It's no secret that slasher films had ran their course come the early 90's, the sub-genre had run dry (bar a couple of entries) and only the 'hardcore' fans were holding on to a dying scene. Simply put Scream revitalized the genre completely, it was stylish, it appealed to younger and older generations, had a slick story and brought a now household horror icon to the table.
Scream opens with, at the time, a very baby faced Drew Barrymore - home alone and about to watch a horror film (a cliché all in itself) when she starts to receive the dreaded phone calls from her killer, the now famous, scream voice. Craven pretty much takes the slasher film down the straightest road of all, it's a well thought out plot which is simple, there's no need for padding or waffle - it's on the straight and narrow from the start. Eventually the killer focuses their attention on Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), the rest of the film pans out as you could imagine, Sidney and her friends are prey to the slaughter all of whom will have to try and survive....and of course find out who the perp is!
Craven managed to take one element of the 'slasher' film and turn it on its head....the cast. Usually we expect to see a number of expendable teens that have no meaningful connection to the audience but by using both recognizable characters and upcoming actors managed to provide a link that meant viewers were gripped from the get go. Granted it did help that the plot had clearly been given some thought, each character had a relevant and interesting story and when the finale finally unfolds the 'motives' all have substance. A standout character has to be the horror film buff, Randy (Jamie Kennedy), who exposes all of the horror film clichés, almost like a running commentary on the film itself! The film is even set in a perfect "slasher" environment from the high school itself to the perfect suburban houses which are all pretty much equipped for a textbook horror to take place (quiet neighbourhood, unlocked windows and doors, homes are all spread out) the whole film plays out as a masterpiece slasher...and it works!
Look out for the big hitters in the cameo section alone - Linda Blair, The Fonz and even Craven shows up as a janitor wearing a jumper not too different to the one of Krueger himself.....blink and you'll miss it mind.
Wes Craven kept (most) cheese away from Scream, instead aimed for a fairly mature approach and although it is riddled with clichés and moments of comedy is actually darker in mood than it comes across, the scenes of gore are brutal by any slashers standards from throat slashings to full frontal stabbings, clinical execution! From the first killing there is always that suspenseful moment....will the victim survive or won't they?! I think we know the answer....
The Scream mask is now recognizable worldwide, it's had its fair share of spoof material, has spawned 3 sequels and when it gets to that special time of year 'Halloween' the easiest horror icon to dress up as, is without a doubt the ghost faced killer. If by somehow you have managed to go this time without seeing Scream, now is the time! Its easily the best of the 'new wave' slashers, its well executed, gory and slick! Did we expect anything less from the master of horror?? A more important film in the genre that people seem to understand.