"Scream" is a horror satire by Wes Craven in 1996.
Back in the 1990s, when "Scream" was released, horror movies - especially those involving a serial killer, were almost absent. But,similar to what "Halloween" did in 1978, "Scream" managed to bring this genre back to screen. But while its many ripoffs were mostly bad and unimaginative, "Scream" is the work of a genius. At the beginning, there is a scene involving a nowadays infamous phone call ("Do you like scary movies?"), which is one of the most shocking and suspenseful scenes in movie history. But then, after the first two killings, the movie totally goes another way.
Now, the serious horror tone turns into a more light-hearted, but still tense tongue-in-cheek horror flick, and the longer it goes, the more satirical it gets. There are great and witty, Tarantino-like dialogues (including an especially funny scene where a couple discribes its relationship using MPAA ratings) and much parodistic scenes. In one scene, a clerk explains three important rules to follow if you want to survive a horror movie. Also, one of the main topics is if media can make people violent or mentally sick. Still, there is enough time to introduce characters including their back story, including the quick-witted reporter Gail Weathers, the rather naive policeman Dewey and the main character, Sidney Prescott, one of the movie world's most memorable female lead characters (along with Sarah Connor [The Terminator] and Ellen Ripley [Alien]).
So, it works as a horror movie, a horror satire, a media satire and also a whodunnit. "Scream" is a great movie for film fans, especially those who are interested in horror movies.
(SPOILERS may follow:)
Apart from the usual slasher stuff, the movie has two very graphic scenes that can be a bit disturbing:
The violent opening scene, involving a girl having to answer a quiz, and if the answers are wrong, she and her boyfriend get killed. Her boyfriend gets disemboweled (in the theatrical version, we only see the afterwards, in the Uncut version, we see the guts falling out). Then, she gets repeatenly stabbed with a knife, and then her disemboweled body gets found hanging from a tree.
This scene is very intense and had to be edited for an NC-17 rating.
Other killings involve slit throats, a woman's arm being slashed, the same woman's head being crushed by a garage door (it is not nearly as graphic as it sounds, there is absolutely no blood and the impact is very brief - at the PG-13 level) and some stabbings.
The second very graphic scene is near the ending, where two psychopathic boys stab each other in order to wound them, making it look like they were attacked by the killer. The way the two boys behave is very disturbing.
Also, there are 22 uses of the f-word.
A sex scene is a main topic, but the act is almost off-screen.
In conclusion, it surely deserves an R-Rating, but the original NC-17 is too extreme, i think. The strong violence is infrequent, and the two disturbing scenes mentioned above are nothing compared to nowadays' horror movies, or splatter films.
Anyhow, it should not be seen by anyone under the age of 16.