When Wes Craven brought to life the first chapter of the iconic franchise ‘Panic’, the world of cinema has undergone a major transformation in terms of aesthetics and narrative due to the simple factor of metalanguage. Obviously, the self-referential content has already appeared briefly in other productions, such as ‘Singing in the Rain’ e ‘The Last Session’, but never with such dramatic weight as here. as well pointed Roger Ebert in his critique of the feature film, it was from Craven’s feature film that the characters began to discuss the filmic process itself instead of just praising the existence of cinema.
The plot may not be original at its core, as it pays homage to another classic saga directed by the director, ‘The nightmare time’, and to so many films of his career. In ‘Panic’, the gender slasher gains a tragicomic layer that accompanies each of the protagonists and supporting actors and that builds a universe within a universe, architecting a microcosm that invites us to participate in the mentality that hides behind the film. The plot focuses on a group of young people who are targeted by a serial killer known as Ghostface – and who terrorizes the small town of Woodsboro to prove a rather sordid point and to obtain revenge that only comes to fruition in the final scenes.
At the center of this cinematic bloodbath is Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), a young student who is idolized as the main victim of serial killer and that dialogues with a traumatic past involving the murder of his mother. Helplessly watching her friends and loved ones die one by one, Sidney is fueled by a personal vendetta that makes her want to put an end to this reign of chaos and return to a normalcy that may no longer exist. As if that weren’t enough, she is accompanied by Assistant Deputy Dewey Riley (David Arquette), by best friend Tatum Riley (Rose McGowan) and her boyfriend Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) in this endeavor – and faces numerous obstacles along the way.
The great beauty of the film is not realizing its grandeur; thus Craven is fully aware of what he is doing without wanting to revolutionize the method of storytelling (and thus doing so with remarkable solemnity). Ghostface is a materialized translation of cinema’s most memorable antagonists and doesn’t think twice before citing their motivations (What’s your favorite horror movie? is one of his many catchphrases), brushed with a poignant characterization that would be eternalized in the culture pop. Eventually, audiences know that the antagonist’s identity will be revealed sooner or later – but the path he takes is also a reason to convince viewers to embark on this dangerous and deadly journey.
Campbell does an amazing job as Sidney, embodying the most archetypal attributes of the final girl and, in a way, premeditating that she would return countless times to the same cycle of anguish and death that accompanied her since she was young – well, she even picks up performative references from ‘Young Witches’, suspense teen who had starred a few months earlier. And, while the actress dominates the scenes, she shares the audience’s attention with Arquette, who enters with an interesting appreciation for the comic escape, with McGowan, infused with a lacerating irreverence, and, in a far more striking scope, Matthew Lillard like the scary Stu Macher and Courteney Cox in one of her best renditions as ambitious journalist Gale Weathers.
In addition to the incredible performances, the feature has a plot that uses and abuses stereotypes and clichés of the genre – courtesy of the surprising debut of Kevin Williamson as a screenwriter. Williamson shows that he has enough experience to deconstruct the formulas of horror and that he is not afraid to dare with unexpected fusions of styles. THE slasher, you jumpscares and suspense are the most flavorful ingredients in this delicious smorgasbord – but the anguish of seeing the characters being pursued by a masked murderer is interrupted by comic dialogue and very welcome breaks in expectation, as well as occasional political incursions that are rescued in the sequels. . And on top of it all, Marco Beltrami graces us with a dark and solid soundtrack that goes back to Ennio Morricone and melancholy lamentations to add to the complexity of the characters.
‘Panic’ carries a sense of insight that would be harnessed and reused ad nauseam in the years that would follow him, which is why most of the scenes are reproduced to this day. It’s no surprise that the iconic opening scene, which immortalized Drew Barrymore like Casey Becker, has served as an inspiration for so many film and television works.
In short, there are few horror films that surpass the legacy of one of Craven’s great works. Every element of its structure is thought out with enviable caution, dosing metalanguage, fiction into reality on a scale showered with shocking deaths – and one of the bloodiest twists in cinema.