Horror Icons – GHOSTFACE – Scream (1996)

Attempting to cope with her mother’s murder, Sydney and her horror movie-obsessed friends are stalked by a murderer who seems to have a hard time letting the past go. (IMDB synopsis)

Hey, guess what? This review is my 50th overall! I’d say that calls for a celebration.


All right, now THAT’S out of the way, I can write today’s review. This is another Horror Icon, but it also comes at the request of my grandmother, who couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it. Now, she normally can’t stand horror films, as she’s as jumpy as a frog in a room covered in repulsion gel, but she seemed eager to watch Scream, so that’s what we did. And I’m going to share my thoughts here, for you. Because I love you.


Well, a few things have annoyed me so far. First of all, the DVD menu is preceded by trailers for both Scream 3 and Scary Movie, so there’s a few spoilers right there. (Also a trailer for Gone In 60 Seconds, starring a bleach-blond Nicholas Cage. Oh, Nick, you never cease to amuse.) Second of all, for some reason, the actual film is surrounded by a massive margin of black that I can’t get rid of, as you’ll see in the feature image. Boo-urns.
The film begins with Drew Barrymore making popcorn in her house, just as an anonymous caller, well, calls. They get chatting about ‘scary movies’ and then he reveals in the most chilling manner possible that he’s currently looking at her. This is back when mobile phones were becoming more commonplace and easier to lug around than those old school 1980s DynaTACs. And, oh no, the popcorn’s going on fire!
Drew asks if this is a joke, and he replies,
“More of a game, really.”
(Insert obvious Saw reference here.)
The caller then forces her into a horror movie trivia quiz, and guts her boyfriend out on the front garden when she gets a question wrong. Then old Ghostface finishes the job and kills off the film’s most prominent actor at the time. How very Hitchcockian of him.
Meanwhile, our REAL protagonist, Sidney, is in her bedroom, having a moment with her creepy boyfriend, Billy Loomis (HA!). Billy speaks in a romantic fashion about horror films, so clearly he’s Ghostface. The next day, they get to school and find out all about the gruesome gutting of Drew Barrymore’s character. The school’s principal announces that he loves his students and wants them to be safe, so clearly HE’S Ghostface.
Poor old Sidney isn’t as au fait with the recent murder as all of her friends, as it brings back painful memories of her mother’s murder almost one year ago. Unfortunately for her, the Ghostface killah killer seems to be hell bent on getting to her, and for the rest of the film, it’s up to Sidney and her friends to deduce who the real killer is.
I can definitely see why my grandmother thought I’d like this film. The parade of so-called ‘parody movies’ in the 2000s which actually BEGAN with Scary Movie has soured me against the whole genre, but I still like clever deconstructions and pastiches when I see them. I’ll probably sit down and look at The Cabin In The Woods when I get to 100 reviews, as by then I’ll have seen more of the sights in Horrorland.
The point I’m making is, knowing your horror movies VASTLY improves one’s experience of watching Scream. I didn’t even realise what a horror movie nerd I, myself was becoming until I started beating the actors to their lines. I KNEW Randy was going to call Jamie Lee Curtis a ‘scream queen’. I KNEW, once Billy pointed out some ‘red corn syrup’ blood, that it was the same stuff they used in Carrie. And… just look at this. This is the school’s janitor. His name is Fred.


QUICK! Everyone! Class dismissed! Fathers, lock up your daughters!
All right, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I get far too excited about references. Turns out I’m the female version of Randy in this movie. Speaking of Randy, I especially liked his speech about the rules of surviving a horror movie, and the clever way those rules are adhered to. For instance, the only reason Stu can say “I’ll be right back!” and still live through the night is because he isn’t actually a victim in this film – as I’ll explain in a minute – and I’m only surprised that Randy didn’t spot this.
Now, one of the things I dislike about the whole slasher film subgenre is the oft-employed cast of half-wits who make counter-intuitive decisions because the plot says so. This didn’t happen so much in Scream – in fact, the majority of the characters are quite genre-savvy, and a surprising amount of them make it to the end of the film. Not that there aren’t a few poor decisions made. Here’s a question – who lets a bunch of teenagers throw a house party while there’s a killer on the loose, not to mention a city-wide curfew in place? All right, Sidney gets to be under the supervision of a young cop, but then he gets distracted and wanders off with Courtney Cox’s bitchy journalist! That cop is lucky he’s such a sympathetic character, or we’d have a serious problem.
As for Ghostface, we find out in the end that he has not one, but two identities, as the murders have been acted out by Stu and Billy, in identical black cloaks.

...For the greater good.
…For the greater good.

This gives Billy an alibi in the first half of the film and allows him to worm his way back into Sidney’s trust. It’s also revealed that they’re the ones who killed Sidney’s mother – who incidentally was having an affair with Billy’s father, giving Billy a motive. (Stu, not so much.) They’re both avid horror movie fans, but state that “Movies don’t create psychos. Movies make psychos more creative.” It’s almost like the makers of Scream were getting their defence ready for the post-release accusations that the film was responsible for a series of copycat crimes. Whoops!

Final Verdict:

There’s a lot to like about this film. It brought an original twist to the then tired slasher film subgenre, and it’s also an excellent decontruction of said subgenre. The characters are relatively fleshed-out and likeable, the score is very nice and the references are just SO GOOD, om nom nom nom nom.


8 jam sandwiches.

Edit: After I did the review today, I learned that director Wes Craven has just passed away. Bit of a spooky coincidence there. Anyway, RIP Wes. I look forward to seeing the rest of your movies.


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