Opened: December 20, 1996 | Rated: R
At once a satire of 1980s cliche horror films and an homage to them, "Scream" is funny, scary and self-mocking -- director Wes Craven's facetious send-up of his own resume.
More a cheap psychological thriller than strictly a horror film, it's about a teen-butcher who deliberately follows all the rules set forth by such horror stalwarts as "Halloween" and Craven's own "Nightmare on Elm Street." Anyone who breaks the rules -- e.g. never say "I'll be right back" because you won't -- dies.
The prey is, by the rules, a virginal teenager girl "with big boobs and a tight sweater," as a character in the movie observes. In this case, she's played with nervous propensity by Neve Campbell ("The Craft").
Opening with the stalking and gutting of an earlier victim, another boob-sweater girl (Drew Barrymore in an inspired cameo), "Scream" moves quickly to her high school classmates coldly tossing humorous accusations at each other about who might be the psycho killer.
All this jovial fright wracks Campbell's nerves as she's a little sensitive to sicko murders since her mother had been raped an murdered a year earlier. While this is intended to separate "Scream" from traditionally bad horror by providing more realistic back-story, it instead makes the film darker than it should be by reminding us that in reality a dozen teenagers being slaughtered wouldn't be all that entertaining.
To get her mind off the fact that there's a killer after her (who, by the way, dresses as the Grim Reaper and wears a mask resembling Munch's "The Scream"), the kids host a scary movie party (first rule of horror movies -- don't look for logic) to which the killer eventually comes, slicing and dicing.
Craven toys with the audience at least as much as the killer toys with the teens, providing several whodunit moments and ultimately a few cheap but clever twists, all the while obeying the rules he helped establish with his earlier flicks. He also takes a pot-shot at modern journalism by providing Courteney Cox as a tabloid TV reporter who relishes the opportunity to make this girl's stalking a media event.
If you go in for horror at all, "Scream" is great fun. The question now is, will Craven move on since he's succeeded wonderfully in producing a final chapter for this kind of movie?
He has a development deal with Miramax, which released "Scream" under it's Dimension Films banner, and has expressed an interest in broadening his horizons but remember, "Friday the 13th" had a final chapter, too -- then five more sequels.