This clever send-up of the slasher genre finds a teenage virgin, Sidney Prescott, and her friends stalked by a masked killer in a series of crimes that seem to mirror her own mother’s murder a year prior.
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For a frequently gimcrack genre that thrives on gimmick - then repetition - the meta-play at work melds both, deftly riffing on expectation - and then bloodily delivering on it. In-jokes aside (see Scary Movie for that: spoofing a pastiche...), this rises or falls on structure. However this is classically delivered with precision, being Craven’s most polished work with a genuine love for this most maligned of genres.
Wes Craven's self-reflexive and ironic film is a milestone of meta-cinema. In using every means - e.g. dialogues, citations, camera movements and sound - to comment on the action as well as on the rules and dramaturgy of the slasher genre (especially his own horror movies like the "Nightmare on Elm Street" series) he introduced new dimensions of narration into this kind of cinema.
Paradoxically, the movie has an elusive sense of realism that's a byproduct of it being a spoof. When the news cameraman reacts goofily to abruptly getting his throat slashed, or when Matthew Lillard cries, "my mom and dad are going to be so mad at me!", it feels real because it plays out almost as absurdly as it might in real life. It pulls off this tightrope act largely thanks to its meta storytelling.
An attempt at self-conscious postmodernism through the lens of intertextuality and an exploration of verisimilitude and artifice. At times, genuinely frightening, but at times thwarted by the hubris of its own premise.
This is a stupid horror-comedy movie that confess its stupidity, cliche and silliness in the most fun way. You will only love it so much if you watch it with that point of view. Smart version = Cabin In The Woods.
Upon rewatching this, and under the perfect conditions (at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery), I have to say this is both the epitome of everything '90s (looking at you Matthew "a little woozy" Lillard") and the ultimate satire of the horror genre (with the added benefit of having a few scares of its own). A great script that Craven just knocked out of the park.
It's sort of weird to categorize a horror film as delightful but that is exactly what I'd call this film. It revels in it's genre conventions and still manages to surprise and confound. Great performances from the young actors (Drew Barrymore's opening is classic) and the veteran actors really sell their parts without falling too far into caricature. Funny, scary and fully entertaining.