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Scream

I'm not a big fan of Wes Craven, but even I'll admit that the man has got a talent for interesting concepts. A Nightmare On Elm Street, for example, isn't exactly a very good movie but it's certainly very creative and original. Scream pretty much follows the same formula - it's an interesting concept but the execution is really iffy. The film's meant to be a tongue-in-cheek satire on the slasher films that became so popular in the 1970's and 80's, in which psychopathic killers stalk and murder a numerous amount of people (usually teenagers). The premise of Scream is to appear as a straight-forward slasher while simultaneously criticizing horror cliches and desensitized horror fanatics.

The film follows Sidney Prescott, a young high school student, after a close friend is brutally murdered. As the murder occurred close to the anniversary of Sidney's mother's death, Sidney can't help but wonder if these deaths are possibly connected. Before long, however, Sidney soon finds that the killer - codenamed "Ghostface" - is after her, and that he's indeed related to the murder of her mother.

Where to start? I enjoyed the fact that the film was so self-aware of itself. Its criticism of "the rules", such as never saying "be right back" or you're dead, was pretty amusing. It goes deeper than that by picking on slightly more obscure rules, but it's certainly a treat to recognize the hidden humor in it all. Randy, the horror movie aficionado, was a character that I especially liked and connected with. Being a bit of a movie buff myself, it's cool to see these types of characters present in films - they're really interesting people. In fact, I might've preferred if Randy was actually the main character in Scream. It certainly would've picked the film up a bit.

Where the film goes wrong, however, is in its execution. It may pick on standard cliches but, at the same time, the film steeps into other horror movie cliches. For instance, because slasher films were so popular with teenagers, '80's slashers would oftentimes include songs and music that were popular at the time to help sell the film. For the '80's, it was New Wave and the synthesizer. For the '90's? Post-hardcore grunge and electric guitars. It's a bit hypocritical for the film and it makes the movie feel more and more like an actual slasher rather than some clever satire.

The characters are, as typical for slashers, one-dimensional and predictable as well. With the exception of the interesting Randy, the film's filled with your everyday stereotypes - the big-breasted blonde, the pothead, the moral cop, the unsuspecting boyfriend, etc. They're derivative, far too familiar, and quite bland.

I'm somewhat mixed on the ending. Without giving anything away, the film ends with both a cliche and a message. The cliche was mindnumbingly convoluted and felt incredibly cheap and gimmicky. On the other hand, though, the message behind the cliche was probably the smartest thing about the movie. Who else but ourselves are to blame for the downfall of man? It's smart, but I'm unsure if the good outweighs the bad...

That said, I enjoyed the wittiness of the dialogue. For the first time, I was able to appreciate and laugh with the characters of this film - despite however derivative they may be. The dialogue was witty, smart, and had a sense of life and sensibility to it that made it all the more realistic.

Scream is a so-so horror film. While it brings some interesting concepts and witty dialogue to the table, the hypocrisy and major flaws heavily mar the film. In other words, the ratio of good-to-bad is about equal.




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Sylvia said...
Apr. 14, 2011 at 3:41 pm:

Um...I definitely sense your annoyance at Scream's "hypocrisy", but you seem to have missed the point, which is weird considering you caught onto it at the beginning of your review. Of course the characters are stereotypical. Of course the music is slasher-y. This is a postmodern film as opposed to a mere satire. The sheer self-consciousness of "Scream" confirms it. The apparent "hypocrisy" is not a fault on the producers' part, but an intentional element of the film.

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