johnlink re-ranks SCREAM (1996)

I thought I was pretty much done with horror movies for awhile, lest this site became another horror-focused thing. I’m sure I’ll get back to normal soon enough, but we decided to watch SCREAM last night, probably because it felt like a good follow up to all those NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET FILMS.


I watched SCREAM (1996) on 11.4.14. It was probably my twenty-fifth viewing of this film, or so. I watched it a ton as a teenager. But it was my first viewing since 2009.

SCREAM is a movie which ages surprisingly well. It is hard to watch this objectively, as this is a film which made a major impact on me as a kid. I hadn’t considered the possibility that a movie could talk about the rules of a genre while also being of that genre in an un-ironic way. SCREAM came in as a breath of fresh air. Kevin Williamson wrote a heck of a script, Wes Craven is at his best directing, and the cast hit this one hard.

It would be interesting to see the reaction of people watching this for the first time, knowing nothing about it. Does the Drew Barrymore opening still surprise, or have the nearly two decades of copycat openings eroded the impact of how this movie started? Can people look past the weird timing of the climax, and focus on all of the effective set up? Do people still care to take the time to figure out who is in the mask and when?

For those out of the loop, SCREAM tells the story of a ghost-faced killer offing teens. Neve Campbell is Sidney Prescott. She is a bad-ass heroine. She confronts the terror head-on, rather than running from it. She is a post-slasher hero who knows better than to run up the stairs rather than out the door… unless the door is jammed shut and she HAS to go up. She punches the killer in the face, sending him sprawling. She, basically, fights for her life from the beginning.

The killer, likewise, is a comment on killers past. Rather than an invincible monster, the suit is worn by fallible humans. The killer gets knocked over, gets punched and kicked a bunch, gets hurt, and generally screws up. Rather than a professional killer, GhostFace is often screwing up whatever situation is occurring, at least until the last moment for the victim. This is handled in a realistic way, rather than a humorous way. The victims are often too busy being ambivalent, due to their being desensitized by horror movies, to be truly frightened. Also, having scene the movie so many times, it is easy to forget how good a job Williamson and Craven did in keeping us all guessing the identity of GhostFace right up until the end. There are multiple red herring moments from most every character in the film.

The horror in jokes are great. References to ‘Wes Carpenter’, a janitor named ‘Freddy’, and plenty of straight-title references. This is a movie which loves horror movies, as most obviously optimized by Randy (Jamie Kennedy), who serves as the guy in every movie theater who talks about the movie as it happens. The darker side of this is seen in Billy (Skeet Ulrich) who uses movies to reference his girlfriend’s lack of sexual activity and the need for more R rated hot-and-heaviness.

This is a surprisingly well shot film. Lots of jump scares which work to surprising effectiveness. Lots of brutality. Lots of fake blood. As far as modern horror movies go, this is top notch. I am afraid I may be overselling it, and I certainly am biased. But I think that SCREAM belongs in the top few horror movies of all time along with THE THING, THE SHINING, and HALLOWEEN.




FINAL SCORE: 8.5 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on November 5, 2014.

6 Responses to “johnlink re-ranks SCREAM (1996)”

  1. You know what? I’ve never seen any of these dammed movies….

  2. I could agree with that. Scream deserves to be with many greats that came before it. This movie breathed life into a stale dead genre full of copycats. Much like Halloween, Texas Chainsaw, Nightmare on Elm Street, and others did in the past.

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