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Film Review: Scream
In 1996, Wes Craven released Scream, which starred Drew Barrymore, Roger Jackson, Kevin Patrick Walls, David Booth, Carla Hatley, Neve Campbell, Skeet Ulrich, Lawrence Hecht, Courtney Cox, W. Earl Brown, Rose McGowan, Lois Saunders, David Arquette, Jamie Kennedy, and Matthew Lillard. Grossing $173 million at the box office, the film was nominated for the Saturn Awards for Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, The Awards Circuit Community Awards Honorable Mention, the MTV Movie Award for Best Female Performance and the Online Film & Television Association Awards for Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror Picture and Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror Actress. It won the Saturn Awards for Best Horror Film, Best Actress and Best Writer, the ASCAP Film and Television Music Award Top Box Office Film Award, Second Place for Best Original Screenplay in the Awards Circuit Community Awards, the Grand Prize in the Gerardmer Film Festival, the International Horror Guild Award for Best Movie and the MTV Movie Award for Best Movie.
After two teenagers are killed by a stranger wearing a white mask in the town of Woodsboro, a panic breaks out. The killer targets more people with an affinity for using tropes common in horror films. The killer’s primary target is Sidney Prescott, who is continuing to recover from her mother’s death a year before. While the killer takes out her friends one by one, a reporter by the name of Gail Weathers investigates the killings.
One of the first major horror films to satirize and deconstruct the clichés found in horror movies, Scream is a great film. Fascinatingly, the core plot of the film isn’t that much removed from many other horror films. A town has a killer on the loose that winds up focusing on a specific person and her core group of friends. At the same time, there’s a reporter, who Sidney hates because she profited off the story about her mother’s death. It’s interesting to see the lengths this person goes in order to have something to report on about the town’s killings, including hiding a live feed inside a party that the killer inevitably shows up at and does most of the killing.
However, while the main plot is pretty standard, it’s all the different points along the journey from the first killing to taking out the killer that make it such a great movie. Take the killer for instance, who is referred to by the name of Ghostface. What’s notable is that Ghostface acts differently depending on the scene. Either the character is completely incompetent and easily fooled by some of the characters or is frighteningly resourceful and knows exactly what they’re doing. As an example, there’s the scene where Sidney finds herself facing Ghostface in the school bathroom and he doesn’t see the slide to the door coming and in another scene, allows Tatum to throw a bottle at their face. However, there’s a point where Sidney gets into a car and tries to lock all the doors, only to find out that Ghostface has the keys and is just toying with her. The reason for this is explained in the film and makes for a good attempt at satirizing and deconstructing the film’s genre.
There are other good deconstructions to be found within the film. There’s a great scene in a video store where Randy and Stu are talking about the killings going on and the fact that Billy is Randy’s top suspect. Within this conversation, Randy throws Stu a bunch of horror movies and talks about all the clichés found therein, one of which is motive. Flash forward to the end of the film and Ghostface’s identity is uncovered and the character doesn’t admit to having a motive at first and says they just wanted to do it for fun but when pressed, does end up providing one. It’s a good deconstruction as most horror movie villains are either assumed to have a motive by many of the side characters in their films or willingly give up their motive without hesitation and Ghostface immediately said they were doing it for fun until pressed further. There’s another great deconstruction of the fact that most characters in a horror movie don’t turn around when the killer is behind them and are obviously unable to hear the audience yelling at them to turn around. Here, Randy, who is played by Kennedy, is yelling at Jamie Lee Curtis to turn around, but she can’t hear him and at the same time, other characters see Ghostface behind him on a live feed and are yelling at him to turn around, but he obviously can’t hear them.