With David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Skeet Ulrich, Drew Barrymore
Written by Kevin Williamson
Directed by Wes Craven (Dimension, 1997)
by Scott Hefflon
It’s about time we had a smart, stylish horror movie to wrap our warped brains around. Without stooping to the awakening of some ancient evil, or some secret government biochemical experiment gone terribly wrong, or some lumbering madman in a mask that just won’t stay dead,Scream scares the living bejesus out of us with a much more personal monster – it’s one of us! Critics applauded Scream, muttering things like “Clever!” and “Hip!” The terrified snobs spilled tax-deductible popcorn during the invite-only advance screening, horror-stricken more by the fact that they were actually liking a scary movie than by the movie itself.
The irresistible charm of Scream, aside from the constant parade of babes and hunks that are, literally, to die for, lies in its self-referential humor. Without slowing down the frantic pace of the whodunit, and without diffusing the mounting fear that the killer is stalking both day and night and the victims seem to have very little in common (meaning, hell,you could be next),Scream weaves together sub-soap operas of teenage hormones, peer pressure, and all the little nuances that make the characters seem very real. Sure, most of the “kids” look way more buff than your average horny teenager, but I believe that falls under “suspension of disbelief” or something. From the trailers and promos that saturated our consciousness, we’re all intimately familiar with Drew Barrymore’s love of scary movies, Neve Campbell’s intellectual outrage at them, Rose McGowan’s beautifully bubblegum should-I-play-helpless-in-a-tight-shirt-and-mini-skirt routine, and Courteney Cox’s winning smile and shrewd techniques to get the scoop at any cost. Littered throughout are both bit players and major characters name-dropping their influences, accurately depicting where the real information sources are, and how Ricki Lake, horror classics, and TV anchorperson idolization are more powerful than fear. Or good taste.
Favorite scenes include the cruelly honest cheerleader in the bathroom who finally gives us the dirt on Sidney’s (Neve) mom’s murder, the video store scene in which virgin boy wonder Jamie Kennedy and crude jokester Matthew Lillard discuss motive, and, of course, the entire party scene turned bloodbath at the end. To the very end,Scream parodies every trick in the book: it scares you when you know full well the killer is behind the door, it milks every gimmick of the-killer-ain’t-dead, so-there’s-the-missing-suspect, the-victim-turned-victor-with-clever-one-liner, and just about every other cliché you can think of. Even once you know whodunit, the movie is worth watching a few more times to try to pick up clues. Not to mention that there are more pop culture references strewn about in this movie than there are corpses. Thank god for the rewind button.
As an aside, the TVT soundtrack works much better within the context of the movie than as a CD itself. The amazingly lengthy (a minute and a half!) “Youth of America” by Boston’s own Birdbrain brings us all to the party scene, SoHo’s revamped “Whisper to a Scream (Birds Fly)” made the credits a pleasure (the first few times), and even Gus’ acoustically smacked out cover of “Don’t Fear the Reaper” worked during the tender dry humping scene (puns intended, though never fully realized) whereas, while isolated, it made me retch harder than any sick scene in the movie. And hell, you don’t need me to tell you that the scenes of fearful shopkeepers closing early and mothers dragging their children off the streets to the smooth sounds of Nick Cave are as cool as an iced drink on a hot day.