Scream

 
(i)

 

Graphic mystery-homage to teen-slasher movies.
  • Review Date: May 11, 2006
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Horror
  • Release Year: 1996
  • Running Time: 111 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The film may scream but it doesn't say anything good.

Positive role models

Almost all the principle characters are sarcastic, if not downright malicious teens, with very little evident empathy for the deaths of their buddies. Sidney, the heroine, seems to have the strongest sense of conscience, yet she unintentionally frames an innocent man for murder and commits some other very questionable acts.

Violence

Savage stabbings and throat-slittings, close-range shootings, lots of hand-to-hand fights with the killer. One casualty has her neck broken by a rising garage door. Another is electrocuted by a toppled television set.

Sex

The young characters speak frankly about sex and nudity. Though the act isn't explicitly shown, the heroine becomes intimate with her treacherous boyfriend, giving up her virginity, apparently (another frequent topic). Her late, offscreen mother is repeatedly described as a promiscuous home-wrecker, and apparently she was.

Language

Abundant profanity.

Consumerism

Primarily references to other highly rentable horror movies.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Alcohol flows abundantly (before the blood does) at a teen party. Another character referred to as drunken enough to be framed for a killing.

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?

QUALITY
 

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. While you'll see critical raves about SCREAM being "funny," know that the undeniable witty lines mix with deadly-serious killings and betrayals. Though the thrilling pace and steady jolts keep young audiences watching, we can't recommend SCREAM for adolescents and teens.

Families can talk 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 20, 1996
DVD release date:December 8, 1998
Cast:David Arquette, Jamie Kennedy, Neve Campbell
Director:Wes Craven
Studio:Dimension
Genre:Horror
Run time:111 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:violence, profanity, sex, mature themes

This review of Scream was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Slightly milder sequel to the post-modern slasher.
  • This movie is very, very scary.
  • Great, but sometimes scarier than R-rated horror.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 14 years old Written byjmax627 April 30, 2011
 

Good for older teens, if they like horror films.

It was good, but it was totally not age appropriate.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Kid, 11 years old May 7, 2011
 

great movie, good for teens and mature tweens

I thought this was an awesome movie. there was a lot of stabbing (killer uses a knife for a weapon). lots of suspense. graphics where pretty good. there was a lot of alcohol and language. as for sex I didn't think it was that big of a deal if you are mature enough. this movie has a good plot with crazy twists. good for teens and mature tweens.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 13 years old Written bySeminolefreak March 21, 2011
 

One of the best Wes Craven films out there.

My MPAA Rating, R: Graphic bloody horror violence, strong language, sexual content, terror, and teen drinking and partying
What other families should know
Too much violence

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass