Scream: Wes is the Man
by John Bikowski
Illustration by Eric Johnson
Aaaahhh… the politics of horror. Director Wes Craven is once again hot stuff with the release of Scream. He has proven himself in the past, most notably by creating A Nightmare on Elm Street and its kiddie-cutting icon Freddy Krueger. I can still remember being one of the first to see the film back in 1984 (alongside your infamous editor Mr. Hefflon). We were looking at each other like, “Oh crap. This is cool. We’re almost actually scared.” Wes also gave us the classic rape/kill/revenge scenario in Last House on the Left. However, he is also responsible for the stench that lingered from such excretions as Deadly Friend and The Hills Have Eyes Part II. Fortunately, he is back and better than ever with Scream, a solid and entertaining piece that pokes fun at the same genre it pays tribute to.
(Don’t worry, I won’t give away the surprise ending below.) Scream begins with Drew Barrymore completely naked and prone on a bed. No, not really… but it really starts with her receiving a wrong number phone call. Essaying her interpretation of brain death, Drew continues to chat with the nut until he gets a bit too creepy. She threatens that her boyfriend will soon come around to kick some ass… but he gets disemboweled. Mere dismemberment is too merciful for Drew, so she undergoes a pretty terrifying cat and mouse game on the way to her vicious demise. Well, so much for the first 10 minutes! We then begin the story of Neve Campbell, a classmate of Drew’s, who previously had a brush with a mad slasher who raped and murdered her mother. It seems that Neve helped to send the psycho to jail where he is presently rotting. Meanwhile in town, a ghostly figure with a penchant for mental anguish and large cutlery is hacking up Neve’s friends. Why is she being singled out?
Fans of the horror genre will no doubt thrill to the sight of several suspensefully set-up slaughter scenes that don’t skimp on the sauce. And if you enjoy a good jump scare, bring someone to latch onto because there is ample opportunity. Fans will also love the constant tips of the hat to other classics like Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Psycho. I also appreciated Craven’s sense of humor; especially when he ranks on even his own creations. In the film, Drew’s character says “I loved the first Nightmare on Elm Street. The rest really sucked.” Another plus was excellent casting that includes Skeet Ulrich as the Johnny Depp-looking boyfriend and David Arquette as the endearing but self-conscious deputy sheriff. Oh, and who can forget Courtney Cox in her first-ever nude lesbian scene? Well, not really… but she does have a key role as a tabloid-TV star who’s not afraid to get bloody.
It seems that Neve has become sexually frigid as a result of her mother’s rape. We all know that this means she is a good girl and psychos cannot chop her, right? Well, one of the twisted supporting actors goes into a hilarious dissertation on the pluses of not having sex in a horror flick. Basically the rule is: if you screw, you get really screwed. However, if you remain sexless, then you remain impenetrable by knives (and other phallic objects). But nobody mentioned sex in the movie theater while watching a slasher flick, so I wound up missing a few minutes towards the middle.
One element of psycho-stalker movies that always pisses me off is the equating of homicidal mania to extrasensory omnipotent hauling ass. You know, when a killer or mutant always knows where the victim is and appears for the attack with cougar-like swiftness? For a specific example, Jason Voorhees had spent years at the bottom of a lake, yet he came up to orchestrate the flaying of 70-80 people. Oh sure. At least in Scream, explanation is provided as to why the ghost-like murderer can teleport and hack the way he/she does (pretty ambiguous, huh?).
If you want to see Scream, I recommend you do so in the theater because the audience factor helps. Gory stabbings don’t have the same effect without the “Ooooohhhhs” and “Aaaahhhhs” that novices provide. The soundtrack is also cool in SurroundSound, and they even toss in a gratuitous Arthur Fonzarelli cameo.
My advice is to ignore what several critics have been saying and go see this film. Here’s the problem: many critics hate slasher films. They have no business reviewing them for the general public. I hate operas, so I wouldn’t review an opera. I would say it sucked no matter how wonderful it really may be (to those who care). This is precisely what happened to Scream. No mainstream critic is going to champion a feature that is highlighted by gaping flesh wounds and gallons of gore. They’re spineless idiots. They probably loved it, but job security dictates that they merely acknowledge the potential, but ultimately crap on the film. Ignore them. Listen to me… Scream‘s a howl.