Bomb Rating: 

This film made me scream all right, but not in the places it intended. The reason? It features actors so grating that I would have preferred watching them running their fingernails down a chalkboard than attempting to act. These are the type of actors whose mere presence is enough to ruin a film, no matter who else is in it, no matter who directs it, no matter how much gratuitous sex it features and no matter how many millions of dollars are pumped into distracting special effects.

Case in point: Matthew Lillard. I sat through the whole film praying that the killer would get to this jerk before I went out of my mind. You know this guy from his roles in "Serial Mom" and "Hackers." His gig is to play the doofy kid with the Valley-boy twang. In "Scream" he plays the hyper-active doofy kid with the Valley-boy twang -- a bold departure. My only advice is to cut your fingernails before you go or you'll be likely to claw the flesh right off your own legs every time he appears on the screen.

As directed by Wes Craven, "Scream" is the teenage horror fan's version of "The Player." A horror film fan terrorizes residents of a small town, including Sidney (Neve Campbell), her boyfriend Billy (Skeet Ulrich) and friends Casey (Drew Barrymore), Tatum (Rose McGowan) and Stu (Lillard).

This gives the filmmakers lots of opportunities to include clever inside references to the horror film genre. The characters talk about "Halloween" and "Friday the 13th" in a vain effort to identify with their target audience: dull teenagers who like to talk about horror films. At one point Craven even has one of the characters say, "The first 'Nightmare on Elm Street' was good, but the rest sucked." At that point, Craven (who, not coincidentally, directed the first "Nightmare on Elm Street") evolves masturbatory self-congratulation from simple craft to pure art form. And I thought that sticky stuff on the theater floor was somebody's spilled soft drink.

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