One year after Sidney’s (Neve Campbell) mother was murdered, new slayings spring up in the small town of Woodsboro. First it’s fellow classmates, and then the principal and between, the killer, dressed up in a black gown and wearing ghost-face mask that resembles the Scream face from the famous painting, shows up to try and kill Sidney. As the bodies drop, Sidney’s friends circle around her to protect her and keep her safe, since her father is conveniently out of town on a business trip. These include her boyfriend Billy (Skeet Ulrich) who quickly becomes a prime suspect, and her best friend Tatum (Rose McGowan). There’s also reporter Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) hanging around, looking to get a scoop, and brother of Tatum, Deputy Dewey (David Arquette). I’m not going to futz around with a summary on this because I’m sure most people have already seen this, but a little refresher never hurt anyone. The killer is on the loose and targeting Sidney and her friends. Will they survive, or will the killer get them all?
I still vividly recall seeing this on a December night back in 1996 when it came out. I was living in Berkeley, California, about half an hour’s walk from Shattuck Street (where I think the movie theaters were, although it could have been Telegraph). I was bored and lonely and decided to go see this new horror movie that was getting some good word of mouth. Horror had been in a slump for a while and if you lived in the 90s, you would understand when I said that it felt like a two decades between the early 90s and the latter years of the 90s. It was a totally different world, one where metal seemed all but gone (wrong) and horror had faded like I’d never seen before. Scream came out and changed all of that. I left the theater thrilled and that long walk home was filled with lots of big, shit-eating grins. Now that was a fun, scary movie! And the in-jokes were fabulous and the “rules” were clever. This was made by people who got it and who loved it and wanted others to love it, too. I saw the movie a couple more times on VHS and then the sequels spilled out and I enjoyed those, as well. So I decided to go back and revisit them, and see if they held up, because I love (most of) director Wes Craven’s work and in particular, enjoyed these. How did the first one do?
Well, it’s still has the chops. That beginning is and will always be a masterpiece, setting up the feel and the playfulness and yet still being very, very serious and deadly. The mid-section is mostly filler and exposition, but the movie falls a bit flat here. This is also where most of the insider jokes stumble. They work better when there’s tension, especially at the end, when the killer attacks what’s left of the party. The scene with Halloween playing in the background, mimicking what was happening on screen is terrific, and the chase scenes that follow are great, too. The suspense is top-notch. The downside is the craziness of our killers. If you’ve seen this before, when you watch it again, see how they immediately give away that they’re the bad guys. It’s so obvious it hurts. Also, their crazed monologues at the end still grated on my nerves. What a couple of jerkoffs. And one more complaint: no way the killer is shadowing Sidney in a grocery store wearing full costume and mask and NOBODY notices. While we’re here, the gown the killer wears is stupid, and the mask never did much for me. But what do I know? It’s since become iconic.
In the end, Scream still has the goods. A fun, suspenseful, scary, thrill-ride that never really lets up. It’s populated with great actors and characters and you care deeply about all of them, even if the script (Kevin Williamson) is a little too winky-winky at times. Definite recommend if you haven’t seen it, and definite recommend for a re-watch!