Pros: Entertaining movie with interesting story and characters.
Cons: Some annoying characters and bad acting.
When I was younger, I didn't watch many horror or scary movies. As I got older, I started to see some of them on television every so often, enjoying some of them. When Scream was first released in 1996, I thought the trailers looked interesting but I had some apprehension about seeing it. I eventually rented the movie and really enjoyed it.
A small town was shocked by the brutal murder of two teenagers. That crime happened almost a year after the rape and murder of Sydney Prescott's mother and the press descended on the town again. Gail Weathers, a woman who had done a lot of reporting on the previous crime and even written a book was back, hoping the new crime would further her career more, especially once Sydney survived an attack. While trying to recover from the attack, Sydney suspected her boyfriend Billy Loomis of being involved. More people were killed by the masked killer and it did seem like Sydney was being specifically targeted even after she went to stay with her friend Tatum. Dwight, Tatum's older brother, was one of the deputies working to find the killer.
Wes Craven was responsible for some well known and popular horror movies. Those movies, especially the slasher type, weren't as popular when Craven made Scream. As Sydney said at one point in the movie, horror movies were viewed as pointless by many people since so many of them seemed to just feature some crazed killer chasing a not so bright woman. Scream changed that in several ways. The killer was a person in a ghost costume that no one knew instead of being an escaped mental patient or killer or something that had been done so many times in previous movies. I haven't seen all of those other slasher/horror movies, but I think that with most of them, the identity of the killer was known from very early on, at least to the audience. With this movie, the audience is kept in the dark just as long as the characters are which I think made the movie more effective. The characters were smarter than similar characters in other movies as well. One character talked about the rules for slasher movies. Some of them were followed while others were broken. This movie was very popular when it was released and that success helped to reinvent slasher movies and spawned many imitators.
The plot for Scream seemed to be simple at first like it was going to be just another slasher movie. It wasn't long before it was clear that things were a bit different and more was going on. The plot ended up being rather complex without getting too confusing. The murder of Sydney's mother a year before received some attention as well and was tied to what was going on. Some of the killings were random, but there was a larger plan being implemented by killer. There was a motive and explanation for what was happening that made sense. I thought that the way everything worked out was handled very well and was actually clever. Different slasher movies were mentioned throughout Scream, and it did seem like the movie was poking some fun at them. I thought that worked well, and it did help to add a bit of humor.
I felt that there was a decent amount of mystery throughout Scream. The first two victims were attacked very early in the movie and it wasn't long before others were attacked and killed as well. The killer was only shown in a ghost costume until the end when their identity was finally revealed. That helped to add to the mystery and suspense since so many characters were suspects. I did think that there were a few surprises that worked very well. I didn't think the movie was predictable at all and I was kept guessing about exactly what was going on until the very end.
Scream had several very violent scenes, which may bother some viewers. Several characters were attacked or murdered. Most of the attacks and murders were shown as they happened and a lot of blood was splattered around. Anyone who doesn't like to see blood in movies may want to skip this one. There were fights between different characters, usually involving someone trying to get away from the killer. The final confrontation with the killer was very violent and one of the gory sections of the movie. Many of the characters used profanity, including versions of the word that rhymes with luck. The violence and profanity caused the movie to be rated R. This isn't a movie for children to see.
Sydney and Billy had been dating for a long time when Scream started. During the first scene they had together, he was complaining because they hadn't had sex yet. There were different times when he said things to try to convince Sydney that they should have sex. He even seemed to be trying to guilt her into having sex at times. Billy wasn't the most sensitive to what Sydney was dealing with and it did make me wonder why she stayed with him. There were some sexual situations throughout the movie that really didn't show much of anything.
Most of the movie was focused on Sydney and how she was dealing with everything. She had already had to deal with tragedy in her life when her mother was murdered. The new attacks added more complications to her life, especially once she was attacked. She was smart and managed to deal with what was going on well for the most part even though she did freak out a few times. Neve Campbell was fine in the part. Things about her mother were mentioned a few times and her dad Neil turned up a few times.
Tatum was Sydney's best friend. Tatum was more free spirited. She knew the situation was serious, but she didn't take it seriously all the time. Because of that, she made one or two questionable decisions. Rose McGowan was fine in the part. Stuart was Tatum's boyfriend and Billy's best friend. Stuart saw everything as some huge joke. He was frequently making insensitive comments and acting like a jerk. I really didn't like him at all. I think this role is part of the reason why I have been annoyed by Matthew Lillard so often.
Billy was Sydney's boyfriend. Sometimes he seemed to be concerned for her and other times he seemed to only be thinking about getting Sydney into bed. Skeet Ulrich was fine in the part. Randy was one of Sydney's friends. Randy worked at a video store and loved horror movies. He knew all sorts of things about horror movies and was the character who shared the rules of horror movies. He did have a crush on Sydney and he didn't seem to like Billy. Jamie Kennedy was good in the part.
Dwight, or Dewey as everyone called him, was Tatum's older brother and a deputy with the sheriff's department. Many people, especially Tatum, made fun of Dewey. He did act a bit goofy at times, but he was a nice guy who really did want to catch the killer. David Arquette was good in the part. Gail Weathers was a tabloid reporter covering the new murders. Gail was very ambitious and was willing to do anything to get ahead. The character was very different from the one Courteney Cox was playing on Friends when this movie was made. I thought she did a good job with the part. She and Arquette, who met while making this movie, eventually got married. Henry Winkler turned up in a few scenes as the principal of the high school who didn't seem to like most of the students. The other characters who turned up were only in a few scenes here and there and weren't developed at all.
David Arquette - Dewey
Drew Barrymore - Casey
Neve Campbell - Sydney Prescott
Courteney Cox - Gail Weathers
Jamie Kennedy - Randy
Matthew Lillard - Stuart
Rose McGowan - Tatum
Liev Schreiber - Cotton Weary
Skeet Ulrich - Billy
Wes Craven - Director
I picked up The Ultimate Scream Collection DVD set several years ago. The set has all three movies and a fourth disc with more extras. The Scream DVD has the widescreen version of the movie. There might be a full screen version available as well. The extras include an audio commentary with the director and screenwriter, a production featurette, trailers, some behind the scenes footage, questions with the cast and crew and film facts.
Scream was a very entertaining slasher movie that reinvented the genre. The plot was interesting and suspenseful and not at all predictable. People that like good horror movies should give this one a chance.
This review is part of CaptainD's 2008 Good Movie Write Off.