By Rujuta Datta
Horror movies are not very well-known for their quality. Many modern horror movies rely more on CGI and jumpscares than actual horror and suspense. However, the horror genre is also known for classic films such as “Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Psycho,” and the subject of today’s review, “Scream.” “Scream” was released on Dec. 20, 1996 and was directed by horror icon Wes Craven. For many reasons, “Scream” is a horror classic you should come to again and again.
“Scream” is a simple whodunit slasher fic with some self-aware humor and black comedy thrown in. A simple summary of the plot is that a killer stalks a high school girl while she desperately avoids them long enough to figure out their identity. There are plenty of suspects, twists and turns, and the killer might not be who you expect.
Craven’s talent for horror is on full display here. Craven is famous for his impressive catalog of over 45+ horror movies, including favorites such as “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “The Hills Have Eyes.” He decided to take more of a dark comedy approach to this movie, adding self-referential humor to make it a look back on the slasher movies that came before.
Spoiler warning for a 30-year-old movie (I’m not sure this is necessary, but whatever):
Let’s start with one of the most iconic parts of the movie: the opening. It sets the tone for the rest of the film by using a strange call to start off, referencing “Black Christmas.” But “Scream” uses its own iconic line: “What’s your favorite scary movie?” The victim in this case, Casey Becker, responds with commentary on films like “Halloween” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” Eventually, the flirty call turns horrifying when she realizes the caller has her boyfriend tied up in the driveway, his life depending on how well Casey knows her horror movies. Eventually, she messes up, leading to her boyfriend’s death with hers close behind.
Now this scene is probably one of the most iconic in the movie. The pacing, the acting and how the call slowly turns from flirty to dangerous all make a scene that is sure to stick in people’s mind. All of this calls back to other horror films, indicating the self awareness that is about to be on display.
As simple as the plot is, it works for this movie: a simple slasher with some mystery thrown in. There are also some over-the-top red herrings thrown into the movie to keep you guessing. The teens trying to use their horror movie knowledge to get out of the movie alive is also quite funny, with some interesting callbacks to some of Craven’s own works.
Another great aspect of the film is the practical effects. The kills aren’t as graphic as other slashers; but when they hit, they hit hard. The combined effort of special effects artists Howard Berger, Robert Kurtzman and Gregory Nicotero create deaths that are simple yet memorable. They used about 50 pounds of fake blood for the film, allowing for some truly gory deaths.
The film’s acting is just as spot on as those practical effects. The teens trying to use horror movies to their knowledge could have come off as pretentious, but it doesn’t. They all act believable, except when they have to play red herring for the movie to have some suspense. Even the killer has a mostly believable motive, which usually never goes beyond “kid trauma turned him crazy hur dur dur.”
This film was a huge hit among horror fans. The experienced director plus the smart tone plus the cast made this film a classic almost the moment it hit theaters. Many horror fanatics enjoyed this movie for the references and, for causal fans, it’s a pretty scary movie with some humor mixed in to bring that charm.
In its own way, “Scream” almost became its own sub-genre. Plenty of slashers after it tried to emulate the witty humor and reflection on horror movies, which usually had negative results. It’s hard to catch lighting in a bottle twice, after all.
“Scream” itself had 3 sequels and even a small anthology series. Though all of these movies have varying degrees of quality, the general consensus is that the original is always the best.
The movie’s effect on the horror movie scene has left lasting effects that still show up in the horror movie genre today. Movies like “Scary Movie” (Fun fact: The original title of “Scream” was going to be “Scary Movie”) and “I Know What You Did Last Summer” clearly felt that impact and went with it.
So why should you go back to this movie? Simple: not only is it genre famous, but it’s generally a fun watch. “Scream” is a good movie just in general, and it doesn’t rely on cheap jumpscares most of the time. The unsettling atmosphere, starting from the first kill and lasting all the way until the credits play, sticks with you.
“Scream” is a good movie to rewatch every once in awhile just for fun. Its place in horror history is well-earned, along with being one of Craven’s best works. It’s worthwhile to go back to and see this film.
Featured image (at the top of this post): The mask used by the killer in “Scream.” PHOTO CREDIT: Pixabay
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