The first time I saw Scream was on TV when I was in junior high school, a result of mindless channel surfing. I remember the opening of it catching my eye and I watched with curiosity peaked as Drew Barrymore walked around her house talking to a guy on the phone. The next thing I knew, the most famous person in the movie was killed off. From that point on it really felt like anything could happen.
Saying that Wes Craven’s Scream is a timeless classic might be a bold statement, but you can’t deny that it had a huge impact on the horror genre. Its self-awareness elevates it from being just another slasher film. It has a lot to say about what exactly makes a scary movie and is clever in its execution. The most refreshing element about it is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It has fun with the concept but is still focused on being a quality horror film.
Sydney Prescott is a name that will be etched in my memory forever. For such a seemingly simple character, Neve Campbell brings immense depth and relatability to Sydney. Her role as the film’s “final girl” feels like more than just a trope. Scarred by the murder of her mother the year previous, Sydney becomes the target of a deranged killer who starts murdering people in the town of Woodsboro while also going out of his way to harass Sydney. And of course, he does all of this in a Halloween costume that has now become forever tied to the Scream franchise, giving him the name Ghostface.
The affect of the costume is almost goofy, but it still works perfectly for this movie, especially when it’s revealed at the end who the killer, or killers, are. Some of my favorite moments are when Ghostface randomly pops up unrelated to what is currently happening on screen, like in the scene when Sydney and her best friend Tatum (Rose McGowan) are talking in front of Tatum’s house and at the end the camera zooms in on Ghostface sneaking around. These instances contribute to the film’s oddly comedic tone while still managing to stay mostly grounded.
I’d be remiss not to mention the rest of the ensemble cast, who manage to be memorable characters in their own right. David Arquette is so sincerely dorky and sweet as Dewey, who shares most of his scenes with Courtney Cox’s feisty Gail Weathers. Jamie Kennedy as Randy plays the pivotal part of explaining the rules of a horror movie every chance he gets. Matthew Lillard is delightfully unhinged as Stuart, Tatum’s boyfriend and bestie with Sydney’s boyfriend Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich). There are plenty of people to suspect, and the killer’s reveal at the end is a good reminder that there is such a thing as watching too many scary movies.
Scream is great to revisit. It doesn’t lose any of its charm upon re-watch, and the twist reveal is even more fun knowing how it all plays out. The franchise itself is a bit uneven, with Scream 2 being a really solid sequel and Scream’s 3 and 4 just being okay (Scream 3 is the worst of the bunch by far), but it doesn’t change how much the first Scream shaped the slasher sub-genre. With Scream 5 announced and pre-production in the works (the first of the franchise without Wes Craven), we can only hope that this new addition to the series can capture some of the sinister charm of the first one.