Some classic films don’t need an introduction. A title is all. Its reputation has long since been earned. Even when a film turns a certain round number, which is even more exciting, there’s still little need for help. That a horror film can be the film to maintain this, is proof the film has managed something truly special. The only thing left to discover, has it aged well?
The Dimension Films film “Scream”, is even better when enough time has come and gone from the last time it was viewed.
This horror slasher stars David Arquette (“Sigmund and the Sea Monsters”, “Sold”), Neve Campbell (upcoming season “House of Cards”, “Manhattan”), Courtney Cox (“Drunk History”, “Mothers and Daughters”), Mathew Lillard (“Halt and Catch Fire”, “Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!”), Rose McGowan (Ultimate Spider-Man”, “The Tell-Tale Heart”), Skeet Ulrich (upcoming episode “Riverdale”, “Unforgettable”), Jamie Kennedy (“Legends of Chamberlain Heights”, “Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Michel’le”), W. Earl Brown (“Spaceman”, “Preacher”), Joseph Whipp (“Criminal Minds”, “NCIS”), Live Schreiber (“Drunk History”, “Ray Donovan”), and Drew Barrymore (“Odd Mom Out”, “Miss You Already”).
The film was directed by Wes Craven (“Scream 4”, “My Soul to Take”) and written by Kevin Williamson (upcoming series “Time After Time”, “The Vampire Diaries”).
The film originally opened on Dec. 20, 1996.
Here we are folks! The day I’ve been waiting for, for some time. The day that this horror film turns 20. I’ve been waiting for it for so long, I had to force myself not to watch it during the Halloween holiday. I knew I could hold out until now, and it was well worth the wait. I think this time around, it helped that I hadn’t seen this film in a few years. It almost became a ritual, where every year, at some point, but probably closer to Halloween, I’d watch it. Well, not for some time and then it became all about this special anniversary. I really got lucky. And while I won’t be writing about the sequels any time soon, all I have to do is wait until next year, as that’s when the first sequel itself turns 20! Not a bad set up at a all!
But today’s focus is on the original. The one that revitalized a sub-genre and flipped an entire genre on its head. Whilst watching it this time, I was actively trying to pay attention to everything that’s been heralded for the past two decades, you know, the things that make it a horror classic and must see film. I was also just actively trying to see if I could get into it in a way that I haven’t been able to, in at least (if not longer) the past 10 years. Typically I just watch it and that’s all. This time, however, I wanted to see if it could come close to doing whatever it did to those who sat in theater's during the 1996 holiday season.
All things considered, including time, I’d say this film still has it! Age thus far, hasn’t been an issue. Ask me in another 10 years, and I’ll probably have a different answer for you.
It’s got the tipped on its head horror tropes! And that’s for starters. For the longest time I was always hesitant about what the tropes were. Watching it now, it was all too obvious. So, if that’s the case, why did I seem to not know? Probably the fact that I’ve seen this film so many times. Eventually, which is how I found myself trying to get into the right mindset for this film, I found it to just be a film that was on. I paid attention, but I was still removed enough. It almost meant nothing. Not this time! Because I was so attentive, I found myself enjoying not just the film more, but the handling of the various tropes. It’s a lot funnier than I recall. For instance, as a refresher, take the scene when Campbell is attacked. She’s just gone through her reason’s for not liking horror films, and minutes later is unfortunately forced to do some of which she’d just railed against. How could I not laugh out loud? Again, this is just one of those moments, that I think I grew numb to. I’d become so accustomed to seeing it, that it lost all of its intended meaning. Seriously, the joys of time!
Going off that same scene, I must mention that I was able to enjoy another aspect of this film. An aspect I’m not sure I’ll ever fully comprehend as I would’ve had to have been in a theater when this film first started showing. I was, what, six at that time? That feeling (aspect) would be the act of being scared or having a growing sense of dread throughout the film. While this film, I sadly discovered, will never be able to scare me, and not even really with the jump scares, I can appreciate what was attempted. It probably worked at the time, as well as the first time I saw it. What worked the most this time, was Craven’s and Williamson’s abilities to weave suspense and tension, and ultimately create a little bit of fear. Scares may be gone for me, but I thought so too was the ability to be afraid. With suspense showing its face at various moments throughout the film, some slight fear was able to manifest itself in me. I grew anxious over what all was going on! Right off the bat, which alone surprised me, due to its iconic status, was the opening sequence with Barrymore. It was all handled so well. Slow and steady. There’s a methodical approach to it all. Safety is evident, but eventually, even that wasn’t a guarantee. I’m not too sure how, but I got so fully into that sequence, I was on edge enough. The same goes for the big finale sequence, which like the opening, I know pretty well.
And another thing, which seemed to really surprise me, this film has a pretty deep look into these characters. There’s a lot of human drama and it’s organic. Because of this approach, which is still pretty decent to today’s standards (which is hit or miss with most horror films), I felt I got a little more. I certainly got a plethora of intelligent character’s who just run into unavoidable situations, which is really unfortunate, but a step up from most horror films. I also got a quick and easy way to care about all these characters, even when I was irked at one of Cox’s actions. Getting to know these characters this time around, not only reminded me of why they are some of the best in horror, but showed me why I could become so invested in their lives. A plus with this, is the fact that, I wasn’t simply watching characters react for the sake of reacting, or in some films, for the sake of surviving. Everything had a purpose. There were connections that led back to one thing, then another, and another, and to someone else, and sometimes they led forward but still to something else, and the cycle just went on like that. It’s rare that you can get characters in horror films to be even this fleshed out, and the fact that there’s something I can still latch onto, is amazing.
For a film that’s now 20 years old, and the events in it truly can’t be forgotten, like so many other horror or thriller films that rely on twists, this film is still one worth seeing again and again. Sure some time might need to be put in between each viewing, but the fact that you can actually return to it, not just because it’s a horror film and it fits a certain holiday best, but because it’s well done and still reflects that, goes to show what can be accomplished with a truly creative mind involved. While this film may have inadvertently paved the way for so many other slasher films, many only wishing they were this film, I’m oddly okay with that. While a good horror film is best, sometimes settling for the ridiculous wannabe’s is the next best thing.