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Scream Trilogy

Review by: 
Head Cheeze
Release Date: 
1996-2000
Studio: 
Lionsgate
Genre: 
Slasher
Format: 
Blu-ray
Region: 
A
Aspect Ratio: 
various
Directed by: 
Wes Craven
Cast: 
Neve Campbell
Courtney Cox
David Arquette
Jamie Kennedy
Movie: 
4
Extras: 
3
Bottom Line: 
4
Video: 
Click to Play
Click to Play
Click to Play

When Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven teamed up in 1996  for what would ultimately become a reinvention of the slasher film, the genre had long before found itself mired in self-parody and micro-budget ineptitude. Scream, with its self-aware tendencies, hip casting, and slick production values brought the slasher back to the forefront of horror cinema. Hardcore horror fans embraced the first Scream film upon its release, but after a lackluster third entry in the series (as well as countless knock-offs that took the Scream formula and dumbed it down for PG-13 consumption), the series found itself on the receiving end of much unwarranted backlash. Despite reviving the slasher, many purists blamed Scream’s borderline comedic treatment of slasher formulas for the genre’s inevitable second demise. As a result, filmmakers and fans turned to bleaker subject matter, which would then lead to horror’s darkest hour – the decade of joyless torture porn ushered in by the Saw franchise.  Now, just a year shy of the first Scream film’s 15th anniversary, and (as of this writing) a fourth entry in the series imminent,  the Scream  trilogy comes to Blu-ray.

The first film’s opening sequence is already the stuff of horror lore, with the surprising (and surprisingly brutal) killing of Casey (Drew Barrymore) by the antagonist who would come to be known as “Ghost Face”. This has since become something of a formulaic move in horror – offing a major star in the first few minutes of a movie (one who was top-billed and prominently featured on the film’s poster no less) – but, back in 1996, this was a major deal. Scream was the first film to do such a thing since Hitchcock sliced up Janet Leigh in Psycho, and it was this opening scene that won over many a viewer, myself included. It was here that we were efficiently put on notice – this would not be not your ordinary slasher film.

We were then introduced to Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), a small town girl whose life had recently been turned upside down by the brutal murder of her mother. She, along with Deputy Dewey (David Arquette), abrasive tabloid reporter, Gail Weathers (Courtney Cox), and film-geek Randy (Jamie Kennedy), would become the series’ protagonists (a role the unfortunate Randy would serve in a somewhat diminished capacity in the third film) while, from sequel to sequel, a different adversary would don the costume, with the one common thread being that each harbored some sort of deep- seated resentment toward Sidney that they felt best expressed through wanton violence. The excuse for each killer’s actions grew flimsier with each installment, with the convoluted reveal at the end of Scream 3 looking to be the straw that broke the camel’s back (although I still think it’s better than the Scooby-Doo-like ending of the second film). 

In terms of overall quality, it goes without say that the first film holds up the best, but years removed from my last viewing of Scream 2 have really softened me up on that film. Upon seeing it recently I found that I really enjoyed  the gothic sensibilities afforded by the new locale (Sidney and Randy’s college campus), and was especially impressed by the production design. Scream 2 is a really great looking film, perhaps the most visually impressive in all of Craven’s canon. I’d also forgotten just how violent this film was! It’s a much more brutal and bloody film, and, although some of the impact is offset by the series’ trademark humor, I was surprised by this, especially seeing as how Scream 2  is essentially a mainstream horror movie. Look no further than this installment’s nifty opening kill in the theater or at the death of a beloved series regular and you’ll see what I mean. Yes, the aforementioned ending still bugs the hell out of me, but everything leading up to it is near-flawless in its execution, and made me completely rethink where my head was at when I first saw the film more than a decade ago. 

Sadly, as much as my impressions of Scream 2 have changed, Scream 3 is still something of a misfire. It’s more joke-dependent, and dangerously straddles the line between self-awareness and self-parody. We get silly cameos (Jay and Silent Bob? Really??), all-too-convenient reasoning for bringing the characters back together, and a killer whose rational is half-baked at best. As with all of the films there are red herrings aplenty, but even the most unobservant viewers will see past them as the antagonist is glaringly obvious. It’s still technically proficient and offers some nifty set pieces and kill scenes, but, when compared to the two films that preceded it, it’s no wonder many assumed the series had run its course. 

Not yet available as a boxed set (one would think that will be remedied when Scream 4 makes its Blu-ray bow later this year) the Scream films come to Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate separately, each presented in 1080p for the first time.  As one would expect, Scream 2 and 3 fare slightly better than the first film in terms of visual quality, each offering exceptional levels of detail, vibrant colors, and solid contrast. I did notice a bit of excess DNR on Scream 2, but I think that has more to do with the fact that much of the film takes place in darker environs, while Scream 3 features more daylight shots and brightly-lit sets. Scream, meanwhile, offers an impressive image overall, but I noticed some flickering – something akin to the “vertical blinds” effect one occasionally sees in films with complex and contrasting backgrounds – during the outdoor sequences. 

Each film sports fantastic 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio tracks that feature potent bass and crystalline dialogue. The surrounds are used to great effect, with expertly mixed ambient noise and directional cues lending to a nicely immersive aural experience.

Each of the films features a selection of supplemental materials carried over from their DVD releases (in standard definition): 

Scream – 

Audio commentary with director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson

Production featurette 

Behind the Scenes: “On the Scream Set” and “Drew Barrymore”

Q&A with the cast and crew 

Theatrical trailer

Scream 2 – 

Audio commentary with director Wes Craven, producer Marianne Maddalena and editor Patrick Lussier

Deleted scenes with optional audio commentary by Wes Craven, producer Marianne Maddalena and editor Patrick Lussier

Outtakes

Featurette

Theatrical trailer

Scream 3 – 

Audio commentary with director Wes Craven, producer Marianne Maddalena and editor Patrick Lussier

Deleted scenes and alternate ending with optional audio commentary by Wes Craven, producer Marianne Maddalena and editor Patrick Lussier

Outtakes

Behind the Scenes montage

Theatrical trailer

The Scream trilogy’s arrival on Blu-ray is a welcome one, indeed. The first film is an indispensable part of horror history, which is reason enough to recommend it, but, surprisingly, the underrated second installment is nearly its equal. Sure, when compared to the other films, Scream 3 is a bit of a letdown, but it’s still a wry and witty bit of slasher fun. Each film features a great audio/visual presentation as well as all of the extra goodies as their DVD brethren, so fans of the series shouldn’t have to think twice about upgrading. 

 
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