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
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