Scream ★★★★★

Apart from perhaps films like Jaws, Scream was the first horror film I was ever allowed to see, and while I've always loved it and considered it to be one of the best that the horror genre has to offer, it wasn't until I grew older that I was able to truly appreciate Wes Craven's magnum opus.

With one of the tightest and smartest screenplays ever written, Scream is simultaneously hilarious and genuinely tense. It's a celebration of the horror genre, particularly the slasher subgenre, but it also serves as a careful deconstruction of the formulas and cliches that come with the territory, but never in a ridiculing manner. The killer reveal is so clever for so many reasons (no spoilers for those who somehow haven't seen it) and it makes for one of the most memorable quotable climaxes in film history.

Scream is full of iconic scenes, but the opening scene might take the cake for the best in the film. It's one of the best openings in film history. Horrifying, suspenseful, and somehow quite funny all at once, with a compelling performance from Drew Barrymore, who shines with only roughly 13 minutes of screentime.

Speaking of acting, I feel like a lot of people skim over the performances whenever talking about this movie, which is very unfair in my opinion. Everyone is in top form here, from Courteney Cox as snarky, fame-obsessed reporter Gale Weathers to David Arquette's lovable bumbling cop Dewey. But for me, the film has three big standouts. Jamie Kennedy as Randy is such a likable and hilarious presence, serving as the resident horror enthusiast and a mouthpiece for the film's more meta elements. Matthew Lillard is having the time of his life playing Stu, and it shows in every over-the-top line delivery, but the beauty of his performance is not only in the showiness of it but for the fact that he still feels like a real person who could exist. And finally, the incredible Neve Campbell. Not enough people talk about how understated and genuine her performance is in this. There's a scene in a bathroom where she expresses so much with just her eyes and facial expressions, and it's probably my favorite piece of acting in the whole film. Sidney is such a sympathetic lead, and it's aided by the excellent writing for her character, as she actually has a brain, unlike many horror movie protagonists. She is frankly a contender for the greatest horror franchise lead ever, and it may be a hot take but I think her performance is honestly Oscar-worthy in this.

Scream is rightfully iconic and still holds up remarkably well, only getting better with age. It serves as a clever and funny deconstruction of the slasher genre while also being an incredibly suspenseful and scary slasher film in its own right. Even with 2 out of the 3 sequels being really solid, this will forever remain the top dog of the franchise, and it's one of the best horror films ever made.

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