In preparing to see “Scream 4” next weekend, I began thinking about the original movie that started it all. “Scream” was released in 1996 as violent slasher thriller filled with gore and profanity – – everything a teenager would want for a Friday night movie. My husband and I were in our twenties, trying to find something to do on a Friday night and stumbled upon the opening of a new movie. We had no idea what the movie was about other than from the name we concluded it was a horror movie. So we hurried in, purchased two of the few remaining tickets and quickly found the only two seats left in the theater as the lights slowly went dark and the movie began. The opening scene was more suspense than gore and that was exactly what put me on the edge of my seat, made me jump out of my seat and scream with everyone around me in the theater while my husband laughed at me.
“Scream” combines the roller-coaster thrills and suspense of a horror movie while making fun of the horror movie genre. Director Wes Craven (“A Nightmare on Elm Street”), the master of horror and suspense uses his brilliant skills to keep audiences on the edge of their seats wondering what is around the next corner. The gore is not what makes “Scream” such a terrifying movie – – it is the anticipation that around every corner, behind every door or waiting in the shadows is a masked figure with a knife to gut and fillet you. However, being a good horror movie is not what makes “Scream” unique. It is the fact that it is a movie about teenagers who know about Hollywood and movies. The characters weave knowledge of horror movies into the script and by doing so they poke fun at themselves for being in a horror movie by analyzing what they should and should not do according to the ‘horror movie rules.” For instance, the opening scene of “Scream” has a pretty blonde home alone at night getting ready to watch a movie when she gets a call from a stranger. She then does everything someone in a horror movie should not. Later in the movie the main character, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) answers a question about whether she likes horror movies by saying “What’s the point they’re all the same, some stupid killer stalking some big-breasted girl who can’t act who is always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door, it’s insulting.” That pretty much sums up the opening scene when Casey (Drew Barrymore) is killed along with her unlucky boyfriend. It also is a perfect description for how Tatum dies later in the movie (going alone into a dark garage knowing a killer is on the loose to get more beer).
The number of horror movies that are mentioned or satirized in “Scream” gives horror movie junkies something to laugh at between the bloody kills – – “Halloween”, “Psycho”, “Silence of the Lambs”, “Frankenstein” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. The actors talk about real Hollywood stars such as Tom Cruise, Jamie Lee Curtis, Richard Gere, Meg Ryan and Tori Spelling in addition to discussing other horror movies in detail (“Did Norman Bates have a motive?” and “Did Hannibal Lecter have a reason for wanting to eat people?”) Even Wes Craven is poked fun at when Tatum tells Sidney “Don’t go there, Sid. You’re starting to sound like some Wes Carpenter flick or something.” The best satire scene in the entire movie is based on the scene in “Halloween” when the killer is stalking Jamie in the house. News reporter Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) places a hidden camera in the house and as she watches the video feed of Randy (Jamie Kennedy) watching “Halloween” on television she sees the ghostly masked killer coming up behind Randy. Randy is screaming “turn around Jamie” to the television while Gale is screaming for Randy to turn around. Randy should have taken heed of the ‘horror movie rules’ he presented to the rest of the teenagers and not been alone in the house. Wes Craven blends reality and motion pictures in “Scream” much the same way he did in “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.” Sometimes the inside jokes are too obvious while other times only true horror film junkies will catch the joke but the way this horror film makes fun of itself while keeping the audience on the edge of its seat makes for a fun roller coaster ride.
The one main difference between “Scream” and the other horror movies that it pokes fun at is that the audience does not know who is behind the mask. The audience is kept guessing throughout the movie who the killer is and why the killer wants Sidney dead. Most of the cast is suspect at one point or another throughout the movie and by the end most of the audience has figured out who the real killer is but revealing the motivation is the real twist.
“Scream 4” has Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette returning to be terrorized by the ghostly masked killer. Better yet, Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson are reuniting for “Scream 4” so fans are anticipating a movie that equals and even surpasses the original.