Box Office: $103 million
Oscar Nominations: None
Oscar Wins: None
Available To Stream: Paramount+
(Review contains spoilers of Scream and Scream 2)
You can make a case that the last decade has been the worst for comedies in the movies in quite some time. You can also make a case that horror movies now have never been better. Get Out, It Follows and more are legitimately very good movies. You can point to Scream at a moment in time where the scary movie became elevated. In the 1980's, you had a long run of good original slasher movies followed by far too many mindless sequels. I can understand why movie producers did it. If they put Freddy or Jason or Michael Myers in a movie and made it cheaply enough, you'd get enough people to the theaters to turn a profit and you could do that each year.
Scream brought intelligence back to the horror genre. The screenplay by Kevin Williamson is obviously very self-referential but it's more than that. It has some great characters like Gale Weathers and Dewey Cox and is willing to laugh at itself. Williamson did go on to create Dawson's Creek but he never was able to capture the brilliance of Scream in his following movies like Cursed, The Faculty or even the Scream sequels.
The opening scene with Drew Barrymore might be the best opening in horror history. It's brilliantly crafted by director Wes Craven. The intensity of the popcorn popping that become flames in the background. The introduction of the Ghostface Killer mask. But most of all, it's Barrymore's performance that is the best part of it. When the movie was in early pre-production, she read the script and immediately wanted to be in the movie and was initially going to play Sidney Prescott. She ended up having conflicts and couldn't commit to a lead role but agreed to play Casey Becker and die in the beginning of the movie. It all worked brilliantly as no one expected the biggest star in the movie at the time to be dead in the first 12 minutes and it also might be her best work.
This was not the easiest production. Wes Craven fought with Miramax (whose horror division Dimension Films released it) on wanting the movie shot in the United States as opposed to Canada, where it would have been much cheaper. He also had to get permission to use that exact Ghostface Killer mask. Then, after the studio got the first dailies from the Drew Barrymore scene, they hated them so much, they considered firing Craven. It's the best scene in the movie so it seems hard to believe that those dailies were that bad but I guess they are rough cuts?
Neve Campbell leads a very good cast that has some real highlights especially in the first Scream movie. Matthew Lillard and Jamie Kennedy are especially weird and great and make this movie still feel unique despite it getting ripped off so many times. The Lillard performance is especially bizarre but also really fun. He manages to make a killer with no real motive seem pretty believable. Kennedy is also great as the movie geek Randy. The Scream movies lose a lot of energy when Randy gets killed in the middle of the second movie. I know he went on to do some very bad movies like Son Of The Mask that tanked his career but he was a good comedic actor. It's a shame he didn't get more chances.
Scream was a big hit when it came out and even made over $100 million dollars but it was never #1 or #2 in the box office in any weekend. It opened the same weekend as Beavis & Butthead Do America and finished a distant fourth. It took awhile for word of mouth to take hold and when it did, it was up against tough competition like the Star Wars re-release and Jerry Maguire. So it never had a huge weekend but it hung around the theaters. It was still in the Top 10 an amazing 19 weeks after it came out.
While the genre of horror did level up after this came out, it did take a step back with the Saw and Hostel movies. I'm not a huge fan of slasher porn and some people point at Scream as a turning point for extreme gore in successful movies as well as intelligence in horror. The violence in Scream doesn't really bother me. I'm more turned off by the torture in the movies from the 00's. That's not something I want to see. The difference, for me, is that Scream has always remained entertaining.