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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Scream

Starring: Neve Campbell, Skeet Ulrich
Director: Wes Craven
Rated: R
RunTime: 100 Minutes
Release Date: December 1996
Genres: Horror, Suspense

*Also starring: Courteney Cox, David Arquette, W. Earl Brown, Rose McGowan, Matthew Lillard, Liev Schreiber, Henry Winkler, Drew Barrymore

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1.  Andrew Hicks review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
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Review by Andrew Hicks
3 stars out of 4

SCREAM stands as the only successful meld between parody and terror in a horror movie. Unlike other slasher parodies like STUDENT BODIES, it has a sense of humor about itself but still manages to deliver genuine shocks. It also serves as homage to the great and not-so-great horror movies of the 80's, from the writer and director of a few great and not-so-great horror movies, Wes Craven. Such a set-up -- well-known horror movie director turns to self- parody -- should be disastrous but somehow isn't.

Craven, who is responsible for the original NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, has created the perfect inside movie for fans of good and bad horror movies. The settings, characters and score is reminiscent of many of the well-known slasher classics. The small town where the killings take place is even stock horror -- everyone knows everyone else and most of them are spoiled white kids with nice houses in the woods and cellular phones.

SCREAM is one of those movies where all the characters can talk about is other horror movies like SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, FRIDAY THE 13TH and, yes, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. One of the characters remarks that the original NIGHTMARE was good but all the sequels sucked, a high school janitor is seen wearing Freddy Kreuger's sweater and hat, and one of the male characters looks just like Johnny Depp, star of the first NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Just the tip of the inside joke iceberg.

Unlike most horror movies, SCREAM was made on a decent budget and stars people you've heard of. Neve Campbell ("Party of Five") is the sexy young heroine, Courteney Cox is an aggressive tabloid TV reporter and Drew Barrymore serves as the killer's first victim. As the movie opens, Barrymore is home alone, making popcorn for the horror video she's about to watch.

The phone rings and a mysterious voice starts asking questions. She hangs up on him a few times before he reveals he's watching her from outside, and that her jock boyfriend is tied up on the patio. The phone voice says he'll set them both free if she can answer some simple movie trivia questions, which she botches under the stress. So he has to kill them both.

Cut to the next day, at the local high school. The school's abuzz with talk of the murders, and every student gets hauled into Principal Henry Winkler's office to be interrogated by the small town's sheriff and deputy. Later, Neve, her picture-perfect boyfriend (the Depp look-alike), her best friend, her weird boyfriend and his weird horror movie-obsessed friend discuss these murders in terms of other horror movies they've seen. That night, Neve is home alone and gets a phone call from a mysterious stranger.

This is just the beginning. Before SCREAM is done, the casualties will number at least ten, but this movie is much more tame than the movies it offers up for parody. There are no nude scenes or graphic violence, probably because they're not needed as crutches here. SCREAM is a good horror movie on its own but it's probably the best anti-horror movie ever made.

SCREAM goes so far as to establish the rules for surviving a horror movie, which I myself have commented on in the past. Here's my direct quote, which pretty much lines up with what the horror movie-obsessed characters in SCREAM say. "Smoking pot, drinking beer, sleeping with someone, insulting the main character... playing a practical joke on one of the other characters... taking a shower or spying on someone skinnydipping or taking a shower will get you a one-way ticket to the afterlife."

SCREAM acknowledges these and the other main tenets of the modern horror movie, then goes on to break them. It's an ode to slasher movies, but doesn't allow its fondness for past horror movies to dictate the plot. You hardly ever see a horror movie this self-aware, funny and semi-intelligent. SCREAM shows a lot of clips from HALLOWEEN, the best slasher movie ever made, and actually comes out looking good next to them. That says a lot.

Copyright 1997 Andrew Hicks

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