Scream is Wes Craven’s latest horror film with a gimmick that just doesn’t quite work. It opens, in traditional slasher film fashion, with the young, pert, and alone Casey (Drew Barrymore) having a terrifying encounter with a homicidal caller. The killer then sets his sights on Sidney (Neve Campbell), a distraught teen who has been standoffish since her mother’s brutal murder a year ago. Sidney’s friends at school include her best friend Tatum (Rose McGowan), frustrated boyfriend Billy (Skeet Ulrich), partier Stuart (Matthew Lillard), and video-obsessed Randy (Jamie Kennedy). Also rounding out the cast are David Arquette as Dewey, Tatum’s law-enforcing brother, and Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), a tabloid journalist. The film continues in its predictable path, as the killer moves gorily from victim to victim. The twist in Scream is that the characters acknowledge the cheesiness and predictability of horror flicks, and even outline the flaws and imperfections. Unfortunately, this self referentiality doesn’t quite work, for Scream falls into the same boring and thoughtless patterns as prior movies of its ilk. Sure, it admits to being predictable and inane, but it doesn’t do anything to modify its predictable inanity. Its observations are not terribly acute, for the rampant stereotypes in modern horror films are rather easy to spot. But rather than have the characters act intelligently for a change, they acknowledge the stupidness of (running upstairs to escape a killer/walking down a dark road at night/staying near a killing scene rather than going for help/etc.), and then proceed to (run upstairs to escape a killer/walk down a dark road at night/stay near the killing scene/etc.) The end product, while predictable and gory, does manage to be as good as prior slasher films…it just could do a lot better.
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