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Tim's Movie Review of the Day: 'Scream' (1996)

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Tim's Movie Review of the Day: 'Scream' (1996)

Post by Timma1986 on Mon Mar 28, 2011 8:36 pm



Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Neve Campbell, Skeet Ulrich, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Matthew Lillard, Jamie Kennedy, Drew Barrymore

To survive a horror movie, there are certain rules must abide by. Within the film 'Scream', that is a principle that every character must live by...or they might find their guts splattered across the grass (or living room floor). By spoofing itself and other horror movies (particularly the slasher sub-genre), 'Scream' might be one of the greatest examples of when taking someone else's ideas becomes a work of great originality. And I don't mean that in a negative way. 'Scream' is as original as horror gets, because it so gleefully makes fun of itself, its cliches, and even its own filmmakers. Whether it be that a character incorrectly mixes up the names of two distinguished horror filmmakers (John Carpenter and 'Scream' director Wes Craven), or a bashing of all the sequels that followed the original "A Nightmare On Elm Street" (although the latter rather attacks the filmmakers who tried to build on the foundations that Craven had laid out). Call it a selfless film, if you will. In fact, call it whatever you want, because no matter what way you put it, 'Scream' is a pop culture phenomenon.

Plot Synopsis (Possible Spoilers Below):
Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is a seemingly ordinary girl (which makes for a perfect horror-movie protagonist). However, everyone has something that bothers them. For Sidney, it's the fact that her mother was murdered a year prior. All around her, people are being murdered. The assailant wears a cheap black costume with a mask that looks like a ghost crying out in fear. In a rather dire situation in which Sidney herself is chased around her home by "Ghostface", she accuses her boyfriend Billy (Skeet Ulrich) of attempting to kill her. He is sent to jail, but still, Sidney receives a phone call from the killer. The rest of the film simply plays out like a gory buffed up reimagining of a Nancy Drew book. Who's the killer? Where's Sidney's dad? Who really killed Sidney's mom? And why is the killer doing what he does?

One thing is made very clear throughout nearly the entire fiasco. The characters know they're the subjects of a horror movie made real. Constantly, they compare their situations to those of classic slasher films, such as 'Halloween', 'A Nightmare On Elm Street', and even movies like 'Carrie'. The whole movie even serves as a bit of an encyclopedia on film trivia. For one thing, we ultimately do learn who the killer is and why he does what he does. But on the other hand, we also find out what was used for pig's blood in 'Carrie'.

Now, I'm not referring to all the characters when I talk about their obsession with pointing out the similiarities between what's going on in their town and what happened in a movie made 20 years prior. Sidney Prescott, for one thing, doesn't particularly care for the genre herself, as she feels that the movies churned out to inspire scares always resort to sexist stereotypes (ironically, so does this film). I think what I loved so much about this movie is the way that it actually finds a way to tie other films into the action going on in the story. As Randy (Jamie Kennedy), who is a proud film geek (like me), so wisely tells both himself and Jamie Lee Curtis, "Jamie, behind you. Jamie, look behind you." It's little blink-and-miss jokes like that that provide a certain self-confident aura around the film. If the filmmakers can trust us to recognize what exactly the intents of the film are, then surely they can trust us to actually appreciate a bit of cliche when it is used in such an original manner. Alas, they did.

Perhaps the best bits of dialogue in the film are the ones where characters address the rule-breaking of other characters. In a delightful cameo, Drew Barrymore hears a knock at the door and in most predictable horror genre style, asks that forbidden question..."Who's there?" As Ghostface usefully (or uselessly, depending on how you look at it) informs her, to ask for the identity of an unknown door-knocker while talking on the phone with a self-proclaimed killer is nothing short of a death wish. And of course, there's the proclamative monologue from Jamie Kennedy's character who instructs his partygoers on the rules of survival. 1. You must not have sex (he has a point). 2. You cannot drink or do drugs (very true). 3. You must never ever say, "I'll be right back" (Ironically, the one character who actually says this does not make it).

Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of the film are how much the killer himself actually looks up to his or her film predecessors like Norman Bates, Jason Vorhees, and Michael Myers. In the many phone conversations he has during the film, Ghostface seems eager to know the favorite scary movie of every young victim he or she calls. And in the final act of the film, the finally-revealed killer opens the possibility that perhaps there is no motive behind what he or she does. Perhaps it is an absolute that he or she is simply a psycho.

As a comedy, 'Scream' works. As a horror film, 'Scream' works. As a spoof of cliches, 'Scream' works. In a brilliant display of self-confidence, the film makes no effort to avoid self-patronizing itself. It's a risk that really paid off, because if the film had sucked, then it would come off as an apology for its quality, rather than a goofy way of reminding the audience not to take it too seriously. The dialogue is awesome. There's just no denying the wit and fact behind what these characters are saying. Surprises are around the corner, but perhaps they can be anticipated a little bit if you simply follow the rules.

Final Consensus: With the help of clever writing and an inspired sense of self-parodying humor, 'Scream' works not only as a scary satire of slasher horror, but also as a social commentary on the cliches of the genre.

3.5/4 Stars
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Timma1986
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Location : Las Vegas, NV
Interests : I love acting, improv, and movies. I like to write my movie reviews whenever I go see a new film. I also enjoy reading and playing video games, and occasionally playing basketball.
Registration date : 2011-03-16

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