I sometimes wonder if the horror movie genre ever truly took itself seriously. Obviously, it doesn’t now.
Wes Craven’s new offering, “Scream,” sheds light on the outrageousness that has always defined horror films. While every once in a while there will be a scene in some “Friday the 13th” movie that will legitimately scare someone, horror movies have become nothing more than a different style of comedy for moviegoers.
Just look to last summer’s “Tales from the Crypt: Bordello of Blood.” That movie wasn’t really all that scary, and there was a joke cracked for every human intestine on the floor.
“Scream” takes this to the next level. While recent horror films have merely poked fun at themselves, “Scream” pokes fun at its entire genre.
As a matter of fact, this movie can be quite educational for a nonfrequent fan of horror films. One character lists off the three “rules” that characters must follow to stay alive in such films, one character misidentifies the director as “Wes Carpenter” and a group of guys sit around a television watching some old horror movie, faithfully predicting every on-screen move.
The amazing thing about “Scream,” though, is it is actually terrifying. The opening scene, involving someone repeatedly calling a teen-age girl, is detailed to perfection.
The rest of the film follows suit. Were it not so purposefully outrageous, “Scream” could have easily been a murder mystery. Not to give anything away, but the killer (or killers) is far more creative and knowledgable than the other characters or the audience ever give him credit for.
The acting is also surprisingly good. Drew Barrymore’s role in the opening scene sets the tone for the rest of the film. While I suppose this type of film doesn’t really allow an actor very much creative leeway, Barrymore is at once convincing and terrifying.
Neve Campbell eventually picks up the role of the victim. She isn’t quite as good as Barrymore, but she plays the stereotypical damsel in distress well enough. It seems she never really picks up on the concept of the film, though, which is to mock past horror movies - not imitate them.
Skeet Ulrich, however, runs away with the show. He plays Campbell’s boyfriend, originally suspected of the murder, but then let off. As many times as his personality alludes to his identity as the murderer, he proves he isn’t. One can never tell whether he is extremely caring or extremely psychotic.
While this is a little different from the typical two hours of terror that defines other such films, it isn’t different enough for me to recommend this movie to anyone who doesn’t like the genre. But if you’ve been looking forward to a good, old-fashioned holiday frightfest, you won’t go home complaining.
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