“Movies don’t create psychos — movies make psychos more creative!”

I’m a horror movie fan from way back. I couldn’t tell you the first one I ever saw, but I know it was something very ’80s and very gory, and I likely sneaked off to watch it. For the most part I love horror movies of all kinds, but I’m particularly fond of the teen-slasher films that were so prevalent in the ’80s, though they’d all but died out by the early ’90s.

When I first heard about Scream (1996), which came out the winter of my freshman year of college, I was excited. All the buzz and reviews I’d read said this was going to be the movie that would resurrect the teen-slasher horror subgenre. I mean, how could it go wrong? It was directed by horror master Wes Craven, the man responsible for bringing Freddy Krueger into our lives with the Nightmare on Elm Street series. Who better to bring us a kick-ass slasher film than him? OK, maybe John Carpenter. But I digress.

Besides having a heavyweight horror director at the helm, Scream also had a cast full of hot, young, up-and-coming stars of the day, including Neve Campbell, Skeet Ulrich, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Rose McGowan, Jamie Kennedy, and Matthew Lillard, and Drew Barrymore makes a much-hyped appearance at the beginning of the film, a la Janet Leigh in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). The film also features a snappy, smart script by Kevin Williamson, who created Dawson’s Creek soon after.

If you haven’t seen Scream, I’m not going to give you an in-depth synopsis, because I hate to ruin a good horror flick. But here’s the quick and dirty: The sleepy town of Woodsboro, California — not unlike those featured in some of Hitchcock’s films — is being terrorized by a serial killer who wears a costume that’s part ghost, part Munch’s “The Scream.” Though he kills several of the town’s residents, the majority of them teenagers, the killer’s real target is Sidney Prescott (Campbell), whose mother was brutally murdered a year earlier. Many of the people in Sidney’s life, including her father and her boyfriend, Billy (Ulrich), are suspects in the killings, which puts Sidney on edge. Adding to her misery is sleazy tabloid reporter Gale Weathers (Cox), who’s writing a book about Sidney’s mother and has returned to Woodsboro to cover the latest batch of slayings.

One of the things I love most about this movie is the fact that while it’s a genuinely scary film (at least I thought it was when I first saw it), it has a sense of humor and doesn’t take itself too seriously. In fact it blatantly references many popular horror films and pokes fun at standard horror-movie plot devices. The best example of this is the rundown of the rules of horror-film survival, as recited by Kennedy’s character, Randy. They are: (1) You can never have sex; (2) You can never drink or do drugs (“The sin factor! It’s a sin. It’s an extension of number one.”); (3) Never, ever, ever under any circumstances say, “I’ll be right back.” Because you won’t be back.

Scream was generally well received by critics and audiences alike, with a domestic gross of $103 million between its initial release in December 1996 and a brief rerelease four months later. It spawned two sequels and was part of the inspiration for the Scary Movie series, which, at least initially, spoofed the horror genre (ironically, Scary Movie was Scream‘s working title).

The original soundtrack is  a pretty great mix of modern rock and pop. Gus’s acoustic cover of Blue Oyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” adds a creepy vibe to the first make-out scene between Sidney and Billy, the Bird Brain and Republica tracks work perfectly for the party scenes, and Moby’s contribution, “First Cool Hive,” gives great atmosphere to the final scene of the film. And I have to say, I kind of love the cover of the Icicle Works’ “Whisper to a Scream (Birds Fly)” by Soho (yes, the Soho that did “Hippychick”), which plays over the end credits. But probably the most memorable track on the entire soundtrack is “Red Right Hand” by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, a song that became a theme of sorts for the entire Scream franchise, as it appeared in the two sequels as well.

A couple of interesting things of note about Scream‘s out-of-print soundtrack album: Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” is featured in the film, but the version of the song that’s on the album is a cover by the Last Hard Men, a one-album supergroup fronted by Sebastian Bach. Also, although Republica’s “Drop Dead Gorgeous” was featured in Scream almost in its entirety and it appeared in promo spots advertising the film — and a music video was shot using clips from the movie — it wasn’t included on the official soundtrack. Finally, the song that plays during the very last bit of the end credits, “I Don’t Care,” performed by Dillon Dixon, Marco Beltrami, and Steve Carnelli, isn’t on the soundtrack album or anywhere else, it seems — all I could find to include here was a YouTube audio clip.

Gus – (Don’t Fear) the Reaper
Catherine – Whisper
Julee Cruise with the Flow – Artificial World (Interdimensional Mix)
Sister Machine Gun – Better Than Me
Alice Cooper – School’s Out
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Red Right Hand
Birdbrain – Youth of America
Republica – Drop Dead Gorgeous
The Connells – Bitter Pill
Moby – First Cool Hive
Soho – Whisper to a Scream
The Last Hard Men – School’s Out
Marco Beltrami -Trouble in Woodsboro (Sidney’s Lament)

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