Scream (1996) was a token part of my teenage years. This might sound strange or even pathetic to some, but just like yesterday there is a memory of sitting in my room, glued to my small television set in awe of the opening sequence. Who could believe that Drew Barrymore was not going make it through in the entire film? The opening scene even ranked in Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments at number 13. And despite the number of horror films I already viewed at my young age, I can still remember yelling at my television that Jason Voorhees was the killer in Friday the 13th along with Casey Becker. The correct answer of course is Mrs. Voorhees, which made me feel like a complete idiot. I got a horror trivia question wrong and played right into the killer’s hands!
The homage that Scream pays to horror films, in addition to the brilliant writing of Kevin Williamson and direction of Wes Craven, is why Scream is still such a brilliant piece of horror history. Furthermore, the basic premise of the film is about a killer known as Ghostface who is killing teenagers in the town of Woodsboro. This occurs exactly one year after the death of lead female star Sideny Prescott’s (Neve Campbell) mother has been murdered. After Casey (Drew Barrymore) and her boyfriend are gutted, Sidney slowly begins to start wondering if she has convicted the wrong man, Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber), for her mother’s murder and if the serial killings are related to her mom’s death. Soon everyone realizes that in order to survive one must remember the rules of the horror film genre, no one is safe, and that everyone’s a suspect.
Additionally, the fact that these teens know everything there is to know about these films, as well as other films, is what makes this film work. After all, if one knows all the rules and can anticipate the upcoming situations within their own horror film they will have no problem surviving. The problem is the majority of all of them decide to do exactly what they said they would not do in the first place. To me this is what makes the scene where Sidney runs up the stairs particularly funnier than it should be.
Likewise, these teens are the intended audience for the most part. Most cliques have a Randy (Jamie Kennedy), a Sid, and a Tatum (Rose McGowan). And even if every group does not have this particular stereotypes of a teenage youth, they still exist within society today. Regardless, society is obsessed with pop culture. The obsession especially occurs when one is a teenager. Sometimes this happens with music and sometimes with film. The so-called group I belonged to frequently went to the theater whenever we had extra money. To top it all, our choice of film were horror films, which made our love for Scream that much more intense.
Equally as important, while the majority of the cast does gives stellar performances as the know-it-all teenagers, one of the big surprises within the film is that of reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox). To see Cox play someone so completely out of character type is still amazing to this day. Another one of my other favorite performances is that of David Arquette (Deputy Dewey Riley). In fact, others agreed on the behalf of Arquette’s character being so well portrayed that instead of killing off his character at the end, as planned, Williamson let him live.
The other surprise performance was given by that of Skeet Ulrich as Billy Loomis. Spoiler alert ahead if you still haven’t seen Scream. While having a Johnny Depp quality, Ulrich had such a creepy factor about him that made him perfect for the part. Many people were not surprised by him being a killer in the end, despite how many times the film tried to prove otherwise. The surprise killer of course was that of Stu (Matthew Lillard). Audiences did not expect more than one killer and Lillard was such a goofball up until the end this never seemed too apparent to viewers of the film. To this day, his lines are some I remember the most within the film. Plus the ultimate teen heartthrob, Henry Winkler, is the school principal!
On the whole, Scream not only reinvented the horror film genre, but is also smarter than most horror films of recent years. By taking the time to truly understand the genre, even including trivia and asking what’s your favorite scary movie, Kevin Williamson created a cinematic success. While the film primarily succeeded by word of mouth with a December opening, Scream remains a favorite among horror fans to this day. So if one is in the mood for something other than romantic comedies or comedies in general, this may be the film for you. Just remember, don’t say you’ll be right back, because you won’t be back.