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Scream (1996, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox)

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‘Horror films are very healing, in a way,’ says genre maestro Wes Craven. ‘When kids see their worst nightmare up on the screen, they can identify with the person in the nightmare. And what usually happens is, they see that the person survives and triumphs over the villain.’ Well, not always, Wes, as Drew Barrymore finds to her cost in the bravura opening scene to this modern horror classic, which re-invented and revitalised the whole horror genre.

Answering the phone in her parents’ wealthy, middle-class home, the hapless teen is drawn into a game of cat-and-mouse with a creepy caller who asks her, teasingly, ‘Do you like scary movies?’ She does, but unfortunately not enough, and the ensuing trivia game has fatal consequences. For the hard of constitution, however, the film that follows is an intelligent skit on the slasher movies of the ’80s. Combining a cute awareness of horror movie logic and a sexy young cast, this scary tale of smalltown America finds a fright-masked knife maniac stalking high-school students in the so-far uneventful town of Woodsboro. At first they’re more thrilled than frightened, but tensions rise with the body count while the resourceful killer homes in on the vulnerable but no-so-defenceless Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell).

Horror buffs will have a field day with its self-parodic humour, as evidenced in a scene in which a young horror fan professes to be a fan of a certain ‘Wes Carpenter’. ‘Without sounding grandiose,’ says Craven, ‘I know I am an icon within the genre. But it’s a very limited genre. I would say I’m a fair-sized fish in the pond. So that’s me poking fun at myself. This kid thinks he knows who I am, but he’s got me crossed with John Carpenter.’

Craven is the master of the horror genre, from his first films The Last House on the Left (which remains banned in the UK) and The Hills Have Eyes to the box office success of the teen slasher Nightmare on Elm Street and then Scream. With an uncanny talent for spotting when a market was ripe to reinvent the horror genre, Craven has been at the forefront, nimbly adapting the genre to feed a seemingly insatiable desire for our darkest fears to be realised – at least on the screen.

production details
USA | 111 minutes | 1996

Director: Wes Craven
Script: Kevin Williamson, Gary Damian Thomas,

cast
Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott
Courteney Cox as Gale Weathers
David Arquette as Deputy Dwight ‘Dewey’ Riley
Jamie Kennedy as Randy Meeks
Rose McGowan as Tatum Riley
Skeet Ulrich as Billy Loomis
Matthew Lillard as Stu Macher
Drew Barrymore as Casey Becker
W. Earl Brown as Kenny Jones
Joseph Whipp as Sheriff Burke
Liev Schreiber as Cotton Weary
Roger L. Jackson as Phone Voice (voice)
Kevin Patrick Walls as Steven Orth
David Booth as Mr. Becker
Lawrence Hecht as Neil Prescott
Frances Lee McCain as Mrs. Riley
Henry Winkler as Principal Arthur Himbry
Linda Blair as Obnoxious Reporter
Wes Craven as Fred the Janitor
Neil Breen as Policeman (Uncredited)

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