While numerous "teenage slasher flicks" have come and gone over the past twenty-five years, few films have fundamentally impacted the genre like the "Scream" Trilogy, and especially "Scream." A "deconstructionist" or "post-modern" horror film, "Scream" serves as both a fine example of the best the genre has to offer, and an examination of the trends and themes, the so-called "Rules" of such films present throughout the genre. This film is well-written, well-acted, cerebral and scary. These qualities are relatively rare among slasher films, and to find all of them present is absolutely unique.
Film school scholars have poured over the themes and patterns present in teenage slasher films. Possibly an outgrowth of the original Grimm's Fairy Tales, there appear to be many constants in the characteristics of the film's monster, victims, and heroes and heroines. While these "rules" have long been silently abided by slasher films, "Scream" is the first film to examine these "rules" head on, as it does in one of the more memorable monologues in the film. Often a tremendous barrier between characters onscreen in a horror film and those watching the film is a barrier of rationality and logic. As pointed out by the characters in "Scream," horror film victims seem to have a knack for acting in a less rational manner, often putting themselves further into peril rather than acting rationally to escape impending doom. The shattering of this barrier in the film through the discussion of this barrier acts to bring the audience closer to the characters and makes the suspense and horror more intense.
While Director Wes Craven previously flirted with the post-modern horror film with "Wes Craven's New Nightmare," he is at the top of his game with "Scream." Acknowledging the patterns of the horror genre, Craven darts around with the use of various mechanisms and cinematic tools to keep the audience off-guard and on the edge of their seats throughout much of the film.
"Scream" tells the story of Sydney Prescott, a high school girl who, approximately a year after her mother was brutally murdered, finds that her friends are becoming victims to a ghost-mask wearing killer, and that soon, she too is receiving threatening phone calls from this mysterious individual. As discussed in the director's commentary, Craven delights in the presence of many "red herrings" throughout the film, as the audience is left throughout almost the entire film to guess who the mysterious killer might be. While surely a number of viewers will state, "I knew it all along," Craven does a good job at keeping the killer's identity a secret.
A mix of established actors and relative newcomers, the cast of this film does a fine job. From a very early point in the film, it becomes clear that star-power does not necessarily mean that any particular character will make it out of the film alive. The characters in the film are richly and complexly drawn, and are certainly strong enough to support three separate films.
This is a film which is a must-have for any fan of the horror genre. Even those who traditionally avoid the horror genre because they are turned off by many of its conventions will appreciate this fine film. While it is extremely bloody, violent and scary, it is a film that shouldn't be missed.
"Scream" is presented in Widescreen with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The film is a non-anamorphic transfer, which will cause some dissatisfaction amongst widescreen owners, but for all others, the film still looks extremely good. While there are a few instances in which there appears to be a light blue shimmer on the bottom half of the screen, these are quite likely images recorded by the cameras in filming, and are not a flaw in the transfer. The picture looks good throughout the film, colors seem to come through quite true throughout the film, and there is very little, if any, pixelation in the film.
The film is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital Sound and presents the sound with great clarity throughout the film. Dialogue, suspenseful music, and special effects, such as the zing with which the killer brandishes the knife all sound quite good. All three come through somewhat loud, but the sound transfer is extremely enjoyable and there are no failings in the sound presentation.
This DVD is well stocked with bonus materials to provide the treatment this fine film deserves. A true highlight amongst the bonus materials is a great commentary track by Director Wes Craven and Writer Kevin Williamson, but other features include cast and crew bios, a special effects gallery consisting of pictures of molds and conceptual drawings, a short Q and A with cast members, which is just two questions (i.e. "what is your favorite scary movie?") trailers and television ads, two behind the scenes featurettes, a production featurette, and a "did you know" section containing 19 factoids and items of trivia about the film, including a list of the horror films referenced in "Scream". Needless to say, this DVD is loaded.
Director Wes Craven and Writer Kevin Williamson's Feature-Length Commentary- As he does with the other two films, Wes Craven offers an interesting and informative commentary track which truly probes the experiences he had in making the film, what his and the actors' intentions were throughout the film, the red herrings placed within the film, the major themes in the film and the inside jokes, onscreen appearances of the film's crew, and the mistakes which are made in the film.
While a big part of "Scream" is figuring out who the murderer is, the film can be appreciated in subsequent viewings for the great many red herrings placed into the film to throw the viewer off the scent and the subtle clues and omissions which suggest who the killer could be. While some of these are immediately apparent, others are much more subtle, and Craven and Williamson's commentary does a great job of fleshing these out. Also intriguing is the discussion of potential plot developments which were being considered by the writer and director at various times throughout the creative process, including the killing off of characters who ultimately end up making it into the third film.
The commentary track for this film was recorded at an interesting time in the creative process. It was recorded before Kevin Williamson's stock soared with his work on Dawson's Creek and before the script for Scream 2 was written. There is also a nice discussion of how the film and the script came about.
The Production Featurette- There are two short behind the scenes featurettes, one generally showing life behind the scenes of the film, and one showing the filming of Drew Barrymore's character's chase scene. Finally, there is a longer production featurette which, despite being a bit of a commercial for the film, really seem to give the viewer a good sense of the process of making the film and the fun that the cast and crew had on the set
Simply stated, this a great film. Frightening and frighteningly self-aware, this film represents the best that the horror film has to offer, as well as a tremendous exposition of the patterns and themes prevalent in "slasher" films. It is quite violent and bloody, but definitely worth watching.