directed by Wes Craven
(Dimension, 1996)

Scream provided the horror genre with a significant shot in the arm when it was released in 1996. This movie was a whole bunch of horror films all rolled into one, yet it was also quite original and unlike what had come before. Along with the undeniable creepiness and suspenseful nature of the wonderfully complex plot, Scream brilliantly incorporated pop culture and humor. It paid homage to its antecedents, referring to 14 different horror movies of the past, incorporating scenes (and that powerful Carpenter music) from Halloween into the plot itself, citing the unspoken rules of horror movies, and sneaking in great cameo appearances by Linda Blair and "Fred" the janitor (played by Wes Craven himself).

The phone call from the killer gimmick works very well here, providing Scream with its own peculiar trademark. I certainly had no idea about the true identity of the killer at the end, and I was thrilled to discover all of the rich nuances fuelling the entire killing spree. Scream is not your typical slice-and-dice flick with an easily identifiable bad guy and a plot that serves no more purpose than to provide an excuse for killing people. Scriptwriter Kevin Williamson is a veritable genius, a man whose love of horror movies fuels him to put together a story that will involve the audience's mind as well as its emotions. The manner of murders are refreshingly varied, partly because the masked killer is so doggone clumsy most of the time and has to rely on devices other than his shiny big knife.

I found the suspense level of every important event almost perfect. The soundtrack also adds strength to the whole effect, featuring great tracks such as "Don't Fear the Reaper" and "Red Right Hand" (which was originally used in a classic X-Files episode).

Of course, even the best script will fail without a talented cast, and Scream is blessed with some of Hollywood's best performers. Neve Campbell is of course the perfect Sidney; Drew Barrymore is largely responsible for making Scream's opening scene such a memorable one; Courteney Cox is the perfect self-centered tabloid reporter; David Arquette is actually likeable in his role as the somewhat dim-witted deputy sheriff; Rose McGowan is the quintessential best friend (and a total knockout); Skeet Ulrich and Matthew Lillard play their roles perfectly; and the character of Randy Meeks, the self-proclaimed horror expert, is one of my all-time favorites. Even the Fonz himself, Henry Winkler, plays a part in the film. I don't think you could put together a better overall cast for a horror movie, and that is one of the real secrets of Scream's success.

No matter how many times I watch Scream, I never fail to get completely drawn into the suspense. The DVD makes the experience even better with its load of goodies -- a number of trailers, Wes Craven's commentary, some behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with cast members about the movie, cast biographies, trivia information, etc. One really interesting note about this film is revealed in the credits: this movie was made "No Thanks Whatsoever To: the Santa Rosa City School District Governing Board," because the school board backed out of its decision to let part of the movie be shot at its local high school, citing the film's excessive violence.

I believe this movie does what horror is supposed to do: draw out your own fears and negative emotions, transfer them to the screen and send you away feeling invigorated, refreshed and glad to still be alive.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 28 May 2005

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