, and a third-act reveal that complicates and illuminates the plot…” Oh, the Horror!

“Wes Craven’s iconic, ironic slice-’em-up didn’t invent nudge-wink meta-horror – the director had dipped his own toe two years previously with the glorious New Nightmare – but it certainly made this oh-so-’90s sub-genre massively popular … fun, shallow-but-sharp breed of scary movie in which the sharing of movie lore between characters and audience somehow conspired to make everything feel more convincing – if never exactly ‘real’.” Tom Huddleston, Time Out

Offline reading:

101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die – Edited by Steven Jay Schneider, 2009