Ethan C Williams’s review published on Letterboxd:
Part 5 of Hoop-tober II: Dead By Dawn
"You're starting to sound like some Wes Carpenter flick!"
Part 2 of my Wes Craven weekend and I must admit my lingering apprehension for this one but first I have to explain my relationship with a little film called The Cabin in the Woods.
I really hate Cabin in the Woods. In fact there are very few films that I've ever seen that inspire so much ire in me personally as the Cabin in the Woods did. Playing itself off as a parody of the horror genre, it is in fact a cynical dismissal of horror films as being fodder for braindead, slobbering bores. Its "homage" comes off as half-hearted re-trudgings of infinitely superior films while not so subtly trying to mock those films because "Haha who'd be dumb enough to like this shit?"
I say all of this only because my expectations for SCREAM were significantly lowered when I thought it would be a similar feel to that Joss Whedon abomination in that it's a parody of the tropes of slasher movies.
But UNLIKE filmmakers such as Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon, any sense of parody or mockery of the horror genre instead comes out of someone's true admiration for the films that inspired it. There's no cynicism at play here and Wes Craven is truly just paying tribute and having a cheeky laugh at the genre in which he played an integral part in popularizing. None of the laughs come at the expense of those films but rather out of a true love for genre's hallmarks.
Set in a world where everyone's seen A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween (and every variation thereof) a thousand times already, a new hooded killer with a particular affinity for those horror flicks begins to terrorize a small town high school.
And since everyone has seen so many slasher movies, many of them (especially a wonderfully goofy Jamie Kennedy) believe they know who the killer is and just how the story is going to end. So it should come as little surprise that it actually ends that way, right? Well, sort of.
Kicking off with what has to be one of horror's most iconic openings, SCREAM is a true roller coaster, a film that keeps you laughing and screaming with every turn. Craven offsets some seriously brutal kills with a playful meta-commentary about horror movies that keeps the whole thing feeling fresh even today almost 20 years later. And since no horror movie would be complete without the requisite bloodbath ending, SCREAM gleefully doesn't disappoint and delivers a terrifically satisfying conclusion to a modern slasher classic.
Keeping you guessing about the killer's identity is just another way the movie's playfulness can both intrigue and delight. When characters start pointing out who the killer SHOULD be according to slasher movie rules, it's both a meta-joke and an interesting satirical point about how viewers might take horror movies too seriously sometimes. I'm not really sure if I'll enjoy SCREAM's main conflict as much upon repeat viewings now that I know the killer's identity, but this first time watch kept me thoroughly engaged with the film's central mystery.
Blending horror and comedy can be one of the trickiest tightropes to walk within genre filmmaking, but if done correctly it always supplies some of the most deliriously good stuff from either genre. SCREAM delivers. Always knowing the right time to be serious and then the right time to poke fun at itself, it's a true jewel in the canon of great horror and an absolute must-see.