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1996 - R - Mins.
Director: Wes Craven
Producer: Cary Woods, Cathy Konrad
Written By: Kevin Williamson
Starring: David Arquette, Courtney Cox, Neve Campbell, Jamie Kennnedy, Skeet Ulrich
Review by: John Ulmer
The secret of "Scream" is that its characters know they are in a horror movie. "Life is just one big movie," one character says, right before a masked figure walks into the room and slashes him to pieces.

I like movies that spoof the film industry. But I like films that spoof the notion of awareness even more. The characters in "Scream" are not making fun of horror movies, but rather they are aware that they are in one. And that's what makes it tick. Because if it took itself seriously, it would just be another stupid horror movie.

It starts with a young girl (Drew Barrymore) alone, inside a house, when the phone rings. She picks it up and on the other end is a voice that strangely resembles Kiefer Sutherland in "Phone Booth."

Then we arrive in Woodsboro, a small, peaceful little town in the middle of nowhere. I am reminded of the town slogan in "Back to the Future": "A nice place to live." Woodsboro seems like a nice place to live, one of those, "If you lived here, you'd be home already!" places.

Sidney (Neve Campbell) lives in Woodsboro. Today is the one-year anniversary of her mother's death, so she decides to go to a party with a bunch of drunken teens to celebrate - out of remorse, of course. At the party are a bunch of stoned idiots, but amongst them is Randy (Jamie Kennedy), a kid who knows everything about horror movies. "There are certain rules one must abide by in order to successfully survive a horror movie!" he says. "You can never have sex. You can't drink or do drugs. Never say, 'I'll be right back,' because you'll never come back." He knows all the tricks of a horror movie and how it works. He even knows when the apparently dead killer is going to come back for one last scare.

Meanwhile, a cloaked killer starts to kill off the teens at the party. Now he's coming after Sidney. The deputy of the town, Dewey (David Arquette), stumbles around tracing down various clues while the party goes on. A news reporter, Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox [Arquette]) joins him and they fall into a ditch and kiss. Aw, how sweet. However, as a character from "The Terminator" once said, "Nice night for a walk, eh?" Probably not.

"Scream" is revolutionary in more than a few ways. This is one of the only films I've ever seen where the characters in the movie actually speak of other movies, and the actors from the movies. Now people have gone to see movies in movies before, they've even discussed false movies, but in "Scream" they talk about *real* movies. For example, Randy is watching "Halloween" on TV and even starts talking about the first time Jamie Lee Curtis appeared nude in "Trading Places" (1983). His assumption is that she did not die in "Halloween" because by the rules of horror films, virgins do not die.

There's even references to Norman Bates and Hannibal Lector at the end of the film. One character, in a crazed stupor, turns around and says, "'We all go a little crazy sometimes.' Anthony Perkins, 'Psycho.'"

There's a lot of blood in this movie. I liked it. It kind of adds a diabolical side to the film. People even stab each other to make it look like they've been attacked by a killer. I can't really say why or how this happens as it will ruin the movie, but let me just say when it happens, and the people are stabbing each other, the way and manner in which they do so is startling and quite sickening. It added a nice balance of darkness and humor to the movie. Bleeding and dying, a killer asks another character, "Did you really call the police? My parents are gonna be so mad at me."

I like movies that do this. I like movies where characters are aware of things. But "Scream" pushes past all boundaries and makes its characters so aware it's almost like watching real footage of real people. I really liked this. It would have been great to give Randy his own film where he could state all the different rules and cliches of horror films. But, if you've seen the second film, then I guess you know that it's too late to do that.
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

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