Scream (1996) | Review


Photo By Lizzy Sidman

Scream is a late 90s horror flick that revitalized the genre with its unique meta-take. The film’s current streaming location is on Paramount Plus.

     The 1996 film Scream, directed by American horror master Wes Craven, is most known for how it popularized meta-horror, a genre of self-referential horror movies. The movie is also credited with the revival of the horror genre in the late 90s due to its new and refreshing take on a story we’ve all heard so many times before. Despite the film’s self-awareness and irony, it succeeds in creating a truly scary experience with plenty of violence, gore and heart-pounding scenes.

     The producers of Scream knew they were doing something new and different when they created the film. In order to not drive people away with their experimental concepts, Craven and his team hired famous actress Drew Barrymore to play a large role in Scream, putting her front and center in many advertisements for the movie.

     The film opens with a quiet house where Casey Becker, played by Barrymore, is making popcorn for a night in. She receives a call from an unknown person who urges her to stay and speak. 

     They speak for a while then he finally says the iconic line, “Do you like scary movies?”

     They continue to converse until things start getting weird. He asks for her name, saying he wants to “know who [he’s] looking at.”

     A series of violent events follow that line, eventually ending with the brutal death of Becker. This completely subverted my expectations as a first-time viewer, as I thought Becker would be the final girl, the girl who is the lone survivor in a horror movie. After these first 13 minutes of terror, I was left with questions and was intrigued to meet the true main characters.

     Scream is set in September of 1996 in the small fictional town of Woodsboro, California. The events of the film transpired over three days, making for a quick turn of events. The town was always considered to be a safe place to raise a family until Woodsboro resident and protagonist Sidney Prescott, played by Neve Campbell, lost her mom in a brutal murder. Prescott was a key witness in getting the killer arrested. Despite this, many people in Woodsboro thought that the killer was still roaming free. 

     Throughout the film, it became increasingly clear that Prescott had put the wrong man in jail and that this new killer was the true culprit. It was very interesting to watch Prescott not only deal with the trauma of having a serial killer in her town but also her self-doubt growing as she started to question her testimony that could end up killing an innocent man.

     While at times a serious movie, the dialogue in Scream takes meta to a new level with self-references and humor directed towards the genre of the film. Characters repeatedly mention and make fun of overused horror tropes, directly addressing the issue rather than avoiding it. 

     When asked if she liked horror films, Prescott said, “What’s the point? They’re all the same. Some stupid killer [stalks] some big-breasted girl who can’t act and who is always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door. It’s insulting.”

     Only seconds later when being attacked by the killer, Prescott fumbles with the front door lock and quickly decides to run up the stairs instead. This scene offers up a perspective many people share about horror movies, that they are predictable and at times stupid, then turning it on its head by offering a logical reason to use this trope.

     Scream is filled with twists and turns at every corner, making it a great horror movie and a clever story filled with nuances and irony.

     Throughout the film, it is clear that the killers have taken inspiration from other famous horror flicks. Near the end of the movie, Sid suggests that the killer has seen too many scary movies, and he responds by saying, “Now, Sid, don’t you blame the movies. Movies don’t create psychos. Movies make psychos more creative.”

     When watching Scream I was reminded of the 2000 film Scary Movie. The latter is more overtly meta and ironic, clearly mocking other famous horror movies, but both do the job of criticizing overused tropes in the horror genre.

     Scream is refreshing and notable for its meta take on the then-tired horror genre. It has become one of my favorite horror films of all time and creates a uniquely funny and scary experience. I would recommend Scream to anyone who does not feel uncomfortable seeing gore or dark themes. Craven delivers an excellent movie with stylistic meta-choices that you will be thinking about days after watching.