Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Scream (Craven. 1996)

"Movies don't create psychos. Movies make psychos more creative!"

The phone is ringing. A teenage girl named Casey is home all by herself. She answers that phone and harmlessly flirts with the nameless man on the other line. As their conversation becomes strange, the audience is introduced to the overall theme of Wes Craven's Scream, horror movies. "What is your favorite scary movie? Who is the killer in the original Friday the 13th (1980)? That IS a scary movie". Some say that a film loses its watchablity when it becomes self aware. Here is a movie that knows it is a movie, and therefor reluctantly and sarcastically follows every rule that a movie of its kind must follow.

Scream, the first of the franchise, introduces the character of Sydney Prescott. Played by the adorable Neve Campbell, Sydney is a teenager with a quick wit and a sexually frustrated boyfriend. Her life seems normal at the beginning, but as the story quickly progresses the audience learns about her haunted past. Her mother was brutally raped and murdered just a little over a year before the film takes place. She was the key witness in putting the killer behind bars. But as killings start to happen and Sydney becomes the number one target, it is obvious that the actual killer is still on the loose.

That leads us to the biggest popular culture phenomenon in 90s horror, Ghost-Face. Though the character was resurrected for the sequels, the original killer is by far the greatest. His/her back-story is compelling and frightening and his/her techniques are creative enough to be constantly copied by wannabes in the later years. The phone calls have become iconic in horror circles (which naturally led to several prank caller copycats) and the killer's unsubtle approach to violence is terrifying. Everyone is familiar with the mask made famous by Scream, but the film is not about the appearance of the killer. It is mostly about pinpointing the man/woman behind the mask and revealing the motives in a classic horror cliché-ridden fashion. Every character gets a chance to be a suspect, and Ghost-Face is just bumbling and silly enough to be believed as anybody.

I think that is my one major problem with Scream. Though the killer is creative and gruesome, he/she is also a bit of a wimp. Ghost-Face is constantly being kicked, punched and knocked to the ground by Sydney during their frantic chase scenes. The killing is not very efficient and the dueling starts to cross a line into cartoonish. I know that Scream was written by Kevin Williamson as a humorous homage to slasher horror, but his bad guy does not have to be almost worthless at some points.

I think my favorite character in this movie is played by the usually unwatchable Jamie Kennedy. He plays Randy the horror movie buff who immodestly tries to explain the rules of survival. He, over all other characters, understands that they are living in a slasher film. He explains that "There's always some stupid bullshit reason to kill, That's the beauty of it all! Simplicity! Besides, if it gets too complicated, you lose your target audience". He warns his friends to not have sex, drink or do drugs because sin always leads to death in the horror classics. Randy is also the only character who never wanders off on his own. He is the epitome of Scream's self-deprecating sense of humor.

I have heard Scream be called a spoof, homage, tribute, horror, thriller and mystery film. In reality, Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson created a successful and poppy genre-spanner that will be entertaining for as long as horror fans exist. Its sense of humor will never become stale because the movies being poked fun at will never stop being made. It would get a better grade if it lacked some of its major plot-holes, but it is still a memorable movie that I will watch over and over again.

Scream: B+

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