luke dolson’s review published on Letterboxd:
Wes Craven is some sadistic filmmaker, but here he achieves a perfect balance of sadism and empathy. Ironically because it would seem like the two negate each other, and they often do, but it seems by some movie magic it works perfectly. This is one of the best movies I've ever seen. I loved every single second of it. From its transcendently intense first scene to its final frame, Craven just keeps you guessing and on the edge of your seat by utilizing and even exploiting nearly every single horror trope in existence, making fun of them, and then making the whole movie into some sick trick by using them to scare the hell out of you. It's absolutely wonderful.
Haunted by the brutal murder of her mother, Sidney Prescott lives her everyday life with post traumatic stress. She is uncomfortable having sex with her boyfriend, and the brilliantly subtle performance by Neve Campbell makes it clear that many of the references and jokes made by other people trigger awful memories and thoughts about the past. It is in this vein that the film finds its surprisingly deep and nuanced sense of empathy for her character. It's really quite a magic trick, to be able to pull off the level of nuance and depth that this, a slasher film, does. But...
You can't pick your genre. And Scream certainly doesn't. The first scene will have you believe this is a full on guts and gore slasher fest, but the second scene has you believing it's a small town high school movie. Needless to say, soon enough those two worlds become one, or were they always one to begin with?
Anyways, I loved this movie. It's rare for me to be completely spellbound by something, guessing at every frame, questioning every shot, and shocked by every turn of the camera to reveal something we never could have imagined. It's a brilliant, sublimely wonderful work from the late great Mr. Craven. He truly outdid himself, and I must say I misjudged him. This was my first Craven film, and it shocked me by how good it really is. I am in love with everything about this.
It's got everything I love about all my favorite films, mostly involving memory and how it manifests itself in the lives of people, and the way the filmmaking and performances allow us to empathize with the characters. It does that, and then it turns sadistic. And it is sadistic. Craven obviously relishes every death, and in a messed up way, we do to. But both empathy and sadism magically coexist and even complement each other when they should be at odds. This is a great film.