A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie nearly got an NC-17 rating for violence. Be aware especially that the "unrated" home-video editions contain the extra frames of bloodshed, usually mutilation by knife. Despite the (often foulmouthed) dialogue's flirtation with self-awareness and satire, the gore here really comes across as intended -- brutal and intense.
What's the story?
SCREAM's opening pays tribute to WHEN A STRANGER CALLS, as menacing phone calls torment a girl, played by Drew Barrymore. The voice belongs to a robed and masked psychopath, who viciously slices his prey and leaves her hanging from a tree. Slaying A-list starlet Barrymore immediately and pitilessly is just the first curveball the filmmakers throw. The maniac's real target is Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), a high-schooler whose own mother (described as a tramp) was raped and murdered exactly one year before. Sidney barely survives an attack herself by the hooded marauder. This renewed bloodletting creates a media sensation in Sidney's small town of Woodsboro, and brings a visit by tabloid-TV journalist Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), whom Sidney already knows and detests. Then again, a lot of the characters here are detestable. Craven and Williams do a good job etching teen subculture, but give very few of these endangered kids redeeming features. Instead there's the nihilistic sense of jaded, horror-movie-loving teens who are smart but desensitized and mean. The one grownup who launches into a righteous, outraged tirade about the kids' morals soon gets skewered himself by the maniac (it's hinted that he's a hypocrite anyway), and the young people celebrate his demise with a beer blast and HALLOWEEN viewing party. Meanwhile the murderer gets especially busy and Sidney faces her worst fears.
Is it any good?
While you'll see critical raves about SCREAM being "funny," know that the undeniable witty lines mix with deadly-serious killings and betrayals. Written by hot scriptwriter Kevin Williamson, SCREAM was a monster hit when it premiered. It brought a sharper level of intelligence, production values, and acting talent to a disreputable (but to adolescent and post-adolescent viewers, irresistible) genre that exploded in ticket sales almost 20 years earlier -- the teen-slasher horror film. Williamson, aided by Wes Craven (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET), had the great idea not only to write SCREAM on a smarter level -- it's a cunning "whodunit" with Agatha Christie twists -- but also set it amidst media-savvy protagonists. These SCREAM players have seen that slasher-movie slop, and they know (or think they know) the tricks. One boy is even a video-store clerk who spells out "the rules" of horror films to try and predict what's going to happen next.SCREAM nearly earned an NC-17 for violence. Despite the dialogue's flirtation with self-awareness and satire, the gore here is brutal and intense. Though the thrilling pace and steady jolts keep young audiences watching, we can't recommend SCREAM for adolescents and teens.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why the film was so popular.
Do fans consider it a realistic movie, a dark comedy, or a hip whodunit with post-modern twists?
Why are teens in particular so interested in horror movies?
Families can talk about how the teenagers are protrayed. What kind of role models are they?
For kids who love scares
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.