[Movie Review] Scream (1996) ★★★★★

Casey Becker on the ph

Scream is an iconic slasher delight.

Scream started a new age of slashers. Both a parody and an ode to the slasher genre, this film has become as iconic as its predecessors in the eighties. With commentary on slasher movies and social commentary this film isn’t merely focused on the most horrible gruesome deaths. It’s about the structure of slashers, the slasher rules, the tropes, the motive of the killer, a targeted final girl and her friends and a masked killer.

Scream brings a meta-perspective to the genre, without forgetting it’s a real slasher too and with a great storyline that is very entertaining. With lots of suspense, the mystery of who the killer could be, and some great original kills, Scream has become an instant classic. 

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Sidney Prescott lives with her father Neil in Woodsboro. Her mother Maureen was killed almost to the date a year ago. Her presumed killer Cotton Weary,  Maureen’s lover, was seen by Sidney and she testified against him. But Gale Weathers, a journalist believes he’s innocent. But as the anniversary of her mother’s death approaches, a high school girl and her boyfriend are brutally killed and they are only the first of a killing spree that torments Woodsboro and Sidney in particular. With her friends Tatum, Randy the movie buff, Stuart and her boyfriend Billy, Sid eventually has to fight back to stay alive.

Why you should watch it

Scream is first and foremost a real slasher. But it’s also a parody that discusses, quite literally in the classroom and at school, the slasher genre itself. All slasher tropes are discussed, explained, explicitly or are shown during  scenes. Like, don’t have sex, don’t throw a party, don’t run upstairs and they always come back and many more. It therefore brings a meta-perspective within the actual movie, that also increases the tension instead of slowing it down. It’s a very well-crafted film that is very precise in its pace, the structure, the timing of the kills, the storytelling and the plot itself. 

Throughout the film there are also lots of references to other slasher films, which shows that the characters are aware of what’s happening, and can act accordingly, knowing what to do. That is, most main characters do, because there has to be a party, it’s one of the tropes used in slashers. 

Although there are very comical scenes and nods (watch out for the janitor with his red and green striped Freddy Krueger sweater), the kills are not funny at all. They are brutal and likable characters aren’t spared. The kills get some great screen time and the killer takes his time to execute his original kill, planned that way or not. But what makes this killer different is that there is a real person behind the mask. A real person, Sid quite possible knows, who is out to get her. He taunts her with threatening phone calls and toys with her, making her so scared, that she gets scared enough to be brave and fight back. Phone calls that have become legendary by asking what your favorite scary movie is and answering pub quiz questions about horror movies. 

The killer also has a real motive, it’s deranged, but he has a logical plausible motive nonetheless. It’s not a depersonalized killer with his only intention to kill. No, this killer has intention to hurt. And that’s the most gruesome part. Ghostface has become as much of a legend as Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers, although anyone can hide behind the Ghostface mask. That also results in an opportunity for the viewers to actively try to guess who the killer is. So, it’s a parody, an ode, a stand-alone slasher and a murder mystery, all wrapped up in a fantastic entertaining movie. 

Find out who Ghostface is, here.

Scream also addresses social themes, like “slut shaming.” But most importantly it poses the question if slashers are encouraging people to kill. If slashers are responsible for making killers. The best answer the film gives is that it doesn’t make killers, but at the most make them more creative. But the responsibility of the slasher genre and of a personal sexual choice both end with the personal actions others take to go on a killing spree or to shame someone. Their actions are their responsibilities. 

The structure is greatly paced, with excellent timed kills, and also a great music score, that really adds to the atmosphere also making the tone and vibe familiar and authentic. There’s no room for sidetracks, everything that is shown does matter and has a function, either to give critique, to make you laugh a bit, to scare you, or to set you on the wrong track. With only few locations, few main characters, a clear story, it’s a very compact movie that is highly focused, to make everything count. 

Although once you have seen the film and you know who the killer is, it’s about more than just guessing who it is, so it’s not a one time watch. It’s a very enjoyable watch that will entertain more generations to come. It still feels fresh after all these years and also a bit nostalgic.

My favorite part

The beginning is just brilliant. It jumps right into slasher mode which is quite a long scene and sets the tone for the rest of the film. Gale is an awesome character that stirs things up and her camera with a delay of 30 seconds is all the killer needs to target a party and cause one of the most horrible and creative deaths of the film. I’m still not over that death. The ending is also great and the reveal of the killer and what follows next gives a whole new spin on the genre, that has now become a trope of its own. This film is a classic and a must-see.


Rating: ★★★★★

Gore factor: ★★★★☆

Scare factor: ★★★★☆

Gruesome factor: ★★★★☆

Originality factor: ★★★★★

Entertainment factor: ★★★★★

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Cast and crew

Scream is directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson. It stars Neve Campbell (Sidney Prescott), David Arquette (Deputy Dewey Riley), Courteney Cox (Gale Weathers), Matthew Lillard (Stuart Macher), Rose McGowan (Tatum Riley), Skeet Ulrich (Billy Loomis), Drew Barrymore (Casey Becker), Jamie Kennedy (Randy Meeks) and Henry Winkler (Principal Mimbry).

Duration: 111 minutes. Music: Marco Beltrami. Cinematography: Mark Irwin. Edited by: Patrick Lussier. Produced by: Cathy Konrad, Cary Woods. Production company: Woods Entertainment. Distributed by: Dimension F.

Check the trailer below

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