31 Nights of Horror #1 Scream (1996) Movie Review


October 1, 2014

Scream (1996)


Director: Wes Craven

Writer: Kevin Williamson

Starring: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Skeet Ulrich, Jamie Kennedy, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, and Drew Barrymore.


During the 90s many horror films were sequels to popular slasher franchises. Usually all were hated upon by critics and the only really good one was Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. (More on that later) In 1996 Scream was released and it shook up the way we view horror movies forever. Advertised as a horror film this cleverly crafted film was more of a dark comedy than a slasher movie. The film makes several references to other horror movies and the rules on how to survive them. Many scenes have the characters break the 4th wall always reminding you that they are in a horror movie. The constant references to horror movies and the use of a self-awareness almost parody the movie and the genre as a whole. (Ignore Scary Movie)
The film opened with Casey (Drew Barrymore) receiving a phone call from a stranger who is flirty with her. They converse on the topic of horror movies which leads to the killer having Casey’s boyfriend tied up outside. He only lives if she can answer some questions about horror movies. When she fails he guts her boyfriend and turns his attention to her. He is seen wearing a black cloak with a white ghostface mask. The mask was based on a painting “Scream” by Edvard Munch. She is brutally stabbed and hung up from a tree for her parents to find. The film was originally advertised as starring Drew Barrymore. This was a surprise to the audience when they see the star butchered in the opening scene. Clever.


The film follows Sydney (Neve Campbell) a girl who is trying to get over the death of her mother and the circus that followed with the trail of the killer. After the murder of Sydney’s fellow students the town of Woodsboro is flooded with press including Gale (Courteney Cox) a news reporter who claimed Sydney fingered the wrong person that murdered her mother. The night after Casey was murdered, Sydney was called and attacked by the killer. Her sex deprived boyfriend Billy (Skeet Ulrich) appears and a cell phone falls out of his pocket. Sydney panics believing Billy to be the killer. He is arrested by Dewey (David Arquette) but was later released when it was revealed that Billy’s phone did not make those calls. Sydney stays with her best friend Tatum (Rose McGowan) who is also Dewey’s sister. After Sydney confronts Gale and speaks to Tatum she is coming to a fact that maybe she was wrong about who killed her mother.
Randy (Jamie Kennedy) who works at a video store is having a conversation with Tatum’s boyfriend Stu (Matthew Lillard) and Randy think the killer is Billy based on other horror films. The genius part of this movie is that it keeps you guessing at who the killer could be. Clues are featured for different characters. Randy is an expert on horror films just like the killer, Sydney’s father goes missing, Billy has already been accused for being at the wrong place at the wrong time, and Stu is just crazy. I even made a note that the sheriff of the town is wearing the same black boots of the killer.


The climax is that Stu is throwing a party at his parent’s farm house and Tatum convinces Sydney to attend. Dewey and Gale are investigating the party from a distance. During the party Tatum is attacked and killed by the killer in a garage door, unknown to the rest of the guests. Billy attends the party and Sydney proceeds to have sex with him upstairs. Randy reveals the rules you must follow to survive a horror movie.

1. Never have sex.
2. Never drink or do drugs.
3. Never say, “I’ll be right back.”
4. Never ask, “Who’s there?”
5. Never go outside to investigate a strange noise.
(The last two were given by the killer at the beginning of the movie)


After the sex Billy is attacked by the killer and is left for dead. Sydney runs and finds Tatum’s body and watches Gale’s camera man gets his throat slit. Dewey gets a knife in his back and Gale crashes her car. With nowhere left to run Sydney can’t figure out who to trust between Randy and Stu. She locks herself inside and an injured Billy comes to her aid. He lets Randy in the house and shoots him. Sydney realizes that Billy’s wounds are fake and runs into Stu who has the voice box that was used on the phone. Once she realizes that Billy and Stu are the killers they proceed to stab each other before killing Sydney. They reveal that they have Sydney’s father tied up and that they are going to frame him for all the killing so they can plan the sequel.

billy stu

A still alive Gale distracts the killers long enough for Sydney to escape and call the police. Sydney throws a television onto Stu’s face, killing him. Billy tries to stab Sydney to death, but Gale shoots him. An injured Randy tells Sydney to beware around Billy’s body because he could come back “for one last scare.” He opens his eyes and Sydney shoots him in the head “Not in my movie.” It is revealed that Dewey is still alive as he is being carted away to the hospital. Gale reports on the events that have occurred. Credits.

The Good

It’s a smart movie that really breathes life into a stale series. All the characters are diverse and we can easily figure them all out by how they react and what they say. The performance of Skeet Ulrich is fantastic. When he turns on the switch from puppy face boyfriend to psycho killer you can instantly feel scared for Sydney. The look in his eyes looks genuine, and the smile is wicked. He has a very Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange feel. Mathew Lillard is just as convincing. My favorite moment was when Randy is drunk watching Halloween. He is telling Jamie Lee Curtis to “Turn around. He’s right behind you.” During this exact moment the killer is walking behind him. Sydney and the camera man are watching this from a hidden camera screaming, “Right behind you!” It’s one of those self-aware moments that makes the movie so clever. That scene was literally watching a movie, within a movie, within a movie!

The Bad

The cast is too old to play high school students. They act incredibly well, but they all look 30 trying to play 18. (Scream 4 did a better job) I feel the script should have been longer. It should really play on the mystery of who the killer is. Add a few more red herrings maybe even a few more jumps. Really dive into Sydney’s mother’s killer. Go through the past and add a few more details and clues. The movie does have an empty feel. In the sequel it feels more solid thanks to the story from this movie, but I feel more story would have done wonders and strengthens the plot and even the development of Sydney’s character.


I give this movie a solid 3.5/5. It’s a smart, exciting movie for the average watcher and a must see for horror fans.

Fun facts

The writer Kevin Williamson is notorious for creating TV series such as Dawson’s Creek, The Vampire Diaries, and The Following. He has also written for Scream 2, Scream 4, The Faculty, Cursed, and I Know What You Did Last Summer. (Scream 2, 4, and Cursed were all directed by Wes Craven as well.)

In Wes Craven’s first film, The Last House on the Left, I noticed a strange similarity in details to Scream. Right before the killer Krug is killed, he has 3 wounds on his plain white shirt. One in each shoulder and one on his left side. Before Sydney Shoots Billy in his head, he is wearing a plain white shirt with wounds in both shoulders and one on his right side. It is harder to tell by all the fake blood on Billy’s shirt but the darker spots match the injuries from Krug in The Last House on the Left. (This may not have been intentional, but it seems unlikely that it was a coincidence seeing how Scream references horror movies.)

Henry Winkler and Wes Craven both have cameos in Scream. Henry is the school principal who is murdered in his office. Right before he is killed he walks out into the hallway and we see the high school janitor Fred, mopping the floor. Its Wes Craven dressed in Freddy Kruger’s Hat and sweater. (A Nightmare on Elm Street was created by Wes Craven)

The movie was a hit and became somewhat of a horror icon from the 90s. Caller IDs sales shot up after this movie came out.

A popular catch phrase was taken from this movie, “What’s your favorite scary movie?”

What’s Next?

I will be jumping into a science fiction horror film, Event Horizon (1997)

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