For a while, I've wanted to do reviews for retro films. The original Scream is one of my top 5 all-time favourite horror flicks. The monumental film had left a lasting impression on pop culture. It's hard to resist watching horror-savvy teens walk into murderess situations of the Ghostface Killer. The story toys with the moralism of enjoying horror movies. Wes Craven brings a maturity to a genre that was always denoted for its general cheap impersonal feel. Scream marks perhaps the most reflective of all the slashers and represents a major turn towards big-budget horror as a place for burgeoning auteurs to hone their craft to flourish in distinct new directions. People took slashers seriously again after this. Somehow a decade after the 80s Craven reinvented the slasher yet again after doing it once before. It's spawned 4 sequels, a Netflix show, countless rip-offs, and has a new film out in theatres now. Unfortunately, cinemas are closed in my area. The same thing happened with Halloween Kills. I was late for the party. In the meantime, I'll give my SPOILER REVIEWS of the SCREAM quadrilogy in anticipation of finally being able to see the new film.
The opening scene is iconic. Casey Becker (Drew Berrymore) gets a mysterious phone call from an unknown caller. A quiet, comfy movie night at home turns dark fast when the caller takes his obsession with horror movies way too far. The way the smoke fills the room, the lighting, and the performance from Barrymore is all masterfully directed by Wes Craven. The tension ramps up quickly through dialogue and effective jump scares. The gore is brutally visceral yet isn't over the top. Craven shows restraint using the atmosphere to induce fear. The pacing undeniably makes it one of the most suspenseful scenes in cinema. Barrymore was the presumed star so it made her death that much more impactful. It's an homage to Psycho because Janet Leigh was headlined as the star of the film but is quickly killed off, shocking people amongst their first viewing. The way Casey misses her parents by mere moments is heartbreaking. Barrymore gives a harrowing performance as both scared but level-headed, desperately seeking a way out. It's the most memorable scene of the franchise. When you think of Scream, I bet Casey answering the phone is the first thing you think of.
Kevin Willamson expertly crafted the script. What makes the film stand out is the mystery aspect. You have to figure out who did it before the big reveal. Part of the fun is guessing who the killer is. It separated itself from other major horror villains because unlike them, you didn't know the killer going in. It both established the rules of horror movies while simultaneously breaking them like how Sydney loses her virginity but lives. He created an iconic horror villain, Ghostface. Having 2 killers was unheard of at the time. It blew my mind the first time seeing it.
The entire cast gives top-notch performances giving us memorable, loveable, relatable characters. Matthew Lillard, especially, gives his all in the greatest performance of the film as Stu Macher. He kills every scene he's in, pun intended. Skeet Ulrich is Billy Loomis. When he's revealed as the other killer he's so egregiously evil with his epic portrayal of a bad boy with insidious intent beneath his baby face. Neve Campbell plays final girl Sydney Prescott with intelligence, innocence, and angst. It's interesting how it happens a year after her mom was killed because now Sydney's fighting for her life while dealing with grief thus adding another layer to the character. Courtney Cox is ruthless reporter Gale Weathers. She sells it with her fierce performance and has a nice story arc showing she has a heart of gold. Jamie Kennedy plays Randy, the embodiment of every horror fanboy. He's the comic relief with a memorable performance, respectively. It's full of hilarious quotable lines from him, Stu and Tatum (Rose McGowan) like "Deputy Dewey Boy" and "Please don't kill me, Mr. Ghostface! I wanna be in the sequel!" Another comic relief but is undeniably the most loveable character. Her death scene is silly but having her character killed left an impact unlike the other best friend characters in later sequels.
Roger Jackson provides the infamous, iconic, instantly recognizable voice on the phone with a silky smooth sinisterness that will always haunt our collective nightmares.
It's interesting how I noticed subtle details upon the latest viewing to write this like the looks Billy gives Stu when they're talking around the fountain about the murders the day after it happened. Or the video store scene when Billy and Stu confront Randy about his accusations about who's the killer in the horror section. There's an underlying subtext about horror flicks and reality. Also, the way it's edited toward the finale how it cuts between the original Halloween film and what's going on at the party is a funny introspective look at the parallels most slashers share. The scene when Randy is yelling at Jamie Lee Curtis to look behind her while Sydney and cameraman Kenny are yelling at him to look behind him has to be the most meta scene ever filmed.
That iconic song "Red Right Hand" has become the franchise's unofficial theme song. Even if you don't know the name of it, you know the song from this film. The title was taken from John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost. This comes from when the demon Belial refers to God’s "red right hand", which will strike vengeance on the devil. There are some links between the story and the lyrics. They speak of “a tall handsome man” who is “in a dusty black coat” who arrives on “a gathering storm.” I think this represents Billy because of how the film plays out. He's handsome but has a strong sense of vengeance against his enemies.
Overall, this is mostly responsible for why Slashers are my favourite subgenre. When I was 11, this little film came out and changed everything. I find the concept of serial killers taking their love for horror movies too far as scary because it's realistic. The writing is brilliant. The directing is horrifically inventive. It's not hyperbole when I say Scream changed my life. I was Ghostface for Halloween for 4 years in a row. I started writing short stories but as slashers which got me in trouble in school. I still laugh about the silliness of the situation to this day. I not only consider this to be a perfect film but a quintessential Horror viewing if you haven't seen it yet. It's an annual Halloween viewing for me too. And remember, as Billy Loomis says, "Life is all one great big movie."
For more, see my in depth SPOILER REVIEWS and RANKING here: