One of the most famous lines in any horror movie is this, “What’s your favorite scary movie?” An easy question to answer, but we all have one in mind. But I’m not the kind of guy that loves the genre because even though the times of getting scared is always a jolt of excitement, a ton of them turns out to be horrible and doesn’t become scary in the slightest with an overabundance of cliches and jumpscares that helps nobody. As the late director Wes Craven, the Master of Horror, already did some of the best the genre had to offer like The Hils Have Eyes and A Nightmare on Elm Street, there is one film that he directed that I can confidently say is my all-time favorite horror film, and that is 1996’s Scream.
What’s the Story: In the town of Woodsboro, a masked killer known as Ghostface begins killing off teenagers, and as the body count starts to rise, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and her friends find themselves contemplating the “rules” of horror films as they find themselves living a real-life one.
I was only five months old when Scream came out in December 1996, and years after it was released, it became very popular around the horror crowd. But you want to know what I discovered this? It was Scary Movie that introduced me to Scream in the first place. Surprising, right? I always thought the first Scary movie was one of the few spoof comedies that worked in that guilty pleasure kind of way with it poking fun at the first two movies in the franchise alongside I Know What You Did Last Summer, and it took me a while to finally watching just to see if it was worth it being called a good horror movie. And let me say this, you’re can’t call yourself a true horror fan if you don’t like this in any aspect. To me, Scream might be my favorite horror movie of all-time. No lie.
What makes this such a classic is that tt’s kind of responsible for bringing some life back into the horror genre. It was becoming a bad thing in Hollywood. Because around the time, this came out, a lot of movies from the genre weren’t well-liked when most of them are bad sequels or just relied on the repetitive cliches. Here, though, it was meta of those common slasher troupes and make it smart and watchable at the same time.
Craven’s direction never felt dull when it’s kept at a fast-paced, and he was able to blend both the scary and comedic moments without compromising either of them. The script written by Kevin Williamson, who has been a part of writing each one of the movies except for three, shows that he’s a great writer. The thing that I appreciate most about Scream is that it has its characters be aware that these real horror movies are sometimes ridiculous and don’t provide anything new to them.
As you’re watching, I love that Craven and Williamson throws in these red herrings to throw the viewer off into misleading the characters on who’s the killer. This and the rest of the franchise done this too, but the first film does it better when you’re just thinking who could it be? Like Randy screamed in the video store, “Everybody’s a suspect!” It’s those moments that are funny but still knows what kind of movie the stars are in. But it also shows that both of them are fans of the older classic horror films that are clever references throughout the film.
Truth be told, I’ve always had such a crush on Neve Campbell whenever I watch any of the Scream movies, and she’s honestly one of my favorite and smart final girls in all of horror as Sidney Prescott. This is the role that got the more famous outside of her roles in The Craft and Party of Five, respectively. But who doesn’t love Campbell as Sidney? She’s the main character that we care the most for throughout when during this period of fear has spread around Woodsboro, and she’s still dealing with what happened with her mother a year prior Just in each passing movie in the franchise, she’s the definition of an awesome female character in a horror movie that isn’t dumb.
The iconic and tense-filled opening sequence alone with Drew Barrymore as Casey Becker is still amazing, and it pretty much sets up the tone for the rest of the film. Her performance, while brief, felt terrifying and sense her being scared of what’s about to happen. When this first came, many people were surprised that she was killed off very early because even though she was probably the biggest star in the entire cast at that point, I already knew she’d be the first to go. It was more on the same line when everybody was shocked that Janet Leigh’s character died unexpectedly in Psycho. I also love when Ghostface was on the phone with her and said her answer was wrong about Jason being the killer, that’s a common mistake of people thinking Jason was in the original Friday the 13th shows that true fans will know that.
The rest of the supporting cast are really some of my favorites, and all of them had perfect chemistry with each other. I think that’s why I love the original Scream so much because this has memorable characters that you like and, hopefully, want to survive. You got your Matthew Lilliard as Stu, Skeet Ulrich as Billy Loomis, and I don’t like Rose McGowan, but I liked her as Tatum. Besides Sidney, my other two favorite characters from the entire series are David Arquette as Dewey Riley and Jamie Kennedy as Randy Meeks.
Dewey is just a lovable character that brings levity to a bunch of scenes. But Randy has always been a fictional character I associate myself with on the basis that he knows his knowledge about horror movies like a boss. He’s also had some of the funniest lines like when he was imitating Jerry Lewis, “Tell me something. Did you really put her liver in the mailbox? Because I heard they found her liver in the mailbox next to her spleen and her pancreas.” And he has the smarts too when he establishes the rules on how one must do to survive a horror movie (you can never have sex, don’t drink or do drugs, and finally, never, ever say I’ll be right back because you won’t be back) makes total sense. Seriously, more screenwriters should take lessons from Randy.
And you also have Country Cox as reporter Gale Weathers. Now, if there were any problems that I had with Scream, it would probably be Gale as a character. Because in this and the second movie starts with her and Sidney having bad blood with each other since Gale published a book about what happened to Sidney’s mother, who was raped and murder by Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber), and thinks Sidney is wrong about him. I didn’t like that she’s unlikeable at first then becomes good. That’s just me.
Once we get to the third act twist, it is revealed that both Billy and Stu are Ghostface. And probably the biggest reveal of all is that they framed Cotton Weary and they actually killed Sidney’s mother. Why? Well, the motivation behind it all is that her mother was responsible for his mother leaving after she and his father had an affair. Now, they decided to kill Sidney one year later.
Another moment that was funny and made me nervous was when Randy was watching Halloween and Ghostface was walking literally behind him while yelling at the TV when Michael Myers was stalking Jamie Lee Curtis while showing the delay with the feed from the news van. Speaking of Ghostface, that’s just a creepy villain. There was even one Halloween that I dressed up like him in but only had the mask and not the black cloak, which would’ve made it better.
I get the feeling that if this wasn’t well-received by critics, it’s hard to say if any horror movie that came out right after wouldn’t be good and would become tiresome for most people. But it didn’t, and it turned out to be one of the most memorable ones from the 1990s.
If we have to talk about the sequels that came right after this, I’ll just give you my quick opinions on all of them: Scream 2, released in 1997, is one of the better horror sequels to come out where it truly did increase the kills and had some memorable moments; Scream 3, released in 2000, is undoubtedly the weakest in the entire franchise where it became what the series was making fun of from the start, and there isn’t a lot that I liked about it except the dream sequence with Sidney’s mother, and Scream 4, released in 2011 and Craven’s last movie before his death, isn’t great, but it’s still a fun fourth installment even if it does get a little silly near the end.
Scream is one of those slasher films that I can go back and watch any time, especially during the Halloween season. It pokes fun while also being scary, which is adds more to it being fully entertaining. Great performances, well-done scares, and all-around clever. Thank you, Wes Craven, for directing a movie that makes me appreciate the genre a little bit more. Call me crazy when I consider this The Cabin in the Woods of the 90s.