31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2016, Night #4 – Scream (1996)

Tagline: Don’t Answer the Phone. Don’t Open the Door. Don’t Try to Escape.

Director: Wes Craven

Writer(s): Kevin Williamson

Studio: Dimension Films

Budget: $15m

Box Office: $173m

Release Date: 20th December, 1996

IMDb Rating: 7.2/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 79%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes


Neve Campbell – Sidney Prescott

Skeet Ulrich – Billy Loomis

Courtney Cox – Gail Weathers

Rose McGowan – Tatum Riley

David Arquette – Deputy Dewey

Matthew Lillard – Stuart

Drew Barrymore – Casey Becker

Jamie Kennedy – Randy


Plot According to Google: The sleepy little town of Woodsboro just woke up screaming. There’s a killer in their midst who’s seen a few too many scary movies. Suddenly nobody is safe, as the psychopath stalks victims, taunts them with trivia questions, then rips them to bloody shreds. It could be anybody…

Inertia’s Insight: The revival that horror was desperate for in the mid-90’s, Scream embraced the tropes that had come to define the horror genre as a stalk-n’-slash kill by numbers piece that had the audience rooting for the killer in place of the one-dimensional sex-crazed drug-fueled teenagers. Subverting the norms and providing a postmodern platform in which the characters knew the rules of a horror film and, as such, think they know how to survive it, Scream breathed new life into a genre that seemed confined to the home video format that once brought about its popularity.

The film starts with the young and beautiful Casey Becker (played by the young and beautiful Drew Barrymore) making popcorn and getting ready to watch a scary movie when – the phone rings. What starts as a wrong number phone call and segues into an innocent conversation about scary movies soon turns nasty as the voice on the phone threatens Casey and her boyfriend’s life. To survive, all she has to do is answer a few movie related questions. But, as is the way with horror, it will always end in death. The first subversion of the genre norms – after a brilliant, blatant reference to the director’s previous work and its unimpressive sequels – is to brutally kill the most recognisable face in the first five minutes, allowing the audience to instantly realise they are watching a horror film quite unlike anything they have seen before.


The sleepy little town of Woodsboro becomes the centre of the media’s attention once again, a year on from the tragic rape and death of Maureen Prescott, whose daughter Sidney becomes the focus of the sadistic killer. Suspicions are raised between Sid and her friends, with her own boyfriend becoming a suspect after a close attack at her home. In classic slasher fashion, her friends are picked off one-by-one, leaving her feeling isolated, alone and paranoid.


The feeling of loss and isolation that Sid feels is amplified by the presence of Gail Weathers, a character perfectly executed by Courtney Cox. Brash, fearless and not afraid to offend, her presence and interference reminds Sid of the loss she felt only one year ago. Their troubled relationship develops in later films, but here it plays out to perfection, each character serving the other’s progression.


The killer leads the town into a frenzy, with the police department calling for a curfew that naturally results in a curfew party at Stuart’s house: ample opportunity for a killer to wreak havoc. The third act of Halloween takes place over one night as Michael Myers picks off Laurie’s friends leaving her to the end and Scream plays out in much the same way, so it’s only apt that the characters are watching Halloween as the killer goes about slashing his victims.


This is where the postmodern film shines, as Randy sets out the rules of a slasher film, the absolute musts to survive the night:

  1. You will not survive if you have sex.
  2. You will not survive if you do drink or drugs.
  3. You will not survive if you say, “I’ll be right back”.
  4. Everyone is a suspect.

And yet, not every character that indulges in these must-not’s dies. In fact, in another subversion of one of the slasher film’s most iconic tropes: Sid, our eponymous final girl, has sex and survives. The film moves us into the next generation of horror by having our self-aware characters surviving, embracing the norms and adapting to see themselves through the night.


The beauty of this film is its move away from the idea that the killer has to be faceless. Of course, the majority of the film plays out with the unknown killer lurking behind the Ghostface mask, but it makes the slasher film a whodunnit by giving the audience the question of why instead of just watching the killer slay for the hell of it. The unmasking is executed (excuse the pun) perfectly, giving Sid closure whilst simultaneously opening up a whole other chapter of her life.

Craven was no stranger to a postmodern horror film with his introverted look at his most famous character, Freddy Krueger, in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, but with Scream and Kevin Williamson he crafted a film that brought the slasher film into a new era that has enjoyed continued success.

Inertia’s Ideal Score (* out of 5): * * * * *


  • To keep Drew Barrymore scared and crying, Wes Craven kept telling her real-life stories about animal cruelty.
  • The mask is based on the painting “Scream” by Edvard Munch.
  • A list of the horror movies referenced: Halloween, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Friday the 13th Part II, Prom Night, The Howling, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, The Evil Dead, Hellraiser, The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Silence of the Lambs, Carrie, Psycho.


SIDNEY: You sick fucks. You’ve seen too many movies!
BILLY: Now Sid, don’t you blame the movies. Movies don’t create psychos. Movies make psychos more creative!

GHOSTFACE: What’s your favourite scary movie?

PHONE VOICE: Do you like scary movies?
SID: What’s the point? They’re all the same. Some stupid killer stalking some big-breasted girl who can’t act who is always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door. It’s insulting.

All images courtesy of Blu Shots: http://blushots.weebly.com

Tomorrow: Night #5 – [•REC] (2007)


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