With the 20th anniversary of Wes Craven’s Scream fast approaching, along with his recent passing, I felt it necessary to write a review on the film that put him back on the map. Most people know that this film was almost not even a “Wes Craven” feature; He actually passed on directing it a few times before finally agreeing, once he learned Drew Barrymore was attached to the project.
I could write a gigantic review explaining all of the hardships this film had just trying to get made, from filming locations to disagreements on Ghostface’s now iconic look, or I could steer you in the direction of the documentaries Still Screaming and Scream: The Inside Story, which are both located in the Blu-ray boxed set. What’s important is how well this film stack up — Does it stand the test of time and is it still relevant?
I personally believe this is one of the most important films in horror history. In 1978, when John Carpenter unleashed Halloween, he unwittingly gave birth to a sub-genre of horror with a very easy-to-follow template. Fast forward 18 years and Wes Craven was capable of doing the same thing. His formula for Scream became the go-to for almost every slasher that followed. Self-aware horror became the obvious choice, giving characters more wit and realism, as well as the numerous red herrings and the whodunnit aspect (as Randy so eloquently puts it, “everybody’s a suspect.”)
Craven, along with writer Kevin Williamson, cover all the bases with knowledge of the genre as a whole. The result is a fast-paced, terrifyingly fun film. The opening 15 minutes are intense, clever, and are an homage to what is now known as an industry term for “Doing the Hitchcock.” They say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery, however the films that followed Scream lacked the class and the charm of their predecessor.
There’s something disturbing about the “art imitates life, life imitates art” connection of this film. Craven himself was always quick to defend the genre from critics who like to claim violent films cause violent behavior and Scream seems to somewhat agree with the statement, while also turning it on its head and pointing out how absurd it truly is.
While the sequels were commercially successful, none of them managed to have the impact of the first film. Scream was responsible for breathing new life into horror films and without it, who knows what we’d be watching today.
I give this film 4.9 Jamie Lee Curtis movies out of 5.