While a couple of movies did come out in earlier years, the 80’s were truly the decade of the slasher movies as far as horror movies go. However, by the early and mid 90’s, the slasher movies had started to lose their appeal to the horror fans. Then along comes Wes Craven, one of the pioneers of the modern horror movie, to cause a major shake up in the genre. When this movie first came out, I have to admit that my interest was peaked for the first time about a new slasher movie in quite a while. So lets see what fun scares Wes Craven has in store for us with today’s movie, Scream.
The plot: High school student Casey Becker is at her house one night when she gets a phone call from someone with a mysterious voice. While the calls start off being somewhat flirty, Casey starts getting nervous when the caller says he is watching her. After continuing to scare her, Casey says that her boyfriend will kick the caller’s ass and the caller tells her to look outside, where Casey finds her boyfriend Steve bound to a chair on the deck. The caller then starts asking Casey questions about scary movies and when she says the wrong answer, Steve is killed. The killer then asks her which door he is at and when Casey refuses to answer, he proceeds to throw a chair through the back door. Casey runs and grabs a knife from the kitchen, then sneaks outside as she sees a hooded figure run through the house. When Casey sees her parents pulling up, she tries to sneak over to the front of the house but the killer, wearing a white, ghost-faced mask, sees her and attacks her. Casey manages to hit him with the phone but Ghostface tackles her and stabs her repeatedly. Casey’s parents head inside and see the mess in the house and when her mom tries to phone the police, she hears Casey’s gasping in pain. Casey’s father grabs the phone and hears one last gasp before the phone is hung up and he tells his wife to go to the neighbors to call the police but when she steps outside, she screams as she sees Casey’s gutted body hanging from a tree. Elsewhere, Sidney Prescott is doing her homework in her room when she is startled by her boyfriend Billy Loomis sneaking in her room through her window. After Sidney says goodnight to her father, who had come to check on her, Billy talks to Sidney about their relationship and how it has changed since her mother’s death and Sidney says she isn’t ready to go forward with it just yet but does tease him some. The next day, Sidney sees reporters and police around the school and is told by her friend Tatum Riley about Casey and Steve’s death. All of the students are questioned about the deaths and afterwards, Sidney is talking about it with Billy, Tatum, Tatum’s boyfriend Stuart “Stu” Macher, and their friend Randy Meeks. After school, Sidney calls Tatum and asks if she can stay at her place while her father is out of town and Tatum says it is ok and that she will pick her up later. After gathering some clothes together, Sidney watches some of the news reports but turns it off when she sees one reporter, Gail Weathers, mentioning her mother’s murder one year ago. Casey lays down to take a nap and wakes up after dark when Tatum calls to tell her she is on her way. When the phone rings again, Sidney thinks it is Randy messing with her but the caller says he isn’t Randy. When the caller says he is at the front door, Sidney goes outside to look and doesn’t see anyone but when she starts to hang up, the caller says she will die just like her mother. Sidney yells into the phone and quickly runs inside and locks the door, only to have Ghostface emerge from the closet and try to attack her. Sidney manages to get away and races upstairs to her room, blocking the door with the door to her closet so Ghostface can’t get in, but as she tries to contact the police, Ghostface disappears. Suddenly, Billy appears in the window and Sidney hugs him but when a cell phone drops from his pocket, she suspects him of being Ghostface. Sidney races downstairs to find Tatum’s older brother Dewey, a deputy in the police department, at the door holding the Ghostface mask. Billy is placed in handcuffs and taken away, while Sidney goes to the station to fill out a statement just as Gail, along with Kenny her cameraman, shows up and tries to get some answers on what happened from Tatum. At the station, Billy is answering the sheriff’s questions about why he was there while outside, Gail and other reporters are gathering at the front door of the station to try and interview Sidney. When Dewey takes Tatum and Sidney out the back, Gail confronts her and Sidney speaks to her briefly, asking about the book Gail is writing about the murder of Sidney’s mother and how she believes Sidney accused the wrong man for the crime and when Gail says she will send Sidney a copy, Sidney decks her. At Tatum’s house, Tatum is commenting about Sidney hitting Gail when Tatum’s mom says Sidney has a phone call. When Sidney picks up the phone, she hears Ghostface’s voice, mocking her for having Billy locked up and says she accused the wrong man again. The next day, Sidney sees Gail outside the school and goes to talk to her about Cotton Weary, the man Sidney accused of murdering her mother. As Sidney and Gail talk, Gail realizes that Sidney is no longer sure and that the murders might be connected. At school, Sidney encounters Billy and she tells him that she doesn’t think he is the killer anymore but things are still awkward between them. In the bathroom, Sidney overhears some girls talking about her and hide in one of the stalls until they leave but when she is alone, she hears a noise and is attacked by Ghostface but manages to get away. Outside the school, Gail is talking to Dewey about the murders when they hear the principal go on the PA system and announce that classes are suspended due to the antics of several students during the day. Stu decides to hold a party at his house since the police have issued a curfew and his parents are out of town and Tatum convinces Sidney to go. Meanwhile, Principal Himbry is in his office when he hears knocks at his door and when he goes to investigate, he ends up being killed. Elsewhere, Stu is at the video store when they see Billy there and Randy starts talking about his theories about the murders and how Billy is the prime suspect when Billy grabs him and says his love of horror movies makes him just as viable a suspect. As Sidney and Tatum go get food for the party, Dewey talks to the sheriff, who tells him they haven’t found any sign of Sidney’s father and that the phone calls to Sidney were made on a cell phone in his name. Dewey drops Sidney and Tatum off at the party but stays there to keep an eye on things, when he sees Gail and Kenny in their van nearby. When Dewey says he is going to check on things at the house, Gail asks to come with him but she grabs a small camera, which she secretly plants in the entertainment center in the den. At the party, Tatum goes to the garage to get some more beers when she encounters Ghostface, who she thinks is Randy at first, but when he attacks her, she tries to get away and crawl out the cat door on the garage door but Ghostface opens the garage door while she is stuck, breaking her neck when it hits the roof of the garage. Back inside, several kids are leaving the party when Billy shows up, hoping to talk to Sidney, and she agrees and leads him upstairs to Stu’s parent’s room to talk but after talking for a while, they end up having sex. Downstairs, the rest of the kids are watching Halloween and Randy starts explaining “The Rules” when it comes to horror movies. In the news van, Gail and Kenny are watching the video from the camera, though it is on a 30 second delay, when Dewey knocks on the door and invites Gail to go with him to check out a car that was parked down the road. Back in the house, Randy answers the phone when it rings and tells the kids still there that they found Principle Himbry dead and hanging from the goalposts at the school and the kids all leave to go see it. The kids race by Dewey and Gail, who are forced to jump to the side of the road. As the Dewey asks if she is ok, the two end up kissing when Gail notices a car parked in the bushes and Dewey recognizes it as Sidney’s father’s car and they race back to the house. At the house, Sidney asks Billy who he called when he was arrested and as Billy tries to convince her he isn’t the killer, Ghostface appears behind him and stabs him several times in the stomach. Ghostface chases after Sidney, who tries climbing out a window but ends up falling when Ghostface grabs her. Sidney lands on Stu’s family’s boat and when she recovers, she sees Tatum’s body still hanging from the garage. Sidney races to the news van and tells Kenny that the killer is inside the house and when Kenny says they have a camera in their and he hasn’t seen it, they see Ghostface approaching behind Randy as he watches Halloween. Kenny goes to race towards the house when he sees the door open and remembers the delay, just as Ghostface slits his throat. Sidney escapes, though Ghostface manages to stab her in the shoulder, and goes running for help. Meanwhile, Dewey and Gail return to the house and Dewey has Gail head to the news van to call for help while he goes inside to investigate. Gail gets to the van but finds a pool of blood but no sign of Kenny. Getting in the driver’s seat and starting the van, she is approached by Randy, who wants to know what is going on, but she screams and hits him with the phone. Turning on the headlights, she finds the windshield covered in blood and as she starts to drive, Kenny’s body is seen to be on the roof of the van. Gail drives down the road, where she sees Sidney trying to flag her down, but Gail swerves to avoid hitting her and ends up crashing the van down a hill. Sidney returns to the house to find Dewey but sees him stumbling from the house with a knife in his back. When Ghostface appears and grabs the knife, Sidney hides in Dewey’s car and manages to escape when he goes after her. Heading back to the house, Sidney grabs Dewey’s gun just as Randy and Stu appear, each blaming the other one as being the killer, causing Sidney locks both of them out of the house. Billy stumbles down the stairs and Sidney hugs him but is shocked when Billy opens the door and shoots Randy. Sidney tries to run and runs into Stu, who reveals he is working with Billy and they reveal themselves to be the killers. Explaining that they were the ones to kill Sidney’s mother, they then produce Sidney’s father, who has been held captive, and explain that they plan on framing him for all of the killings. Billy and Stu then stab each other to make it look like they were left for dead but Gail shows up, having grabbed the gun when Stu set it down, and threatens to shoot them. Billy knocks Gail out, as she had the safety on, but Sidney uses the distraction to disappear. Sidney then calls Stu’s phone and starts taunting them, saying she had called the police, and Billy goes crazy trying to find her. As he opens a closet, Sidney, wearing the Ghostface costume, stabs him repeatedly in the shoulder with an umbrella. Stu tackles her and tries to kill her but Sidney manages to fight him off, then kills him by dropping a TV on his head. As Sidney recovers, she sees Randy is still alive and hugs him but Billy knocks him down then tries to strangle Sidney. Sidney pushes her finger in his wound to get him off of her and as Billy goes to stab her, Gail shoots him in the upper chest. As Sidney takes the gun from Gail and they stair at him, Randy warns them that this is when the “supposedly dead killer comes back for one last scare” and when Billy does just that, Sidney shoots him in the head. Sidney then goes to tend to her dad and free him as the police and news reporters begins arriving at the house. Dewey, who is still alive, is taken away in an ambulance, as are Sidney, Randy, and Sidney’s father, and Gail begins doing a report on what happened at the house.
Scream met with mostly praise from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 79% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is that “Horror icon Wes Craven’s subversive deconstruction of the genre is sly, witty, and surprisingly effective as a slasher film itself, even if it’s a little too cheeky for some.” Due to the theme of the killer calling Sidney and other victims, the use of caller ID increased threefold after this movie was released. The movies was originally titled “Scary Movie” but Wes Craven changed it before filming was complete and a few years later, another movie was released titled Scary Movie, which was a parody of Scream. The movie was a smash hit at the box office, earning $173 million off of a $14 million budget, and spawned 3 sequels and a TV series.
Even after 21 years, this movie is still a lot of fun to watch. The acting was pretty good, with Neve Campbell (Sidney), Courtney Cox (Gail), David Arquette (Dewey), and Matthew Lillard (Stu) doing great jobs in their roles. I also liked Rose McGowan (Tatum) and Jamie Kennedy (Randy), but didn’t care much for Skeet Ulrich (Billy). The story was really good, with a lot of good twist and red herrings making for a great mystery as to who the real killer was, which gave this movie more depth than just relegating it as another slasher movie. I also loved the various references and allusions to some other horror movies, particularly Psycho (1960), Halloween (1978), and A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984). My personal favorite involved Wes Craven’s cameo, when he played the school janitor Fred, who was dressed in a red and green stripped sweater and wearing a brown fedora, a reference to Freddy Krueger. The special effects involved with the deaths were pretty good and, at the time, were honestly a lot more brutal than I thought they would be. A fun horror movie to watch that still holds up today.
Rating: 4 out of 5