Scream ★★★★½

From the first images of Drew Barrymore carrying her portable phone with her sweater sleeves draped over her hands to the hilariously blood soaked ending, Scream is a blast that balances parody and downright horror sublimely. The plot itself isn’t particularly groundbreaking, but it’s the witty satire and delivery that make it something special. Instead of populating this movie with brainless jocks and cheerleaders, Wes Craven imagines a world where horror movies exist and characters realize their lives are becoming one.

Pop cultural references (such as Nightmare on Elm Street and E.T., which confuses me because does that mean the director of Scream, who did Nightmare, exists in the world of this movie? And for E.T, does that mean Drew Barrymore plays herself in this since she’s also in that movie???) naturally litter the dialogue. It defies common horror tropes -- sex equaling death, the saying “I’ll be back right back” being a death sentence -- and pulls them apart piece by piece.

The snappy script and speckless cast help make characters memorable, and seem like genuine human beings rather than just knife targets. Neve Campell plays the protagonist with grit and realistic hand gestures and stutters. Courtney Cox is superb as the tough news reporter who shows occasional signs underneath that she still has a beating heart. She and David Arquette, the bumbling cop, have superb chemistry. And the technical aspects are the icing on the cake. Mark Irwin’s cinematography shoots the scenes tightly, drawing horror from idyllic settings. Not a second is wasted, and the editing orchestrates suspense and comedy brilliantly. Despite a few jokes that fall flat, Scream is an ingenious, winking nod to the genre that should be on everyone’s Halloween watchlist.

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