Hi I’m Annice and I have never seen Scream….
I was a very anxious child.
In my opinion the scariest film ever made is Bean (The Mr. Bean movie), and don’t even get me started on Matilda.
But tis the season, so when my local cinema put on a screening of Wes Craven’s reputable mid-90s horror, I decided to put on my big girl pants and see what it was all about.
When people talk about Scream, they often start by commenting on how, at its release, ‘horror was dead’. Wes Craven was done with the misogyny of the genre so decided to write something a little bit less “girls in short skirts running around getting murdered”. The late 90s was a cynical time and it needed a cynical horror film.
Scream opens with an extremely famous and consequently extremely parodied opening. Drew Barrymore is home alone when she answers the phone to a mysterious stranger – this is where the film first shows you how clever it is…
Barrymore puts popcorn on the hob, and I think it’s going to make a loud bang and scare me – I’m cleverer than you, Wes Craven! – however that doesn’t happen, making me even more anxious as now I don’t know what kind of scares to expect, or how Craven is going to get me.
Casey and her new friend on the phone discuss their favourite horror films. This is a theme of the movie, as everyone knows about horror films and their rules by this point in the 90s. Surely no one is going to be stupid enough to get themselves killed? This confidence leads Casey to open the door to let the killer into the house. The killer is wearing a ‘scary costume’, a Ghostface mask and a black robe. Casey and her boyfriend are, of course, then murdered. A bold move by the film to kill one of the era’s best known actors in its very first scene.
Here is where Scream becomes a teen movie…
We meet our protagonist Sidney (Neve Campbell), and she exclaims that the dead girl used to sit next to her in English, her best friend Tatum (Rose McGowan) quipping in response ‘not anymore’. These kids are so used to violence, because hey… it’s the 90s! They couldn’t care less about the murder, it just happens to be that this is the worst thing to happen to this town since… exposition… Sidney’s own mother was killed the previous year.
We later find out the details through the classic narrative device of ‘character turns on the TV and a news report explains everything’. We see a news report by Monica Geller herself, or Courteney Cox trying her best to not be Monica. She is the evil reporter who only cares about getting a story and not who she hurts along the way. Journalists, eh?
That night, after a double murder in the town, Sidney is home alone because again it is the 90s and parent responsibility doesn’t exist. A frightened Sidney calls Tatum to say ‘It’s like deja vu all over again’ – another golden opportunity for a dead mom reminder.
As this is a slasher movie, someone needs to be slashed, pronto. Re-enter the creepy phone call from Ghostface…
Scream is known, even to someone like me who had previously never seen it, for its tongue in cheek, postmodern approach to the genre, so Sidney doesn’t run and hide like the characters in 80s horrors, she instead tells him she won’t act like a stupid girl in a horror film. However, in a mistake that echoes that of Drew Barrymore’s Casey, Sidney’s knowledge and attitude leads her to letting Ghostface in the house.
Luckily for Sidney, Ghostface isn’t a very skilled or talented killer. She can fight him off by simply closing a door.
Once again this movie is playing with my expectations, even as a horror novice. I was ready for Sidney to be a goner. It was a relief to see that doors actually work in this universe and aren’t just a prop for the murderer to explode through.
The rest of the film carries on much more like a whodunit in a teen movie. At first we think it’s Billy (Skeet Ulrich), Sidney’s boyfriend, because he has a mobile phone – the killer makes the call from a mobile, and remember when everyone didn’t have a phone?
Also, Randy (the film’s audience surrogate who knows all of the horror tropes – played by Jamie Kennedy) told us it was Billy because ‘it’s always the boyfriend’.
This is how the film gets to be both clever and really quite simple. All the clues are there for you. We are led to believe that it is Sidney’s dad but, as the cops tell us, ‘The dad is a red herring’.
In true teen movie style there must be a party, so everyone gets together at Tatum’s boyfriend Stu’s house to drink and watch horror films. Randy, cementing his status as film bro, teaches us the rules of how to survive in a horror film, all the while Tatum is being murdered. How ironic.
Weirdly for a slasher movie, at this point we have only seen four deaths and are quickly edging towards the end of the running time. We need some blood. It seems every character that we have been introduced to now needs to be shot and/or stabbed.
Here is where the film pulls a twist that even Agatha Christie wouldn’t see coming. Billy, the boyfriend, is Ghostface.
“But wait… there’s more!”
Stu (Matthew Lillard) is also in on it!
It turns out that Sidney’s mum had an affair with Billy’s dad, making Billy’s mum leave. The only logical way to deal with your mum leaving is to kill your dad’s mistress and her daughter, and some other people because murder is fun. Stu’s explanation for playing along with this is ‘peer pressure’, but my vote is on his undying love for Billy (don’t pretend you don’t see it too!).
It’s a shocking, yet somehow simple twist, that was never actually a twist at all as Randy told us it would be Billy from the beginning.
After this reveal, more stabbing and shooting happens until we are left with Sidney, Gale (Cox) and Dewy (David Arquette), who originally died until the producers smelled that franchise money and he managed to survive a seemingly fatal gunshot. Gale saves the day by shooting Billy so Sidney forgives her for calling her mum a whore. Happy endings all round!
Recommended for you: Scream Movies Ranked
In prior years, I’ve been won over by 90s classics like Home Alone (read here) and Jurassic Park (read here), and even the favourite is-it-or-isn’t-it Christmas film Die Hard (read here), which was so big in the 90s following its 1988 release that it seemed impossible to miss, but did Scream win me over in the same way?
Well, it wasn’t as scary as Bean or Matilda, which has encouraged me to give famous horror films another chance. But… something tells me rest of the franchise will be a let down and ruin all that was clever and different about this film, so I’ll leave my Scream journey at the original.
Is it now time to finally watch the The Blair Witch Project?