Scream ★★★★

Movies don't create psychos. Movies make psychos more creative!

Fuckin' raucous. Wes Craven's opus is very probably the funniest horror film on the market, slasher or otherwise, and beautifully, knowing every gesture by heart only enhances the film's abundant sense of playfulness. The alchemical mix here is intoxicating, the irony dialed up alongside the cruelty, with scenes playing violence as tense, dreadful and obscenely cheeky. Among my favorite bits here is after Principal Fonz gets gutted, the film hard cuts to a needle drop of Alice Cooper's "School's Out for Summer." Impeccable.

That's just one of many fun musical choices made here, notable shout outs to Nick Cave and John Carpenter, and in general they gesture at what makes the blend of malice and slapstick work so well. Great comedies and great horrors each ride purposeful edits, and this rhythmic work is no exception. And on top of that foundation Craven's writing unlocks another layer, defined by the referentiality and wordplay within the dialogue that feel particularly akin to hip hop lyrics. Where some detractors hear grating screenwriter speak, to me, each character shows up like a feature to accentuate and poke fun at the film's own cleverness and the genre history leading up to this point. For me, the appeal is the same as any given track on MM..FOOD, where the sheer volume of puns is as significant as their underlying meaning.

And to be clear, Craven's underlying meaning is enter-damn-tainment and a tightrope walk of calling your attention to his trickery as he both plays with and sometimes reaffirms your expectations. What sings for me here and ultimately supports a few lofty claims and comparisons I've made is in the thoughtfulness that goes into many choices. I love, for instance, that Ghostface gets tripped up, leading to a situation where each victim's resistance does just enough to make you think they could, even might escape their fate, if they were just a bit smarter, just a bit quicker, but (nearly) always reverting back to that absurd level meanness which is the central source of the thrills and the laughs.

The greatest scene in this film, maybe the best in Craven's filmography, demonstrates all of this with aplomb. Having just heard of Principal Fonz' demise, the gleeful teenage sadists ditch the house party and the "too red" corn syrup blood to go see some real gore. Randy, played by Jamie Kennedy, is being stalked by the killer but is too busy yelling, "Jamie look behind you," at the screen to notice. Moments later a cameraman is in a van watching Randy, too distracted to notice... the killer right behind him. This is naturally a high point of the script's layered meta-referentiality, but in general the humor, the patient setup, the playful execution are threaded throughout the whole film. A banger, damn near as fresh as it was when it was released.

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