Film Review — Scream (1996)

★★★★☆ Wes Craven’s stabby whodunnit is a bloody good time

Michael Kenny
2 min readFeb 2, 2023
Drew Barrymore in Scream (Dimension)

A masked serial killer stalks a teenager and her horror-movie-obsessed friends on the anniversary of her mother’s brutal murder.

One of 1996’s biggest hits, Scream slayed at the box office and almost single-handedly resurrected the once rampant horror genre. All in a night’s work for its director, the original god of gore and master of mayhem, the late and very great Wes Craven.

And yet, until recently, I had never actually seen this staple of nineties pop culture. As a result of its initial success, the film gave rise to a whole subgenre of similarly meta-infused thrillers, not to mention a series of increasingly terrible parody movies that I fear are still being made even today.

Through its unrelenting torrent of imitators, the allure of Ghostface had been severely diluted. That’s my excuse, anyway.

Finally giving the film long overdue attention, I was thoroughly impressed and quite surprised by how effective it still was. I may not have seen Scream prior, but I’d seen its progenitors, as had I also seen many films which had turned its story beats and various twists and turns into standard fare. Incredibly, the revelation of its fun and very absorbing whodunnit murder mystery was still a complete surprise to me; quite how I’d been able to stave off spoilers after nearly thirty years a minor miracle in itself.

Ever reliable as a purveyor of twisted entertainment, Craven’s work here, in tandem with Kevin Williamson’s razor-sharp screenplay, ranks among the best of his blood-stained career. I particularly love his use of setup, a swing or a garage door; everyday objects you know are there for the eventual horror punchline, before being reincorporated in a way that’s far worse than imagined. There’s an art to that.

You probably don’t need me to tell you this — I think pretty much everyone has seen it by now — but Scream is a bloody good time. Very much a product of its era, for better or worse, a smart and subversive horror that revels in bloody mayhem, as well as its incisive observations on violence and the media that perpetuates it.

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