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JOSEPH CROSS, BRIANA EVIGAN,
It's not often that a movie comes along and sparks a whole new outlook on its genre, but SCREAM did just that. Several hip teenage slasher flicks surfed the wake of its success, putting a Generation X stamp on the characters and hiring teenage prime time drama icons to portray them.
And it's ironic, because SCREAM, written by Kevin Williamson Kevin Smith (I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, THE FACULTY), is essentially a parody of slasher flicks. During the course of the movie, the characters lambast "traditional" horror films such as FRIDAY THE 13th or HALLOWEEN, yet the plot of SCREAM itself follows the formula almost exactly, essentially showing us exactly what the characters were talking about.
Our heroine is high school senior Sidney Prescott (Neve Cambell: SCREAM 2). Previous to events in the film, Sid's mother is murdered and the man she was having an affair with, Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber: SPHERE, PHANTOMS) is sent to prison for life for the crime thanks to Sid's court testimony.
When a killer strikes Woodsboro and slaughters Casey Backer (Drew Barrymore: ALTERED STATES, FIRESTARTER, CAT'S EYE) and her boyfriend, the community is gripped by fear. Sid's father reluctantly leaves town on a business trip, and soon after Sid receives strange phone calls from the killer, who knows a little too much about Sid's mother.
The killer claims more victims, including the high school principal (cameo by Henry Winkler), and continues to stalk Sid in his spare time. In an act of defiance, the group of friends throws a party, only to have the killer attack there as well.
When the sheriff is killed, the local deputy Dewey Riley (David Arquette: BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, SCREAM 2, RAVENOUS) is left to handle the investigations, and at the same time has to keep nosy reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox: SCREAM 2, SCREAM 3) away from the murder scene.
I could fill you in on more of the plot, but it's really just more formulaic chase-and-kill on behalf of the killer. Yet somehow Director Wes Craven (DEADLY BLESSING, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, and much more) manages to make a lot of it look fresh and new. Some may attribute it to the fresh young faces or to the updated camera techniques, but I'd say it's mostly the writing.
While the killer on the phone plot device was used more effectively in BLACK CHRISTMAS, the almost seductive quality of the killer's voice (Roger L. Jackson: MARS ATTACKS!) in SCREAM gives it a different appeal and suits the tone of the film. Some of the murders are typical (Barrymore's short-lived role), while others are fairly clever (keep an eye on the news cameraman in the van).
Perhaps the best part of the writing, however, is the way in which different characters are made out to be suspects. Rather than a big creepy guy or a supernatural entity chasing down the kids, we know the killer is human and probably someone close to Sid. It could be film fanatic Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy: ENEMY OF THE STATE), the know-it-all that applies the rules of horror filmdom to the murders. It could be the asshole of the bunch, the excitable Stuart Macher (Matthew Lillard: GHOULIES 3, THE CURVE). And it could even be Sid's sensitive-but-tough boyfriend, Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich: THE CRAFT, TAKEDOWN). Even Sid's father is implicated at one point (though I have to wonder if anyone really ever believed he'd turn out to be the killer).
Overall a good flick with some thrills and even a dash of dark humor. The action is intense, and the ending, if somewhat predictable by the time you get there, is entertaining. It set the new trend for a reason. I give it four shriek girls.