Scream ★★★½

In short: What Jason Overbeck said.

My #HotTake on why that opening scene works so well: Wes Craven gets out of the way. He mostly shoots it as a series of extended takes, only cutting when absolutely necessary (cf. when Drew Barrymore is hiding next to the TV & she finds the letter opener). That approach works just fine, but (as Overbeck notes regarding the other attacks) it feels rushed & perfunctory. There are countless opportunities for Craven to really turn the screws that he opts not to take. (Even that perfect moment of the parents walking up to the front door with their dying daughter only a few feet away feels more like a product of the script than anything Craven's doing with the camera.) That restraint is appreciated, but it seems odd for a film that's ostensibly honoring the slasher movie genre -- warts and all -- to pass up on gilding the lily in this fashion, especially in lieu of all the "hilarious" self-referential lampooning that takes place. (Or maybe, where Kevin Williamson sees this as a celebration, Craven views it as a rebuke? Authorial intent: It is a mystery.)

So, yeah, this film works better for me these days as a comedy rather than as a slasher (cf. all the slapstick-worthy nutshots & pratfalls & fridge doors The Scream endures while doing his business), & it's even more successful when it doesn't try to force the issue. Granted, I still reflexively chuckle when Matthew Lillard & Jamie Kennedy try to out-mug each other, & I definitely have a laugh at some of the "serious" dialogue Williamson shoves into these actors' poor mouths (cf. Skeet Ulrich's "why aren't you over your dead mom yet?" speech, & the godawful flirting between Courtney Cox & David Arquette), or when the film works the "everyone's a suspect" angle way too hard.

With the reference flaunting & clever repartee turned up to 11, though, it's no wonder I gravitate towards the film's (few & far between) moments of relative comic subtlety: Henry Winkler spooking himself in various mirrors right before he bites it, Arquette working on an ice cream cone while chatting with his boss, a legitimately funny off-the-cuff joke delivered off-screen by Arquette as he & Gail Weathers go do some sleuthing. My favorite moment involves an out-of-focus extra -- in the background of a shot during Jaime Kennedy's belabored video store slasher-film exegesis -- who has some great "what in the fuck is this idiot babbling about" reactions & then exits frame right. (I think my preference for that bit of extras acting over whatever else this film has to offer says more about the movie than anything else I've said in this blurt.)

PS: Seeing this with an appreciative crowd that chuckled every time the film made era-appropriate references to cell phone usage sure made me feel my age.

David liked this review