Scream breathes new life into the genre by showing its hand

I enjoy the magic stylings of Penn & Teller, though the magic community doesn't exactly enjoy their antics.

One staple of the slight-of-hand magician is the "Cups and Balls" trick. A well known variation of that trick that Penn & Teller do involves using clear cups and telling the audience what they're doing the whole time. It sounds like a terrible idea.

But it is still an amazing trick.

To have the ability to tell the audience what you're doing and still surprize and amaze them? If you can pull that off, I'm a fan.

As one character in Scream points out, there are certain rules you need to know in order to survive a horror movie. At that point, they've shown you their hand. And the movie still works.

The movie focuses on a group of teens who've seen a number of horror movies and find themselves in the middle of a real life one. After a couple of their schoolmates get killed in the opening scene by a guy in a screaming ghost mask, it appears to open a couple old wounds and put the school on edge.

On a personal note, I was in my first year of college when this movie came out and I already had one of the masks that they based "ghost face" on. (They didn't have rights to the original mask so they made up a mask that was similar.)

The movie plays off of, references and adds to the classic horrors that have come before. And you'd think that by pointing out the rules of the horror genre you'd deflate your own movie, but it still manages to scare and excite you.

More importantly, this movie puts the fun back into the setup. I've stated before that I'm not much of a fan of the killer-on-the-loose kind of horror. This one, however, makes it fun again. Partly it's the characters. Partly it's the general setup of horror-movie-turned-real. Partly it's the sense of humor that the movie has. (Keep your eyes peeled, for instance, for director Wes Craven in a very short cameo as janitor "Fred" in a very familiar orange-and-green sweater.)

Now, to be fair, once they've stated the "rules" of horror, they do bend a couple of them. But most good horrors do bend your expectations a little bit.

For instance, I understand that Drew Barrymore was originally intended to take the role that eventually went to Neve Campbell. But Barrymore felt that, if they cast her as Cindy in the first scene, the audience would know that anything could happen.

All in all, for me, this one gets a 7 or 8 / 10, depending on my mood.

Scream is rated R for violence, graphic horror, and language.

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