Scream ★★★½

The classic horror satire from director Wes Craven lives up to the hype. Craven loved him some upset suburban high school girls and this on full display in Scream. A terrific satire and yet still great horror in its own right, Scream makes you laugh and feel scared, sometimes simultaneously. However, who better to mock the horror genre than Craven? The Master of Horror knows the genre better than anyone, thus he knows the rules and knows how to poke fun at them, while using them at their most effective. In all honesty, Scream's greatest accomplishment is justifying the cliches. By having regular people mock the cliches and then fall victim to the same cliches, Craven essentially justifies them and showcases how we would all act the same way as the horror movie characters if it happened to us.

Putting modern day horror satire The Cabin in the Woods to shame, Scream manages to elicit pure terror from beginning to end, especially in the opening sequence. The least satirical scene, it shows off Craven's ability as a horror master. He creates tension, atmosphere, and fear with relative ease, which sets the tone for the rest of the film. The opening is so horrifying, it really makes the rest of the film seem that much scarier. Even better, the mystery surrounding this scene lasts until the end of the film as you are left to constantly wonder who the killer is, with conflicting clues and knowledge of cliches playing through your mind.

The story of Scream is a simple one and one that would be suitable in a typical horror film, but is incredibly effective. As is always the case, suburban horror movies are classic, due to their relatability and the way in which suburban life can be a horror for many (even if it is devoid of monsters). The story is bolstered by the constant references to other horror films that point out the cliches at every turn and almost prep you for them to come up. In many regards, Scream tips its hand so many times, yet you ignore it because you imagine it is simply mocking cliches. Instead, Scream is practically screaming at you to realize that this is a cliche horror film, just a self-aware one. Thus, the films sense of irony is incredibly rich and used very effectively.

That strength does become the main weakness at times, however. The way in which Scream pulls its punches by pointing out scary cliches just before they happen kind of ruins the atmosphere, especially towards the end. Constantly, the film points out scary moments before they happen, which lessens their impact and leaves you laughing more than anything. Given that the film sets out to be both scary and funny, this pulling of punches towards the end leaves you anything but scared. Entertained, sure, but it is clear that Craven lost sense of the balance beam he expertly toed between the two genres in the first and second acts. By the third, he goes "balls to walls" with comedy with little regard for the horror element.

Overall, Scream is a classic for good reason. Funny and entirely scary, the film features good performances across the board and will make you want to watch the referenced horror films all over again (or in my case, for the first time...). I guess have some homework to do.

1996 Ranked

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