WARNING: Some mild spoilers, also my first attempt at a film review, so it’s obviously not going to be pristine)
Back in 1996, at a time when it seemed like the slasher genre was beginning to fade out, this gem of a film was released to an unexpected audience who had lost interest in filmmakers churning out sequel after sequel. People were growing tired of serial killers taking trips to Manhattan or dressing up as the Wicked Witch of the West. So when a little scary movie (also originally titled that) called Scream hit the cinemas it was soon clear that this was a success and one that surely had an effect on younger audiences – they began to show interest in the genre once again. Because of its smart concept and witty satire, this had revived and reinvented the horror genre by turning it on its head and paved way for a string of more teen slashers that were released for years after.
The film centers around Sidney Prescott, a reserved teenage girl who is trying to survive high school, whilst simultaneously balancing all of her problems – including her pressuring boyfriend and the traumatic memory of the savage murder of her mother that happened a year earlier. After a student and her boyfriend are found brutally murdered late one night, the entire town of usually sleepy and quiet Woodsboro goes into a frenzy about a killer donning a Halloween mask and a wicked knife, with a frantic police department quickly trying to solve the murders and news reporters questioning absolutely everybody. Sidney soon finds herself caught up in the middle of all the mayhem and as people begin to fall victim around her, it seems everybody she knows is a suspect.
Being a 90’s kid myself, this was actually the film that kick started and heavily influenced my love of horror. One night when I was 6 years old I went sneaking downstairs at some ludicrous time of the night and I watched Scream for the first time. The first of many, many times. I must have absolutely destroyed that VHS tape. I have to say there’s nothing quite like feeling that amount of sheer terror and shock when you’re 6 years old and witnessing THAT final sequence of the opening scene. The nostalgia I feel when I watch this film is so overwhelming, it’s always held a massive place in my heart. I remember every Halloween in the late 90’s/early 00’s, you couldn’t go out Trick ‘r Treating without seeing at least 5 people dressed up as Ghostface, especially as there were so many different variations of it (who remembers the one with the blood pump inside the mask?) Obviously this being the first horror film I ever watched I never understood any of the many references to other films, it was just a much more grown up version of a Scooby Doo mystery. Over the years and after watching the film a lot more, you really clock onto all of the references, especially as you watch more horrors as the years go on. Imagine playing a drinking game every single time a film is referenced in Scream. A surefire way to get absolutely pissed out of your face in no time at all, I am telling you.
The opening scene of Scream, which lasts 13 minutes (how unlucky), could logically and comfortably exist as a short film all by itself. It has more character development and tension than a lot of other horror films that get splattered onto our screens. We open the film with young, blonde Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) who is getting ready to watch a horror movie in her big house, all by herself. The cinematography is gritty, but also slick, taking suburban and rural scenes, however also making them extremely threatening. For example – big old houses in the middle of nowhere, you know, where if anyone was to be in trouble, the police would never make it on time. After receiving some seemingly harmless and somewhat flirtatious conversations from an unknown caller, things swiftly take a nasty and more sinister turn, as Casey is forced into playing a trivia game with her tormentor – a horror movie trivia game, would you believe? Soon this turns into a violent cat and mouse chase, and much to everyone’s shock, she’s killed off immediately in this opening, which springs Psycho (1960) to mind. Alfred Hitchcock had the balls to kill off Janet Leigh, his biggest name star in his movie, before the 1 hour mark. Drew Barrymore was the main star of this film – plastered all over the promotional material, the posters, the trailer, and she’s offed within 15 minutes, just like that. All the rules are changing. This unforgettable start to the film alone still has the effectiveness to send shivers down one’s spine.