Why? Because it’s the movie responsible for launching the sweeping, sometimes illogical narrative involving Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and her murdered mother; because it delivers what is, in my opinion, the most genuinely suspenseful opener in the franchise; and, perhaps most importantly, because it’s so 1990s.
The first “Scream” came out in 1996, which may not sound like all that long ago to some of us (a-hem). But a lot has changed in 15 years. Before revisiting “Scream” — or seeing “Scream 4,” assuming you want to after reading Michael O’Sullivan’s review — flash back to the original by remembering all the things that made it a clear product of the Coolio/Clooney-on-“E.R.” era.
Related link: A Q&A with ‘Scream’ star Neve Campbell
1. People still watched videos: Throughout the film, no one refers to a DVD, let alone watches one. Not only that, but Jamie Kennedy’s Randy worked in a video store, the obvious ideal job for a horror movie geek. These days, Randy would probably be standing in an abandoned building where a Blockbuster used to be, or shouting recommendations at random people who use Redbox.
2. The TVs are, like, super old: In keeping with the tendency for Woodsboro residents to watch their movies on VHS, they also had old-school TVs, the bulky kind that didn’t have flat screens or mount on a wall.
3. People used landlines: Sure, there were cell phones in the movie. But that opening scene with Drew Barrymore — and several other key moments — play out while people are talking on land lines. Barrymore’s cordless was practically the size of a Mini-Cooper, but that actually worked out in her favor. Try temporarily knocking Ghostface unconscious by chucking an iPhone at him. Not going to happen.
4. Matthew Lillard: Remember when you thought it was hilarious when he bugged out his eyes and constantly stuck out his ridiculously long tongue? No, really, don’t you remember that?
5. Courteney Cox and David Arquette were falling in love... as opposed to heading for divorce and discussing it in detail in television and radio interviews.
6. Teenage girls actually wanted to see Tom Cruise movies. In case you don’t recall, Rose McGowan’s Tatum was way excited about watching “All the Right Moves” with Campbell’s Sidney after learning that if you pause a certain scene, you can see Cruise’s private parts. I am not sure any teen girls would be so excited about that these days.
7. Jamie Kennedy’s not-yet-evolved “Party of Five” connection: In 1996, he was starring opposite Julia Salinger in a movie. Presumably he had no idea that in real life, he’d eventually date Sarah Reeves.
8. “Scream” contains multiple Sharon Stone references: She was the universal symbol of sexy sluttiness back in 1996, at least to the people of Woodsboro.
9. In 1996, “Scream” felt fresh and new: In 2011, “Scream 4” feels both like a blast of nostalgia and — again, if you believe Michael O’Sullivan’s review — a cynical attempt to draw more blood out of a dead franchise.