Scream 1-3 Boxset Review
Lions Gate and Optimum have penned a deal with Miramax to distribute more than 300 titles from the Miramax back catalogue, and with Lions Gate and Optimum impressing with their normal output, it is with much excitement that we are able to get our hands on the Scream trilogy as Lions Gate bring it to market in the UK. Note that the movies are being released as a trilogy boxset, but are also available as individual Blu-ray releases.
For those who grew up with the lurid companionship and comfort of horror during the eighties or earlier decades, the early nineties presented a horror show of its own for the genre. The output had shrunk greatly, and much of the material that did emerge felt like tired rehashes of former glories. Long established directors appeared to have exhausted their previously overflowing imagination, and the heady, euphoric era of the early eighties, with its shock-horror video nasty roller-coaster, seemed to have burnt out its reserves. Where horror during the early stages of home video had suddenly felt like a movement of subversion, and a form of extreme liberalism for the ravenous home video viewing audience, the media and profiteers had largely moved on by the time the nineties rolled into town, and the vacuum that was forced by the slow death of challenging horror resulted in a barren wilderness from where few horror films of note would emerge.
How strange it would seem, therefore, that the movie to almost single-handedly breathe desperately needed new life into the tired teen slasher genre would be a film examining, deconstructing, and lecturing on the genre itself, presenting a blueprint of the quintessential horror production amongst a giddy plethora of example material and self-referential commentary. And who better to guide this horror revival vehicle into the viewing public’s consciousness than the original horror film wildchild, Wes Craven? Whilst his more commercial successes may spring to mind most easily, such as the similarly genre-defining A Nightmare on Elm Street, or his unpleasant but often gripping 1972 shocker The Last House on the Left, Scream again demonstrates Craven’s ability to deliver a rude yet effective awakening to a genre which was showing signs of fatigue.
Craven’s Scream may seem a tame horror entry by today’s standards, yet in 1996 it proved an energising force, demonstrating how horror films could once again be painfully cool (thanks in no small part to Kevin Williamson’s sharp script), whilst still delivering some effective and enjoyable shocks. Bravely, Craven denies your nerves the opportunity to settle, by introducing Drew Barrymore in the opening scene before dispatching with her effectively – and mercilessly.
From that tense and memorable opening scene onwards, Craven introduces an impressive allocation of colourful characters, fronted by a high performing cast including Courteney Cox, Neve Campbell, Skeet Ulrich, David Arquette, and Henry Winkler - revived here as a wonderfully bizarre school principal – and as the climax builds, horror history is cemented.
Scream is looking youthful for all of its relative advancing years, and it’s difficult to overstate the significance of Craven’s original self-referential teen slasher.
How does one follow up a genre-reviving ultra-cool smash such as the original Scream movie? Well, you could continue the self-referential theme by analysing the blueprint of a sequel, with its differing dynamics and loss of power of the reveal, and this is exactly what Scream 2 does, sensibly adhering to the over-arching formula of its successful forefather. The final product is sometimes enjoyable, and the script delivers to some extent thanks to the return of Williamson, but an abundance of characters and some uneven pacing takes the edge of a generally slick performance.
The slasher sequel starts well enough, continuing its analysis of the horror film by depicting a fictional movie known as Stab, which documents the original Woodsboro murders. The introduction featuring Jada Pinkett (presumably before her name became double-barrelled) and her boyfriend is effective, but the movie loses its way towards the halfway mark, only picking up the pace once again towards the latter stages. The scene that deserves a special mention for ruining the pace of the sequel is the hideous moment where Derek (Jerry O’Connell) decides to ‘sing’ to Sidney (Neve Campbell) in the food hall, jumping on the tables and throwing himself shamelessly into his abject vocal performance. Not only is this scene grossly incongruent with the rest of the movie, but its cringe factor means that the death scenes pale into watery insignificance in the face of this embarrassing mistake.
Disappointingly fleeting appearances from Sarah Michelle Gellar and David Warner admittedly help to lend the film an air of authenticity, but these sections also assist in delivering the uneven feel of the finished product. Viewer persistence is rewarded with two scenes of considerable tension. The moment where Neve Campbell and Elise Neal are trapped in the car with an unconscious Ghostface is gleefully nerve-wracking, and the cat and mouse stalk of Courteney Cox through the soundproof studio is both tense and brilliantly choreographed.
It’s somewhat telling that, improved definition and colour aside, this movie looks considerably more dated than its superior predecessor, and with an over-extended running time, there’s not a great deal to tempt viewers of its initial release into a repeat viewing.
How does one follow up a sometimes effective but mainly disappointing sequel to a genre-reviving ultra-cool smash? If Scream 3 is anything to go by, such a trilogy should be rounded off by convincing many of the original actors to appear once again, sprinkling in some minor celebrity interest with figures such as Jenny McCarthy, attempting some authenticity with cameos from industry faces such as Carrie Fisher and Roger Corman, and employing some new devices such as the little device which enables the tired slasher to be able to replicate characters’ voices. If the aim is to ensure that the series will lay dormant for just over a decade, then the combination is clearly a successful one. If the aim is to provide an effective and enjoyable slice of horror that is suitably respectful to the original movie, than the concoction is an especially impotent one.
Third instalments of successful originals may normally be viewed with a less discriminating eye after being franchised off to different parties, but the ingredients of the Scream success story are here; Wes Craven is still at the helm, and the acting pedigree persists with Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, and a brief segment with Kelly Rutherford. Yet proceedings feel pedestrian and uninspired as the Stab movie-within-a-movie structure continues.
Scream 3 has effectively lost all of the elements that made the original so exciting. Perhaps it’s because Kevin Williamson was too busy to pen the script (the aptly named Ehren Kruger generated the script from notes by Kevin) that the story is bereft of the snappy dialogue which lit up Scream, or maybe Wes Craven had lost the creative energy which was so apparent as he developed the original. Whatever the reason, despite some moments of Scream 3 which reveal a pale reflection of its notable predecessor, the over-arching sensation as the credits appear is one of flat disappointment.
Catching Scream on Blu-ray is a real cause for excitement, but the presentation, whilst fair, doesn’t prove stunning. The first movie in particular looks like a fairly decent DVD release, although bearing in mind the film was originally released in 1996, the graininess which is visible in the picture is perhaps an inevitable result, and it certainly doesn’t spoil the final product. The colours are strong enough, and there is no visible damage that I could detect, with the MPEG-4 AVC compression performing well. The presentation is 1080p, and the aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is very much appreciated.
The quality does improve in increments, with Scream 2 looking sharper and more vivid, and Scream 3 appearing as the strongest visual presentation of all (despite the shortfalls in the film itself). This may be a problem in some cases, especially with Gale Weathers (Cox) and her lookalike’s penchant for garish colours.
The Scream films are all particularly long as horror flicks go, and each movie is around the 20Gb size, with extras bringing most of the discs up to approximately 23Gb in total.
Each disc benefits from English and English SDH subtitles.
The soundtrack on the original Scream movie is vibrant and integrates seamlessly with the youthful exuberance and folly which takes place onscreen. Scream 2 is subsequently a substantial disappointment with its sometimes flowery and dreary musical accompaniment. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the audio selection, the 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is impressive across all of the presentations, with plenty of clarity and a deep, tight bass which helps to deliver the oodles of jumpy moments which are peppered throughout the series.
There’s a selection of extras for the first movie, but hardcore fans of the film are likely to be disappointed, as much of the material is taken from older stock.
Most enjoyable is the Commentary with Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson, which proves a relaxed affair with the pairs’ familiarity with each other and their laidback vocal styles. Of particular interest is Craven’s recounting of his interaction with the censors, who were uncomfortable with the relative intensity of the more tense scenes, and were keen for Craven to remove certain shots, such as Steve’s hanging entrails in the opening scene with Drew Barrymore. Craven speaks particularly well of his young and dedicated cast, many of whom deliver performances beyond their tender years.
A Production Featurette, running for a disappointingly brief six minutes and twelve seconds, presents interviews with Wes Craven, Courteney Cox, Skeet Ulrich, Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Kevin Williamson, Drew Barrymore, and others. The picture quality is fairly poor, and the interview segments are interspersed with clips from the film, which seems to serve as some sort of padding, which shouldn’t be necessary in such a short production! The interviews are from old stock, so probably won’t present anything new for long time fans.
A Behind the Scenes – On the Scream Set featurette runs for three minutes and twenty five seconds, and features some less than illuminating behind the scenes footage, set to an audio backdrop of soft rock!
Behind the Scenes – Drew Barrymore (two minutes, fifty three seconds) is a similar piece, but focuses exclusively on Drew’s considerable efforts during the first ten minutes of the movie. She demonstrates impressive professionalism in the face of adversity!
There are two Q&A With Cast and Crew featurettes, posing the rather generic questions What’s Your Favourite Scary Movie? (two minutes, forty four seconds), and Why are People so Fascinated by Horror Films? (two minutes, thirty one seconds).
Finally, you can check out a Trailer in either Red Band or Green Band presentation. Frankly, I couldn’t really tell much difference between the two. Note that the trailers have not been touched since their original release and hence look a little dated and low fidelity, although this does lend them a certain retro-horror touch which I’m not entirely averse to.
You have the opportunity to enjoy Scream 2 with Commentary by Director Wes Craven, Producer Marianne Maddalena and Editor Patrick Lussier. Whilst it’s a benefit to have the commentary available and appreciated here, it’s simply not as enjoyable as the relaxed conversation between Craven and Williamson on the first disc.
There are two Deleted Scenes, which can be viewed with Commentary by Director Wes Craven, Producer Marianne Maddalena and Editor Patrick Lussier, and these provide a modicum of interest for fans who enjoy dissecting the movie and its script. These run for four minutes and nine seconds.
An Outtakes segment (eight minutes, fifty four seconds) provides some light relief amongst the horror, and a plainly titled Featurette (seven minutes and five seconds) presents comments from Wes Craven, and some of the actors such as Jada Pinkett, Neve Campbell, and David Arquette. It also features a healthy percentage of behind the scenes footage. Of particular note is the shooting of the truly cringe-worthy moment where Jerry O’Connell (Derek) sings to Neve Campbell in the food hall; priceless.
A couple of Music Videos are accessible via the menu; namely the inventively titled Scream by rapper Master P, and Suburban Life by the Kottonmouth Kings. Bizarrely, the inevitable profanity in Master P’s number is blanked out, despite the 18 certificate attached to the set.
A Theatrical Trailer (two minutes and nine seconds) rounds off the set of extras for the second movie.
Scream 3 benefits from Audio Commentary by Director Wes Craven, Producer Marianne Maddalena, and Editor Patrick Lussier, yet you can’t help but feel that Craven is a little withdrawn as editor Patrick Lussier and producer Marianne Maddalena discuss the making of the movie. On the plus side, the three had to sit through the movie to perform the commentary, and so have been made to endure what the rest of us have had to.
There are thirteen and a half minutes of Deleted Scenes, which can also be watched with Commentary by Director Wes Craven, Producer Marianne Maddalena, and Editor Patrick Lussier. It would be fair to say that despite the disappointing quality of the third instalment, the deleted scenes depicted here were sensibly omitted from the final release. The moment where Cotton climbs out of a skylight is particularly ridiculous.
There’s an Alternate Ending (ten minutes and two seconds), which can also be viewed with Commentary by Director Wes Craven, Producer Marianne Maddalena, and Editor Patrick Lussier. It doesn’t make for hugely stimulating viewing.
The Outtakes section (six minutes and thirty four seconds) presents more gaffs and errors, and a Behind the Scenes Montage (six minutes, twenty seconds) slices together a number of behind the scenes moments from all three movies, including some repetition of material featured on earlier extras.
There’s a Music Video by the band Creed, entitled ‘What If’ and featuring the Ghostface and a number of female models with the attributes one might be expecting, and a Theatrical Trailer closes off the not ungenerous selection of extras for the most disappointing movie in the trilogy.
The boxset – just in time for the Scream 4 release - may prove an irresistible allure for Scream fanatics, and it could be argued that the opportunity to obtain all three films on Blu-ray, presented in 1080p, with DTS-HD MA audio, and a host of extras, is one which presents value for money. Yet with the original movie presenting a masterclass in cool and blackly funny teen horror, for most horror fans, the single Blu-ray of the original movie will probably provide the most cost-effective satisfaction.