Wednesday, September 2, 2009

#482: Scream (1996)

Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Neve Campbell, Skeet Ulrich, Rose McGowan, Matthew Lillard & Jamie Kennedy

Spoilers Galore.

How do you perpetuate a genre that's been done inside and out? Wes Craven has discovered the answer to this problem. He's decided in Scream that the best way to create something new in the thriller genre is to confront the clichés of the genre face to face in the film. In doing so, the audience never knows whether Craven decides to stick to the cliché or to take an abrupt turn.

Scream starts off with a scene inspired by Psycho. Drew Barrymore plays Casey, a girl home alone about to watch a scary movie. Barrymore appears to be the main character of the film, being the one big-named celebrity in the main cast, as well as her face being featured prominently on the film's poster. However, she only lasts one scene, before she is brutally murdered. Craven is clearly paying homage to Hitchcock, who led his audience through forty-five minutes of plot before he kills the then-main character.

Craven also plays with the disillusionment of teens in the modern age. Having seen all the blood and guts, movies just aren't scary enough for them. This leads to a unique and disturbing scene in the film in which Randy describes the rules of surviving a thriller. As he finishes listing the rules, he gets news that the school principal has been murdered and hung from the football goal. The majority of the party rushes out and drunkenly hasten to get a glimpse of the mutilated corpse. Although preposterous upon first glance, it doesn't seem all that unlikely in today's bloodthirsty society.

Not only are Craven's modern use of teen psychology impressive, but the plot twists in the film are noteworthy, as well. The twists aren't even overdone. When Billy and Stu are revealed as partners in crime, it only strengthens the explanations behind how the killer moves so fast and unseen.

The camerawork is surprisingly good in this film. Aside from the insane camera angles to demonstrate just how close the killer's blade is to his victims' throat, Craven is also unafraid to turn the camera rather quickly. This creates an optical effect that makes the shots look bowed on the outer rim of the screen, dizzying the audience.

The score is impressive as well. Mainly sticking to traditional thriller themes (imitations of heart thumping, crescendos as a door is opened revealing who-knows-what, etc...) Beltrami even uses hits in the orchestra when absolutely nothing happens, which can be absolutely terrifying. Even with the stereotypical sounds in the orchestra, you never know when it's really going to lead to something.

This film is seriously overlooked. I give it one-and-a-half thumbs up, the half being lost to poor acting, mainly on the parts of Arquette, Cox and Winkler.

I also give Scary Movie a thumb up for making this film into a hilarious romp. Too bad sequels were made. Of both Scary Movie and Scream.

Fun Trivia (Stolen from IMDB):
--- OMG there are so many good ones. Go look for yourself for loads more. ---

  • To keep 'Drew Barrymore' looking scared and crying, director Wes Craven kept telling her real life stories about animal cruelty. She is a keen animal lover in real life.
  • Wes Craven found the mask in a store while location-scouting in California.
  • Tatum's house is right across the street from the house in Santa Rosa, California used in Pollyanna (1960). It is also across the street from the house used in Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943). The house in the opening scene was next door to the house used inCujo (1983).
  • Billy's surname, Loomis, is the same as that of Donald Pleasance's character in Halloween (1978), which in turn was the name of Marion Crane's lover in Psycho (1960).
  • Being a favorite of the writer Kevin Williamson, Molly Ringwald was offered the role of Sydney Prescott, but turned it down, saying she'd rather not be playing a high school student at the age of 27.
  • Marco Beltrami landed scoring duties after Wes Craven''s assistant was on an Internet chat site, asking if anyone knew of any fresh musical talent.
  • The use of caller ID increased more than threefold after the release of this film.

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