After the slasher genre practically died after being dug into the ground by the ‘Friday the 13th’ and ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ movies – it got resurrected in 1996 by ‘Scream’. It is quite amazing how much the movie changed the entire landscape of the horror genre back in the day. There were no more “zombie-killers” like Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, the killer was a human being in a cheap mask, holding a knife.  Now with a TV-Show airing – does it still hold up?

‘Scream’ singlehandedly made the costumed killer a cool thing again while also bringing in a new factor to the game; being incredibly self-referential. Here the characters are talking about real horror movies like they are in fact – living in the real world. This added a lot to the horror aspect, all the characters are talking like they truly live in the real world while also having the killer be an actual person with a simple mask, it could be anybody. There is nothing really fantastical or unbelievable in the film which is why it was so scary back in the day and why it is still a really great film. 

The very first scene is one of the most iconic and famous horror movie scenes in cinema history and definitely the best scene of the entire franchise, even if you have not seen the film you probably still will recognize it from something else you have seen if you saw it today. The problem with the scene though is just what I said - it is the best scene of the franchise, and it happens right at the start of it. There is nothing afterwards that can top it so the entire franchise peeked way too soon. The dialogue is spot on and also made the way for another big horror franchise with the line "I want to play a game". The pacing and cinematography is fantastic, it sets such a creepy atmosphere right from the start and continues with it throughout the entire film.

Unlike many horror movies, one of the standouts with ‘Scream’ is the screenplay by Kevin Williamson. Instead of making each character a stereotype and only a stereotype, these characters are rounded just enough for them to jump over that hole. What Williamson also does is not rely on cheap jump scares (coincidentally I have written an article on the jump scares which you can read here) and instead develop the characters & story. The film being very self-referential also allows for the script to make fun of the clichéed horror movies being produced at the time with lines about the characters in those movies being stupid and looking like they belong on a magazine. Williamson is able to seamlessly mix it into the film without it coming across as incredibly forced and/or too cheesy for the audience to continue taking the story seriously. The killings that occur here are not just random as well, there is a point to all of them in the story and the person behind them have reasons for doing it. This should not be something we as an audience have to ask off of writers for horror movies but the genre can be in such a stinkpile a lot of the time that it is quite rare we do get a movie that follows this very basic principle. It is interesting to note though, you do not really understand how good Kevin Williamson is until you see 'Scream 3' - but that is a whole other review.

The ensemble cast is excellent. Neve Campbell is very likeable as the main character Sidney Prescott. She delivers such a down to earth performance it really helps with the whole idea of this possibly being able to happen in real life. Everybody plays their part well and you do not end up wishing death upon any of them (which believe me, is rare). Oh and the reveal of the person behind the mask? Flawless, no complaints at all. If you want to see a perfection representation of descending into madness, look no further.

Wes Craven is on his A-game here, very inventive and unpredictable directing. Keeps the momentum going perfectly and offers some great scares. This was almost right after 'New Nightmare' which is probably the most "meta" horror movie ever made and it is clear he must have enjoyed it a lot seeing as he went on to do this and then go even more crazier with the self-referential stuff with the sequels.

All in all, this is one of the best horror movies of the past few decades. It is not one of the scariest in my opinion - but it is one of the best. How is that possible you may ask? Well... a horror movie does not have to be super scary in order for it to be good, 'Scream' is a good movie because it has a great story, great acting, great writing, great directing and a great and memorable threat. It is an excellent and unforgettable entry to the genre.


- Lucas


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