Much like ripping off a band-aid, I opted to watch the entire Scream franchise in two days. I saw the original Scream back in the day when it first came out, but to be honest, I didn’t remember much of it. As I watched, the bits and pieces I did remember started to take shape and I actually enjoyed the film much more than I did in 1996. Don’t get too stoked, though. While Scream has some nice features, it’s much more of a quirky sleuth than a true horror film. Directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson, you’d expect this to be the greatest scare you’d have for the rest of your life, but that’s just not the case. The film’s self-awareness of the genre it resides in leads to both a clever tribute to horror but also to a parody of it that becomes tired (especially four films later) and results in mediocre scares.
The premise of Scream is a pretty good one - a serial killer rocking a store-bought, run-of-the-mill, ghost costume terrorizes local high school students by first calling them on the phone and harassing them and then by killing them. The protagonist, Sidney (played by Neve Campbell), is especially effected by this as her mother was raped and killed only a year prior. Toss in an ambitious news anchor, a small-town deputy, a motley assortment of students played by B-list actors from the 90s and you have yourself a horror film.
The best part of Scream is that the film is incredibly self-aware of its purpose throughout the entire adventure. The Scary Movie franchise was originally a parody of Scream, but the true first parody of Scream was Scream. The film never takes itself too seriously, which makes for a fun film, but not a very scary one. As more and more people drop, the characters discuss the “rules of horror films” and how those rules apply to their “real life” situation. It’s a nice send-up to horror and the tributes sprinkled throughout are definitely enjoyable for lovers of the genre. Whether it’s Ghostface’s trademark question “What’s your favorite scary movie” or the janitor wearing a Freddy Kreuger sweater or the film’s nod to Halloween and scream queen Jamie Lee, the film loves horror. Scream is a horror film about the horror genre, and it’s refreshing to watch. The movie even goes so far as to mock those who blame horror for corrupting people’s lives and creating serial killers. It’s very smart and very clever, and a fun ride. But... it’s not really scary.
Scream is more of a whodunit than a horror film. Sure, there’s blood and gore and a lot of people die, some more creatively than others, but the silliness of the film overpowers the scare. Viewers will attempt to figure out who Ghostface is throughout the entire film, they’ll trust no one, because the movie does a great job of creating an environment of mistrust. I’m not so sure viewers will be scared. They may jump out of their seats now and again, but ultimately, there’s nothing too scary about Ghostface. Part of his greatness is that he rocks a simple costume that anyone could own and this too is a commentary on horror. But, again, everything just seems tinged with a bit of silliness. Matthew Lillard, one of the princes of the 90s, made the film for me. His portrayal of Stuart was incredible and it perfectly summarized the film. He was outrageous and over-the-top and crazy and maybe just a tad bit evil. All of the characters were fun to watch, but none of them are keeping me up at night.
Now, I realize watching these horror films years later could result in skewed reviews. But the truly great horror films always stand the test of time. Ghostface will definitely have some numbers around the island, but I don’t think he should be too cocky. Let’s face it, when I see Michael Myers, I scream. When I see Ghostface, I laugh. What’s your favorite scary movie, Ghostface? Would it be Scream?
If you liked Scream, you might also like Scream 2, Scream 3 and Scream 4.