Since this is one of the more prevalent films I’ve written about, I feel it is virtually unnecessary to rehash the entire thing as I normally do. But, I will anyway, just because I feel like it. I will also say that this was one of the most fun films to screencap, because there are so many amazing shots, and it’s just a really enjoyable movie overall. We begin by hearing a phone ringing, and a young girl named Casey Becker answering it. The dark, gravely voice on the other end says he has the wrong number, yet continues to call back. Beginning to flirt with the voice, Casey divulges that she is getting ready to watch a movie, she’s making popcorn, she loves horror movies, and she doesn’t have a boyfriend. When she refuses to tell him her name, he tells her he wants to know because he wants to know who he’s looking at. He quickly rephrases, but she is still freaked and hangs up on him. He continues to call her, taunting her, culminating in him telling her he wants to see what her insides look like.
He wants to play a horror movie trivia game with Casey, and he even has her boyfriend, Steve, tied up outside for her to see. He asks her the first question (Name the killer in Halloween), which she answers correctly. However, the next question (Name the killer in Friday the 13th), she answers wrong (forgetting that Mrs. Voorhees was the killer, not Jason), and Steve is gutted on the porch. Casey is in shock, and recoils back behind the television set. He asks her a final question (What door am I at?), and she refuses to answer it through panic and tears. Suddenly, a chair flies through the glass door, and Casey runs to the kitchen, phone still in hand, and grabs a knife. The popcorn on the stove is now ablaze, and the kitchen is quickly filling with smoke. Casey quietly slips outside onto the patio, and sees her parents’ car coming down the road. Feeling some relief, she peeks in the house and comes face to face with a man in a Ghostface costume, who breaks the glass and tries to attack her. She breaks free and runs towards the driveway.
Ghostface crashes through another window and catches up to her as she’s running, plunging a knife into her chest. She falls to the ground, attempting to fight him off, and he tries to strangle her. She knees him where it hurts, and tries to make her way to the front of the house, where her parents are arriving. She calls out “Mom!” desperately, but can barely speak. Her parents enter the house and are horrified to find their daughter gone, and the home in disarray. Her mother picks up the phone to call the cops, when she hears Casey struggling on the other end of the phone. She is being brutally stabbed on the porch, then dragged by her feet across the lawn. Casey’s father tells his wife to go down the street to the Mackenzie’s house (same as Laurie did in Halloween, and in Halloween: H20, Laurie tells her son to go down to the Becker’s house, haha!)
When I first saw this at around nine years old, it literally freaked me out, mainly because of the incredibly terrifying opening scene. Not only did I live out in the woods, but I had always been a horror movie hound, so I sympathized with and found a connection with both Casey Becker and her attacker. I thought the use of a trivia question game surrounding slasher films was highly effective, and it really resonated with the audience. When we realized that Casey answered the Friday the 13th question wrong, our hearts sank, and we knew she and Steve were doomed.
Anyway, the basic premise revolves around a teenager, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), struggling to cope with her mother’s murder the year before, her boyfriend, Billy (Skeet Ulrich) constantly trying to get in her pants, and other friends, Tatum (Rose McGowan), Stu (Matthew Lillard), Randy (Jamie Kennedy), and Tatum’s cop brother, Dewey (David Arquette). The murders of Casey and Steve disturb the entire town, and remind Sidney of her mother’s ordeal. Billy is insensitive, and after Sidney is attacked, is arrested for the crimes. He is soon cleared. Her pain is exacerbated by local newswoman, and uber-pest, Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), who insists that Sidney falsely identified the man convicted of her mother’s murder, Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber). The third act of the film is set at a party at Stu’s house, celebrating the fact that the town is on curfew and all classes are cancelled until further notice.
At the party, many horror movies are discussed, beer is consumed, and Halloween is on the television. Deputy Dewey runs into Gale, and her cameraman, Kenny, and he asks her to check out the party with him. Tatum and Sidney are pissed, but Dewey’s got a crush. Gale puts a hidden camera on top of the VCR to film what’s going on. Tatum is killed in one of the most memorable horror deaths (that damn garage door!), and Billy (who just killed her) shows up to talk to Sidney. They eventually have sex upstairs. As the party dies down, Randy is drunk and talking to Jamie Lee Curtis on the television, and they get a phone call about Principal Himbry being “gutted and hung from the goalpost on the football field”. The other kids want to go see him before they take him down (these kids are kinda sick!), and Randy stays behind. After having sex, Sidney asks Billy who he called when he was arrested, and he knows she is still suspicious of him. Suddenly, Ghostface appears behind him, and slashes him several times in the chest.
Sidney runs and the killer gives chase. She eventually falls out of a window in the attic, onto the boat canopy below. There, she finds Tatum’s mangled, dead body, and that just sucks. Tatum was the shit, and one of the few horror victims I actually liked! She makes her way to the news van where Kenny is sleeping, and he lets her in. The camera Gale put in the house is on a 30 second delay, so as they realize the killer is after Randy, he’s already there. He slits Kenny’s throat, and Sidney runs again. By now, Gale and Dewey have located Sidney’s father’s car in the bushes, and everyone assumes he’s the killer. Wrong! Dewey goes into the house to find Sidney, unaware of what has happened, and Gale goes to the news van. She drives off, and Kenny’s body falls onto her windshield (“Oh, God, Kenny, I’m sorry, but get off my fucking windshield!” She encounters Sidney in the road, screaming for help, which startles her, causing her to run off the road and hit a tree. So, Sidney makes her way back to the house. She sees Dewey coming out of the house with a knife in his back with Ghostface following close behind.
She gets into Dewey’s police vehicle, and locks her assailant out. Problem is, he’s got the keys, so they play a game of “lock and unlock and lock again”, until he gets in through the trunk and tries to choke her. She has called the police on the radio, but seemingly gets no response. Sid makes her way out of the car, and grabs Dewey’s gun from his holster.
Randy and Stu run up, begging Sid to help them, blaming each other for the killings, to which she responds, “Fuck you both!”, and runs inside to lock the door. Billy is not dead, and falls down the stairs. Sid gives him the gun, and he lets Randy in. Randy says Stu’s gone mad, and Billy turns the gun on Randy, stating, “We all go a little mad sometimes”. Sidney realizes he is the killer, and turns and runs into Stu. Stu whips out the voice changer, and says, “Surprise, Sidney!” He is the other killer, and this starts a hectic scene in the kitchen, where Stu and Billy lay out their evil plan, and Billy reveals the his motive – Sidney’s mother was having an affair with Billy’s dad, causing his mother to move out and abandon him. Sidney had no idea, and from the look on his face, Stu didn’t either. They each take turns stabbing each other, because they plan to be the only survivors.
They also have Sid’s dad tied up, planning to frame him for the murders, like they did Cotton Weary a year before. Gale comes to, and stumbles into the house and grabs the gun they sat on the table. She pulls it on Billy, but the safety is on, and he kicks her unconscious. By this time, Sid has helped her dad into a closet, and calls the house phone to taunt them like they did everyone else. Billy can’t find her, and gets pissed. He starts ripping up the furniture and other things in the house, and Stu talks to Sid on the phone. He says his mom and dad are going to be very mad after she tells him she’s called the police. He’s bleeding heavily now, and thinks he’s dying. Sidney bursts from a closet in the Ghostface costume, and stabs Billy in the chest twice with the pointy end of an umbrella. Ouch!
She thinks he’s down for the count, but with one last burst of energy, Stu attacks her. She ends up hitting him in the head with the television, still playing Halloween, electrocuting him. Sidney is startled by Randy, who she thought was dead, when Billy pops up, and punches him. He tries strangling Sid one last time, when Gale shoots him. Everyone’s alright now, but Randy says, “Careful, this is the moment when the supposedly dead killer comes back to life, for one last scare”. Billy pops up one last time, and Sidney shoots him right in the head. “Not in my movie”, she says. She and Randy help her dad with his gag, as the police arrive. Dewey, happily and surprisingly, is still alive, and is loaded into an ambulance, and Gale gets back on the air with her exclusive eyewitness account. The screen pans over the sunrise and the landscape, as it fades to black.
So, yeah, the movie is pretty much perfect, right? The acting is spot-on, and I especially loved Matthew Lillard’s portrayal of Stu – goofball, seemingly fun-loving guy turned psychopathic killer simply because it looked like fun, and “peer pressure”. Of course, this is no excuse, but this is usually how team serial killers work – one is in charge and calls the shots (Billy), and the other does their bidding and follows them around like a little puppy, hoping to impress (Stu). So, I thought that was pretty realistic. I also love how many movies, particularly horror, that are mentioned, referenced, or shown throughout the film. I’ve been trying to catch them all, and so far, I have: Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Clerks, Terror Train, Prom Night, The Fog, All the Right Moves, The Exorcist, Basic Instinct, I Spit on Your Grave, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Trading Places, The Howling, Friday the 13th, Clueless, Carrie, Psycho, The Silence of the Lambs, The Evil Dead, Hellraiser, Frankenstein, are there any that I missed? I also thought it was clever when Tatum referenced “some Wes Carpenter flick”, putting both Wes Craven and John Carpenter, two mega horror directors, in the same statement.
Of course, it would be remiss not to mention Randy’s rules for surviving a horror movie:
- You can never have sex.
- You can never drink or do drugs (“It’s the sin factor – it’s an extension of number one!”)
- Never, ever, ever under any circumstances say, “I’ll be right back”, cuz you won’t be back!
After the recitation of the rules, the fellow teens at the party either boo their disagreement or rabble rouse heartily while drinking their “sinful” beers. Eventually, Stu even says, “I’ll be right back”, causing his friends to holler rambunctiously. Obviously, these kids are smart enough to see that their lives have been turned into a stereotypical horror movie.
The way the cast is displayed in the credits of all the Scream films is fantastic, there’s just something about it that I loved. The music was brilliant, from the score to the actual songs utilized throughout the film, especially Youth of America by Birdbrain, and Whisper to a Scream by SoHo over the ending credits. The cameos by Linda Blair as an annoying reporter, and Wes Craven as Fred the Janitor (get it?) were also a stroke of genius. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this movie that I’ve found. It’s fairly close to perfect. It did, however, bring up some questions to ponder, one being Sidney and Billy’s relationship. Do you all think he ever really cared about her? I would say he would have to have, because they were together for a year before Sid’s mother was even murdered, meaning they were together before he found out about his father and her mother having an affair. Also, why would Stu allow Billy to murder his girlfriend, Tatum? I know, according to Randy, “there’s always some stupid, bullshit reason to kill your girlfriend”, but still. This movie reinvented horror for the 90s, and proved that Wes Craven still had it. Sure, he had some misses throughout his career, but most were hits, and ones we obviously still continue to talk about to this day. The fact that this cast of characters knew all the clichés about horror movies, and recognized them unfolding literally right before their eyes was fresh and new, and I don’t think anyone but Craven, and the eclectic cast, could have pulled this off. Smart characters are hard to come by, and this movie, and series, is chock full of them. My friend, Stephanie, and I used to watch this everyday after school when it first came out, and we know every line by heart. It’s one of my favorites and is pure brilliance.