Now that I have taken care of the latest movie titled Scream, let us go back to where it all started in 1996. That is what was talked about in the 2022 version, anyway, that the “requel,” the made-up word for whatever that was, had to return to the original. As I mentioned in my review of the recent film, the 1996 film initiated a horror franchise centered on pointing out the absurdities of the genre, and doing them all anyway. When I first saw Scream as a teenager, it seemed like a fresh concept. Watching it as an adult and knowing that there were more of these films to plow through, I had a different experience. I suppose credit should be given where it is due. I may not care for these movies, but the people making money off them probably have a different opinion. And to repeat one more line from the 2022 addition, if you are going to watch any of these stories, see the first . . . and try to forget they made any sequels!
Scream establishes its formula with its opening. A high school girl named Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) receives a phone call late one night from a mysterious person asking if she likes scary movies. It is taken as flirty, and at first she goes along with the game. It soon turns deadly when the voice reveals things about her that only someone stalking her would know, and threatens her bound and gagged boyfriend if she does not answer some questions. The voice on the line belongs to the infamous masked killer known as Ghostface, again, not to be confused with the rapper. Ghostface ends up murdering both of them, which rocks the normally quiet suburban town of Woodsboro. This especially affects Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) as it comes near the one-year anniversary of the rape and murder of her mother. Because these latest killings happened to high schoolers, the media descends on the school, with relentless reporter Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) leading the way. She is familiar to Sidney because she covered the death of her mother, insinuating that the man put in jail for the crime, Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber) may be innocent. Later that evening, Sidney is at home when she gets a phone call with the same voice on the other end that menaced Casey. Ghostface then appears, but she is able to escape. Shortly thereafter, her boyfriend Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) comes over, and the timing is suspicious enough that, especially after the pressures he had been putting on her, he might be the assailant. Thus, when the police arrive, he is arrested. Yet, when she receives another call while staying with her best friend Tatum Riley (Rose McGowan), it becomes evident that Billy is not the killer. Either way, the attacks continue, and the entire town is put on high alert when the school principal Arthur Himbry (Henry Winkler) is murdered in his office during the day. So, what do high school kids do when classes are canceled due to a public danger? Why, they through a party, of course. This takes place at the home of Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard), Billy Loomis’ best friend. Sidney and Tatum attend together. There, she finally gives in to Billy’s desire to have sex with her, and Tatum is slain by Ghostface. The party begins to die down (no pun intended), particularly after Deputy Dewey Riley (David Arquette) shows up after having investigated an abandoned car nearby. When he approaches the house, he is stabbed in the back. With only Sidney left in a house with Billy and Stu, they reveal themselves to be working together as the masked murderer. As always happens in these movies, there follows a monolog about why they are perpetrating these heinous acts. For Billy, who had also been responsible for what happened to Sidney’s mother, it also comes to light that he had not acted alone. His accomplice is Stu, and they plan on framing Sidney’s father for all their crimes. Luckily for Sidney, this is when Gale intervenes, having been nearby with her news van when the commotion started. Because Billy and Stu had taken Dewey’s service pistol, they had access to a firearm. In the commotion, Sidney manages to get away and disguise herself in the Ghostface costume. The long and short of all this is that she is able to fool both Billy and Stu and kill them before they are able to get her. It also helps that they had been weakened by stabbing each other multiple times as part of their plan to frame Sidney’s father. Anyway, Sidney, Gale, and Dewey, as it turns out, all survive the ordeal. With the sun coming up, Gale switches once more into reporter mode in order to record the night’s events.
I skipped over a lot in describing the plot of Scream. I have a feeling that, while writing the next few reviews, I will be doing this a lot. The reason for the omissions is simple: if I described every murder scene, this would become repetitive and tedious. Movies like this one, which is of the slasher variety of the horror genre, rely on jump scares to titillate audiences. These typically come during the actual murders. I guess in order to make the story more believable, they employ two killers who has the seeming ability to be in multiple places at once. If you are seeing this for the first time, I suppose that could be scary. If you are a jaded adult like myself, it is boring and predictable. Granted, the fact that I had seen this movie before played a role in my stone-faced reaction. Nonetheless, if you know what to look for, the film has obvious cues that dull the impact of the jump scares. So, yawn.
I do not mean to yawn at the death and violence in Scream. That is another problem. I do not want to see anyone murdered, and that is part of what my Faith teaches. Another aspect of the film, as laid down by the cinematic expert Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy) are the rules to surviving a slasher film. At one point, Randy roughly references It where the teenagers realize that the only way they can survive is by losing their virginity. A discussion about virginity seems to come up often in horror films. In some, only by staying sexually pure can someone survive. In others, it is the other way around. The question that comes to mind for this Catholic reviewer is why does this have to be a thing? Whether you are being pursued by a maniacal killer or not, or married for many years, it is important to preserve your chastity. The conspiracy theorist in me will say that, either way, it is another example of Hollywood sticking it to Catholic teachings. Regardless, I do not get why this so often has a bearing on the plot of horror films. A person who is a virgin is just as likely to be murdered as someone who is not, assuming all else being equal. Or is it because Hollywood thinks that, without sex, they will not get people to watch their movies?
Again, if you must see one of these movies, watch the original Scream. Not that I call this a recommendation. I can think of a million things and more, at the very least, that would be a better use of your time than sitting through any of these films. Still, at least it gives me something about which to write.