The first installment in Wes Craven’s now classic teen horror series sets all the rules up for us very nicely. We are guided through the film by helpful comments from several of the characters that break the fourth wall – particularly by film nerd Randy, who informs us that “if it gets too complicated, you lose your target audience”, and instructs us on the rules by which anyone would be able to survive a horror movie. As a serial killer strikes down people one by one around the lead character, Neve Campbell’s Sidney, we are treated to analyses of who did it by the film’s characters themselves, and everything is cleverly done to give us all the right answers but then lead us towards the wrong ones anyway. Nothing is as it seems, and though you may be able to guess the identity of the killer right away, you will perhaps be persuaded that you were wrong during the course of the movie!
There are many images of the film that have since become iconic. The Scream mask is still a staple of Halloween, and “What’s your favourite scary movie?” may be one of the most recognisable horror quotes of all time. Anyone who considers themselves to be a horror fan absolutely must see this – not just because of its celebrity status in the genre, but also because of the humour and wit used cleverly throughout. Not many teen horror films manage to carry that off – most are funny for all the wrong reasons – which makes this all the more special.
The ending is a great one, too. Finally we are given a hero to rally behind as a certain character steps up to the mark, and when threatened with the reminder that the bad guys always come back for one more try, replies, “not in my movie”. Cue cheers and curtains, and an instant classic.