jack’s review published on Letterboxd:
If my memory serves me (and trust me, it probably doesn't), this was the very first Horror film I ever watched; it's one of my mother's all-time favorite films (and franchises) and each film has been frequently played on television at least once a week since about the age of three, so yeah, I've seen "Scream" probably at least a thousand times. Chalk this up alongside "A Nightmare on Elm Street" as being one of the most formative films of my youth, scaring me and frightening me, but also making me admire it for its sheer genius.
Craven continues his meta-Horror analyzation he played around with in "New Nightmare," but manages to out-do even that masterwork; "Scream" messes around with the structure of horror tropes and rules and proves that the rules are no longer set in stone and meant to be broken. So yes, being a pure, untouched flower cannot save you from the clutches of a deranged human and a knife, drinking booze doesn't mean anything in terms of judging character, nudity is teased to drag us in and find out that we see nothing in return. Craven subverts the genre on its head and messes with the formula; the Slasher genre really isn't anything without Craven and without "Scream" pushing the boundaries and breaking the laws.
This thing is marked with homages to the past Horror films that shaped the genre and I just love how much Craven put into this thing, while simultaneously poking fun at the genre he and the other greats helped master: Fred the janitor, "Turn around Jamie!," Randy the video store nerd, it's all there in its unabashed and lovely glory. While Craven's sadistic nature doesn't waver in "Scream," it can't be helped that Craven really, in his own way, loves the genre (and this shows that), even if it's clear he hates it at points, too.
Speaking of this, Craven LOVES fucking with his audience and this is proven by his masterful skill of building atmosphere and following his characters; the two are a wonderful, bloody, stabbed marriage of love and hate. Craven builds up the tension and in doing so, a causality marks the screen - usually someone we love - and all Craven does is cackle and laugh: mastery comes with a price. Trickery and deception, genius and simplicity, they're all not free: someone must pay for these things to happen.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, is giving iconic performances: Skeet Ulrich's B-rate Johnny Depp, the God Matthew Lillard giving one of the craziest, energetic Horror performances of all time, Cox and Arquette just being polar opposites, but their tension is indescribable, Jamie Kennedy portraying every film nerd ever, Rose McGowan playing the bubbly, swearing smartass. It's all here. Even Henry Winkler (whom I'm a HUGE fan of) is giving such a great, underrated performance - Principal Himbry is one of my favorite characters in the franchise, if I'm being honest - even if he's in it for a total of seven minutes or so. But it's Neve Campbell, who gives one of the greatest Horror performances ever, that proves that it's her goddamn show; Campbell blends her character's tragic past and trauma and melds it into the psyche of her present and it's just so magnetic (not to mention, she's just perfection).
Maybe, just maybe, the definitive 90's Horror film? Also, Happy Birthday, Ma!