Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Scream (1996)

Review #0011

In 1994, Craven gave the "thinking man's horror film" a try. With "Wes Craven's New Nightmare", whose title was pompous at best, he had challenged his followers in their own courtyard, and de-mythologized the figure of Freddy Krueger. Although the film was fairly good, it wasn't strong enough to pull the "Nightmare" series out of its underwater grave. Just enough to give it back the nobility it had lost through the endless mutliplication of sequels. Just like Sly recently, with Rambo and Rocky, Craven tried to reclaim his own series for himself. Having somewhat corrected the mistakes of Sholder, Harlin, Hopkins and Talalay (Hit the showers, Russell, you're off the hook. Hell, I even liked your remake of "The Blob"!), he was ready to start again on the right track. The result is "Scream", a self-referential slasher, and Craven's best effort since " A Nightmare on Elm Street". Following a fun, little phone exchange (which alone seems to rejuvenate the entire slasher formula), some blonde high school girl (Barrymore) gets stabbed and hung by an horror film fan wearing a ghost costume. Cut to the heroine, gorgeous Sidney Prescott (Ontarian Campbell) whose shady-looking boyfriend (Ulrich) may or may not be the killer. By then, she is unaware that the murders are related to the death of her own mother. She is just your average traumatized, virginal beauty. As the story progresses and the bodies pile up, the entire town gets involved and paranoia becomes contagious. As viewers, we are given many clues to the killer's identity, some of which are minute details (such as close-ups on boots), others huge revelations, but mostly dead-ends. Yet, the guessing game constitutes a tiny fraction of the film's fun. Fueled by a savvy Kevin Williamson script, which multiplies film references, loveable characters (above all Dewey, a rookie cop "oozing with inexperience", and Randy, the geeky film buff whom the target audience will surely identify with) and a stellar cast (completed by David Arquette, Rose McGowan, Matthew Lillard, Courteney Cox, Jamie Kennedy, and Henry Winkler) "Scream" is a sure-fire killer that made an instant star out of lovely Neve Campbell. With a breakthrough performance that won her a Saturn Award for Best Actress, she became the queen for a new generation of horny fanboys. Just to say how much the film had an impact on pop culture: it gave birth to a new scream queen at a time nobody expected it. Hats off to Craven, Williamson, and Campbell, but also to Arquette, Cox and Kennedy for resurrecting the slasher genre.