Synopsis: A year after the murder of her mother, a teenage girl is terrorized by a new killer, who targets the girl and her friends by using horror films as part of a deadly game.
Stars: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Skeet Ulrich, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Jamie Kennedy, Drew Barrymore, W. Earl Brown, Henry Winkler, Liev Schreiber
Director: Wes Craven
Running Length: 111 minutes
TMMM Score: (10/10)
Review: Do you remember where you were when you first saw the original Scream? I sure do. I snuck into it at Centennial Lakes 8 after seeing the Eddie Murphy stinker Metro the week that movie arrived in mid-January 1997. Scream had already been out for several weeks, and I’d heard a bit of buzz about it but releasing on December 20, 1996 during the Christmas holiday it was just starting to get that word of mouth build that would catapult it to the phenomenon it would become. That particular night I just needed another movie to see to complete a double feature so I could feel I was getting some return on my high school allowance. Almost as a second thought and seeing that the previews were starting, I ducked into the tiny theater it was playing and sat with the half full audience for a 9:30pm showing.
That’s my Scream origin story and it’s special to me because I’ll never forget what it was like to leave that theater (one of my favorites, RIP Centennial Lakes) so energized by a genre film that felt as if it not only knew what it was doing but knew the audience that was hungry for it. This wasn’t some half-baked studio dreck which left out the brains with the kills or was just a series of random boobies and ugly gore coupled with an uninteresting story. Instead, screenwriter Kevin Williamson took his own clear love for scary movies and wrote a script that acknowledged their existence with rules that came close to breaking the fourth wall while creating his own stealthy serial killer tale where no one was safe from bloody elimination. To put a cherry on top of the already calorie rich sundae, genre icon Wes Craven directed it. Delicious.
After a teenager and her boyfriend are brutally murdered by someone wearing a masked costume, the town of Woodsboro is on high alert. After all, the one-year anniversary of the murder of Maureen Prescott is closing in, a date her daughter Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell, Skyscraper) is dreading. Trying to distract herself by focusing on time with her boyfriend Billy (Skeet Ulrich, As Good As It Gets) and their group of friends, Sidney soon becomes the target for the killer and learns this masked maniac might be involved with the death of her mom as well. With bodies piling up and a house party setting the scene for a night of violence and surprising reveals, a bumbling deputy sheriff (David Arquette, Spree) works to put the puzzle pieces together while keeping ambitious news anchor Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective) from interfering with his investigation.
Casting the film with recognizable stars was a smart move on the part of Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street) who experienced a justified career resurgence with the release of Scream. Using proven talent took away the guessing game of how an actor would deliver on their performance and allowed Craven to focus less on developing the acting and more on constructing the mystery and suspense that make Scream such a rare breed of entertainment. It’s why so many (SO many) movies tried to copy its success in the years to come, including its own subsequent sequels which became suspiciously less self-aware the more it touted how self-aware it was being. Craven would at least get the chance to direct his pet project, 1999’s Music of the Heart in between directing Scream 2 and Scream 3. Then came Cursed which is…a whole other 31 Days to Scare.
Mere months before a highly anticipated fifth sequel arrives (titled, simply, Scream) many fans will be revisiting the first four movies again and everyone has their favorite. For a while, I leaned toward the second one as my go-to because of the sheer number of stars in it but you just can’t deny the maximum impact created by the original which has yet to be surpassed by anything that followed it. The copycats were numerous, and it has been used as a comparison tool for hundreds more in the ensuing years. That’s the sign of a film designated as a cultural touchstone for more than just a scary mask or pre-credit murder scene. It’s a classic.