Scream (1996) (R)

I've never liked Wes Craven because I've never been scared by Wes Craven. For a man who's often heralded as the master of modern horror, it's probably the fact that I find his films laughable that I don't like him. "Nightmare on Elm Street" was a joke and "The Hills Have Eyes" was even less scary; but there's always the exception to prove the rule and for that we have "Scream".
What makes "Scream" a step above everything else Craven has done are its pop culture references and its constant barrage of homages to other horror movies. Craven accurately realized that we have pretty much seen all there is to be seen with scary movies. Classics like "The Exorcist", "Halloween" and "Psycho" had already laid the groundwork. Then filler movies occupied the rest of the space. It's impossible to be original anymore without being overly grotesque.
So we have "Scream"...
Starting off our movie with the obligatory creepy scene, "Scream" proves its ingenuity by making us roll our eyes at the movie—it rolls its eyes with us. Who wants to see the same thing over and over again? Let's spice it up a little. A young girl named Casey (Drew Barrymore) is harassed over the phone (in the mode of "When A Stranger Calls"). The caller asks her what her favorite scary movie is and then threatens to kill her boyfriend if she doesn't answer movie trivia questions correctly.
Post first scene, we are introduced to Sydney (Neve Campbell), a young girl whose most important feature is her virginity. Her boyfriend Billy (Skeet Ulrich) really wants to get some, but respects her enough to not rape kind of him. Though he constantly pressures her, she is not able to be physical partly due to the fact that her mother was raped and murdered less than a year ago...yes, that might do it.
After the news of the first killings spread through the small town, Sydney starts to have deja vu experiences that coincide with her mother's death. But the killing isn't over yet, and "Scream" turns into a whodunnit while we try to figure out who the killer is.
Unfortunately, the movie was accidentally spoiled for me so I knew the ending; but that allowed me to see what Craven was so cleverly doing. While the script makes obvious hints that the killer could be a certain person, it quickly reaffirms those suspicious or cuts them right out of the picture...pun intended. The camera makes sure to capture the same pair of boots or the way a character flails a pair of scissors around...all the time manipulating the viewer in the most entertaining fashion.
Everyone in the town realizes that their story is just like something out of a horror how do you survive a horror movie? Don't stumble when you run, don't go upstairs when you could go out the front door, don't back up towards a window, don't follow the killer's instructions, and don't be stupid...there, you're welcome.
From "Halloween" to "The Silence of the Lambs" to "The Bad Seed", it's surely more enjoyable to you if you've seen the majority of the movies referenced in "Scream". You can survive the movies, but the little jokes are lost on you.
"Scream" has its humorous moments and it's not-so great ones. Sleezy reporter Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) is covering the story and she seems willing to do anything to get the hot news first. It's her that I have the biggest problem with as a character...but that's just me being picky.
"Scream" is creepy, and at moments even scary. It's a landmark in horror cinema and absolutely enjoyable, if only for the fact that it feeds off of the success of other horror movies.
Yet, I can't help but think that only a few years after "Scream" another horror movie would shift the tone of the genre forever: "The Blair Witch Project".

Score: ★★★

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