Year:  1996
Director:  Wes Craven
Cast:  Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Rose McGowan, Drew Barrymore
Fright Meter Award Winner:  Best Horror Movie, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor

The small California town of Woodsboro is being stalked by a serial killer who has extensive knowledge of horror films and a particular interest in Sydney Prescott, whose mother was brutally murdered the year before.  Everyone becomes a suspect as the body count increases.

No other film in the last twenty five years has influenced the horror genre to the degree that Scream has.  It arrived into theaters during a time period when the genre was stagnant and slasher films were virtually dead.  However, word quickly spread that it was hip, unique, and actually scary, causing it to become one of the most successful horror films of all time.   Certainly, what caught people's attention was the self-referential script, written by Kevin Williamson.   Scream is a slasher film where the characters grew up in the 80's and are well aware of the cliches that led to the genre becoming stale and predictable.   Even the killer in Scream is familiar with the common elements and cliches of horror films and taunts potential victims by testing their knowledge with horror movie trivia.  The film opens with a bang with a now iconic scene of Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) being stalked and terrorized over the telephone.   And while Scream is, at its core, a tongue-in-cheek film that is very self-aware of itself, director Craven is still able to create some incredibly tense and suspenseful scenes, the opening scene certainly being one of them.  While there are certainly other horror films released before Scream where the characters are aware of slasher conventions (Evil Laugh, Student Bodies), these films leaned too much on the side of being parodies of the genre, never finding the balance between comedy and horror.  Scream finds and maintains this balance perfectly, and much of what creates this balance is the distinct and memorable characters.  In contrast to the majority of slasher films that came before it,  Scream managed to assemble a cast of extremely talented and recognizable actors who are able to elevate the film with their performances and give the film a sense of respectability and seriousness that so many genre films lack.  Additionally, Craven's slick direction elevates the film to a level beyond the low budget feel that many of these types of film possess.  

What is ironic about Scream is that though the film recognizes and made light of the abundant genre cliches, the film itself is responsible for a plethora of cliches that we know see, such as the attention grabbing opening sequence and elaborate, surprising revelations of the killer (or killers).    Still, the film has heart and feels original, even upon repeated viewings today.  There is a a definite style, sleekness and substance to the film that is extremely difficult to come by which truly makes it one of the most important and memorable horror films of all time.   

Fright Meter Grade:

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