There’s no doubt why Scream was a game changer in the 1990s. It was slick, well-orchestrated, and turned the horror genre from cliche to cool by emphasizing those cliches and giving them the perfect amount of satire.
Other than its nostalgia-inducing ’90s soundtrack, Scream doesn’t get stuck in the era–unlike the films it’s inspired since then. Without targeting a narrow audience, it keeps in mind all demographics. Director Wes Craven has a different motive than most directors making movies about teenagers in the ’90s in that he doesn’t worry about making his movie cool for them. He just makes the film he wants, allowing it to become cool inadvertently. Though ironically every movie to come afterwards, trying to be Scream, changes this subtle detail. They try TOO hard to appear cool. Almost like they don’t get what the appeal is in the first place.
The film begins with an iconic opening scene with Drew Barrymore that just has to be experienced rather than described. In true Hitchcock fashion, our de facto protagonist gets killed off within 15 minutes, and we get a new one, Sidney, played by Neve Campbell. Now, we’re unsure whether or not she’s going to meet the same fate as Barrymore, but we have to wait and see.
The killer who got Drew is still out there. And we see him immediately. He’s dressed in the now-famous Ghostface costume. And while he isn’t terrifying at first glance, the suspense leading up to each of his appearances is so well-crafted that we grow to fear him. When he appears we gets some pretty amazing chase scenes.
For the duration of the film, the big mystery is trying to figure out who’s underneath the Ghostface mask. You think it’s obvious, but then you keep doubting yourself. But what really happens you never see coming. The red herrings along the way aren’t over-abundant, so we can pretty much rule out certain suspects. But then again, nearly everyone is a suspect at first.
The oft-below-par acting tends to magnify the humor in the script–perhaps inadvertently at first. But Craven also has the sense to keep the tone a little lighter so the experience can be more fun for the viewer. We don’t leave the film with dark images playing in our heads. We leave wanting more. And I can honestly say that this is the most fun I’ve ever had watching a horror film.