Rating -

Horror (US); 1996; Rated R; 106 Minutes

Drew Barrymore: Casey Becker
Neve Campbell: Sidney Prescott
Skeet Ulrich: Billy Loomis
Courteney Cox: Gale Weathers
Rose McGowan: Tatum Riley
David Arquette: Deputy Dewey Riley
Matthew Lillard: Stuart Macher
Jamie Kennedy: Randy Meeks

Produced by Stuart M. Besser, Dixie J. Capp, Cathy Konrad, Marianne Maddalena, Nicholas Mastandrea, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein and Cary Woods; Directed by Wes Craven; Screenwritten by Kevin Williamson

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Written by DAVID KEYES

There is a scene in "Scream" where a horror-movie expert named Randy explains how to successfully survive a horror movie. He tells everyone at a party that drinking, having sex, and other similar things are death wishes in these types of movies. He notes that most people who say "I'll be right back" never actually return like they said. Either they experience some sort of sudden death, or hear sounds outside and go to inspect them. Randy knows how horror movies work. He is the expert in this field.

So is the movie. "Scream" knows the clichés and formulas that horror has followed over the years, and makes fun of them every chance it gets, at the same time of producing some new, intriguingly conepted factors of the horror formula. In movies like "Friday The 13th," people had sex, said they'd be right back, or drank alcohol, and all ended up dead. It's a process that has been repeated in nearly every 'mad slasher' that has existed since John Carpenter's "Halloween" in 1978, and strangely enough, it took 18 long years for that outline of horror to wear down and produce something new.

"Scream" is the rebirth for horror as we know it. It was made by a horror expert himself, Wes Craven, who obviously knows how the 'slasher' formula acts and works on screen since, after all, he did the original "A Nightmare On Elm Street" in 1984. Along his side is a talented new writer named Kevin Williamson, who offers us intriguing views of the horror movie world in his script. There, the characters know how a horror movie works, and they try to combat its clichés as a host of murders take place in their town. The murderer, as we learn from a scene in the beginning, is obsessed with horror movies, and takes his love with the infamous horror film serial killers 'one step too far...'

Throughout the mayhem and the mystery of who this killer is, there's a large dose of satire usefully inserted into the plot. It constructs a horror movie within a horror movie, and contains discussions of horror and how to combat the typical slasher situations.

Along the way, of course, there are brutal, diabolical killings showing up, all of which are constructed using a telephone as contact. The killer stalks his victims, discusses horror movies with them on his cellular phone, and when they hang up, you know the rest.

It's this type of idealistic originality in the script that makes the approach seem refreshing and unfamiliar. But of course, considering what this genre has been through in the past twenty years, the unfamiliar formulas are a blessing.

But naturally, the movie does have its limits. The heroine of the picture, played by Neve Campbell, is supposed to be a ragged, tough, teenage girl who can survive anything. She survived the trauma of her mother being brutally raped and murdered a year before, and managed to survive all the mayhem that her hometown was surrounded with by this new killer. Yet, her character has stiff motives and a stiff sense of bravery. She rants and raves on the phone of how she hates horror movies, explaining that 'big-breasted women who can't act run upstairs when they should be going out the front door.' But somehow, moments later, the shoe seems like it's on the other foot. She's the one running upstairs, seeming to think she can get out of her window, yet the killer is right on her tail and almost close enough to slice her with his knife. Maybe that's the way Kevin Williamson, the writer, had hoped her to react in this situation, but if so, why have her present us this evidence of how she hates horror movies, and how these 'big-breasted' women should never be running upstairs? Couldn't she even take a side or back door?

Of course, I could talk about the other reasons that don't make "Scream" the normal Wes Craven masterpiece. I could talk about the stretched ending and the typical horror clichés still remaining in the movie, but I'll leave that up in the air for you to decide upon. In a movie like this, there's going to be numerous and different opinions, be they bad or good.

But I like "Scream." It breaks new ground, and hopefully, it opens us up to new formulas and creative situations in these movies. After twenty years of sex, drugs, saying "I'll be right back" and getting slaughtered in the movies, at last, here's a movie that knows these things are death wishes and combats them.

© 1998, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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