High School is hell, right? Imagine your teenage life if your mother was brutally murdered last year and now it’s you her killer is after! This is the premise of this exciting, delightfully self-mocking slasher movie. “Scream” follows girl-next door Sidney (Neve Campbell) as she tries to keep her sanity while her classmates are being butchered one after another. No one knows who the assassin is, besides the fact that he wears a black cape and a ghoulish mask, uses a wicked butcher knife and likes to scare the beejesus of his victims on the phone. Sounds like any half-baked 80s exploitation horror flick more preoccupied making a quick buck with the blood and boobies than with filmmaking? The difference (and it’s a major one) with “Scream” is that its characters are clever and have actually seen scary movies. Hence, they can more or less avoid making stupid mistakes, as well as comment hilariously on the genre.
The film was written by Kevin Williamson, and his screenplay is smart as it is hip. The characters are fun, the dialogue is nicely spruced with pop culture references and Williamson puts original twists on set-ups we think we know by heart. The movie was directed by horrormeister Wes Craven, who still knows how to fine tune perfectly scary scenes and who gets superior work from the then little-experienced cast. Neve Campbell is cute and talented, even though she’s a little flavorless in this film (compared to her lesbo Goth turn in “Wild Things” at least!). Skeet Ulrich is a bland hunk (doesn’t he look like Johnny Depp on a bad day?), but he’s convincing. Courtney Cox is surprisingly good as a bitchy reporter, far from her usual Monica schtick in “Friends”. I also enjoyed David Arquette’s doofus cop Dewey, as well as Matthew Lillard as the freaky Stuart and Rose McGowan, who’s perfectly cast as an airhead with big boobs. And who will forget Drew Barrymore’s already classic performance in the terrifying opening?
Still, my favorite is definitively Jamie Kennedy, who plays Randy, a film buff who kinda weaves the film together by exposing the rules of horror movies. I love Kennedy’s performance and I love the character, probably because I am that kind of movie geek. What makes this film special is that it’s actually two cool films at the same time. First, it’s a cool high school film (it revived teen movies in the late ’90s and introduced many new stars), then you got that killer Ghostface who goes around gruesomely murdering people, and that’s gotta be fun, right?