The Masterclass of Horror
So, full disclosure - “Scream” is one of my favorite horror movies of all time, one of my favorite movies period, and it’s the horror movie that made me fall in love with the genre so there a hint of bias could be perceived. However, I tried to pick the movie apart based on my Rating System.
So, here is the basic story, in case you missed it:
We begin with the opening kill scene. A beautiful young blonde named Casey Becker receives a phone call from a stranger. It’s set in the 1990s and this wouldn’t have been a weird thing. Also, one more note that in 1995-1996, Caller ID was barely a thing, if a thing at all. The call is innocent enough, claiming to be a wrong number, but as they continue to call her and the threats come, it all goes downhill from there. Casey’s boyfriend Steve is killed on her patio and she is killed and hanged shortly thereafter.
We then meet Sidney Prescott, a high school student whose mother was murdered a year prior. It would soon be revealed that she was the primary target of the killer’s ire.
The killer would attack Sidney in her own home and shortly after she was attacked, her boyfriend Billy Loomis would show up, climbing through her bedroom window, as he did for the first time the night before. This would convince Sidney that Billy is the killer. Sidney would get a call from the killer while Billy was in custody, clearing Billy of the charge.
With the murders of Casey and Steve along with the attack on Sidney, both at her house and in the school bathroom, classes at school would be canceled and a town-wide curfew would be enacted.
To celebrate their “freedom” from school, Stu Macher, the boyfriend of Sidney’s best friend Tatum, holds a party at his house, as his parents are out-of-town. It is at this party that Billy and Stu are revealed to be the killers, taking advantage of everyone’s assumption that there was only one person behind the killing spree.
There is another factor that is important to the franchise moving forward that is covered in the movie:
When Sidney’s mother, Maureen Prescott, was murdered, Sidney witnessed a man named Cotton Weary leaving the scene. Based on her testimony, Cotton was convicted of rape and murder and sentenced to prison time. Journalist Gale Weathers would air stories and eventually write a book about the murder of Maureen Prescott claiming that she believed Cotton Weary was framed for the murder and should be freed. When Billy and Stu confess to being the killers, they also confess to the murder of Maureen Prescott because Maureen’s affair with Billy’s father leads Billy’s mother to leave the family, abandoning Billy.
Scoring this was tricky for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, the movie is incredibly special to me and I feared I’d be biased. Also, “Scream” is satirical, poking fun at many of the tropes that plagued the genre so some of the things that otherwise wouldn’t make sense are done on purpose for that exact reason, which is why the rating system uses language like “All Things Considered”.
With that in mind, I give the film a 10. Yes, I know, so I’m going to justify my score.
Originality: While teen horror slashers have been done before with films like “Halloween” and “Nightmare on Elm Street”, none of those were satires. To go all out to not make fun of, but highlight the tropes of the genre was a brand new thing and brought life back into the genre, in my opinion. To have a character like Randy Meeks who is a horror movie fan and explains “the rules to survive a horror movie” while in a horror movie was next-level “meta” in 1996.
Full 2 Points
Characters: To tell the story they wanted to tell, you needed a certain set of characters.
Sidney, your final girl. Pretty and innocent enough to be a victim, but strong and independent enough to overcome the odds.
Billy, the boyfriend. Someone close enough to be either a blessing or a curse.
Tatum, the best friend. Someone who can be the voice of reason for Sidney.
Gale, the non-lethal opposition. She’s greedy and focused on fame and fortune, all of which could be motives.
Deputy Dewey, the protector. As Tatum’s older brother, she’s also close enough to Sidney to be a blessing or a curse, and being a cop is a perfect foil.
Stu, Tatum’s boyfriend. In a position of trust.
Randy, the comic relief. A lifelong friend of Sidney’s, his long-standing crush gives him both an alibi and a motive.
Neil Prescott, Sidney’s father was “out of town” and unreachable through most of the movie. Seen only once. Out of sight. Out of mind.
All of these characters play their roles with all the 90s sarcasm and flare you’d expect. They don’t try to step outside of those roles and their roles are important for the meta-story they’re telling.
Full 2 Points
Story: There is one simple story - a killer is after Sidney because of an old vendetta. People around Sidney have to die to affect her and weaken her for the finale. Simple. The secondary story of Cotton’s innocence helps push the narrative for Gale who connects herself to Dewey, tying back to Sidney; it gives her a purpose.
You could say that “Scream” doesn’t need the Gale/Dewey connection and nothing about Cotton matters until the second movie, but it’s the questioning of Cotton’s innocence that creates doubt in Sidney and her belief that her mother’s killer is already accounted for casts a shadow of the true motive of Billy and Stu.
Full 2 Points
Ending: The reveal of the connection between Sidney and Billy beyond their relationship, the damning trust about her mother, and the fresh idea of two killers creating reasonable doubt solidified the ending for me. To play “Is He or Is He Not” the killer with Billy the whole time was always fun, even more fun on every rewatch. He’s in plain sight. He’s really the only suspect and then to add Stu in the mix, an unsurprising surprise that’s still a damn good surprise. Loved it.
Full 2 Points for the ending and my enjoyment. 4 points!
Total: 10 points
It’s great to look over a movie/franchise that I’ve loved for so long with more critical eyes. And yes, the entire franchise is coming so stay tuned.