Scream (1996)

reviewed by
Joe Chamberlain

A review by Joe Chamberlain

Starring Neve Campbell; Courteney Cox; David Arquette; Jamie Kennedy & Rose McGowan

Scream is the movie that breathed new life into the genre of film that was rapidly on its way to a very painful extinction. Namely, the teen slasher film. Not only is Scream stylish, and incredibly smart, it also has a budget comparable to about 20 typical slashers combined.

Scream centers on Sydney Prescott (hottie Neve Campbell), a high school student in the small town of Woodsborrow. Syd has a little problem, there is a serial killer on the loose and she is his next intended victim. But Syd and her friends aren't about to be the typical horror film victims in waiting. Oh no. You see they've seen all of the horror films so they know what not to do. They realize that there are rules to a horror film and if you don't follow the rules, they will be carrying you off in a body bag at the end of the movie. The problem for Syd and her friends is that the killer appears to have seen all the same movies that they have. In a sense, Scream spoofs the rest of the genre, because the characters know that typical horror film characters are stupid, so they just don't do what typical victims in waiting do in a horror film. And even when Scream does give us some of the typical ingredients of normal horror films; it does it with a wink and a nudge. Almost as if to say, "it wouldn't be a horror film without these cliches".

Scream's success is accomplished by the fact that the characters in this movie actually have personalities. Not something usually encountered in your typical horror film characters. At least you don't normally find well-rounded ones anyway. (We're talking personalities here, not silicone implants.) This film also gets credibility from the fact that it has established stars in it. Albeit not huge stars, but Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox have both been quite successful on television. And just for good measure, director Wes Craven throws in a couple of cameos from Drew Barrymore (E.T.) and Henry Winkler (yes, The Fonze) to add to the star quality of the film. Star power aside, two unknowns really steal the movie. Jamie Kennedy plays a video store clerk who has seen every horror film ever made. He spends most of the movie referencing old horror movies for the best ways to avoid becoming a victim of the killer. The other scene-stealer is Matthew Lillard. The only way to describe Lillard is that he reminded me of a young Michael Keaton. His part might be relatively small, but he has some of the best scenes in the movie.

Admittedly, this might not be the scariest film that I've ever seen, but what it lacks in chills, it makes up for in style. The fact that this movie doesn't resemble the typical low-budget-cookie-cutter-slasher counts for a great deal in my book. Add the fact that we have a director and actors that actually know what they are doing, and Scream is in a class all by itself.

It's very rare that I will walk out of a theater and really be struck by just how good a movie was. When I first saw Scream in the theater, I still remember thinking that this was one of the best films that I had seen in a long time. It is certainly the best horror film that I have ever seen. Admittedly, horror film fans will get more of the inside jokes, but even if you aren't a fan of Halloween or Friday The 13th, it should still be very entertaining. If you are one of the few that hasn't seen Scream, check it out.

The Movie Guy

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