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Scream (Blu-ray Review)

I have to admit; it’s been awhile since I last visited the Scream franchise.  Where do all the years go?  I often find myself asking that question more than I care to acknowledge.  But one thing’s for sure, no matter how many spoofs or rip-offs that have popped up in the horror genre over the past 15 years, Scream has always held it’s ground as a pop culture phenomenon against the rest of the competition.   Like it or not, it’s simply a film that can’t be touched. While writing my own screenplays in the horror genre, I have often been encouraged to go back and check out what was done right in the first Scream film.  Well I’m excited to finally say, that time has arrived.   My eyes glistened and my smile was from ear-to-ear when I opened the package from Lionsgate and found my Blu-ray textbook, otherwise known as Scream, inside.  So was the revolutionary pop culture film that breathed new life into the horror genre still as good as I remembered it all those years ago?   If you read on, I promise to tell you.

Film  

Fifteen years ago, Wes Craven, who’s no stranger to the horror community, fed bored and restless fans of the genre a new breed of terror, one that went on to be repeated countless times in other films, but never truly replicated.   His smash hit was labeled as a “clever thriller” and many argue that it single handedly saved the horror genre.   I’m not sure about that, but I do know the following.   Scream was nothing new.   However, it did something incredibly right.   It studied and borrowed heavy from every horror film that came before, took the best parts of them and literally threw it right in the audience’s faces.  If you did not know them before, Scream blatantly spelled out the rules of horror movies and wasted no efforts in trying to deceive you.   Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson took you for a ride and you knew exactly what was going to happen behind every turn.  And that’s exactly how they sucked you in.   They knew their demographics well and they didn’t treat you like bumbling idiots as many horror films before this did.  Instead, they made fun of the genre and at the same time they were able to throw in a few punches, jabs and surprises that you never saw coming.  In other words, they brilliantly conceived and near flawlessly executed their master plan.  At least that’s how I interpret the undeniable charm of Scream, even after all these years.  Of course, you may have your own take and thoughts on the matter (and I encourage those in the comment fields below).

However, one could also argue that Scream‘s style wasn’t as revolutionary as it’s hailed to be.  After all, John Carpenter’s Halloween also kind of followed the same formula way back in 1978 with straightforward killings and dialog that satirized the conventionalism of slasher films.  Regardless, Craven and Williamson obviously did something right as Scream went on to birth not one, not two, but three sequels.   Scream 4 will be released next month, April 15th.  Back in 1996 when it was released, Scream was not only a box office success, but it also took home such honors as Best Movie at the MTV Movie Awards, various Saturn Awards and even Grand Prize at the Gerardmer Film Festival.  The critics seemed to really dig it too.  So if you are still one of those that argue and say Scream did little for the horror genre, then you are truly lost in the minority.  I mean, how can so many people be wrong?   It’s not possible.  That’s like saying Sucker Punch is not a good film.

But as usual, I digress.  I know you are not supposed to start a sentence, whether lone a paragraph, with the word “but,” but who cares?   It’s my review!  And speaking of Carpenter’s Halloween…come on…we’re getting back on topic here folks.  The 1978 film, among other horror franchises such as Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street, is referenced many times throughout the film.  Shall I even bother to count how many times?  The fact that the 1978 movie and music play prominently throughout the film is enough evidence, I think, for me to spare you from listing just how many Halloween references were really made during the film’s 110-minute runtime.   Perhaps that’s why so many horror fans find Scream appealing.   It reminds them of all their slasher favorites and at the same time you not only get the obligatory killings, but much needed laughs too.  I don’t know.  It’s just a theory.  It works for me.

Scream stars Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courtney Cox , Rose McGowan and a much younger Drew Barrymore.  The film takes place in the fictional town of Woodsboro, CA, where a killer who dons a white ghost facemask plagues and terrorizes the city.  This killer is quite unconventional in their practice as they enjoy tormenting their victims with prank phone calls and satirist movie references.  Half the fun and charm of the movie is just listening to the killer either deliver clever blurbs of dialog or watching their clumsy mistakes.  You see, this killer is definitely no professional.  That much is obvious.  The killer’s main target is Sidney Prescott (Campbell).  Get used to that name because you will hear that name over and over in all the sequels.  Anyway, Sidney is a high school student whose mother fell victim to a brutal murder exactly one year earlier.  What I like about the Scream movies are that the films take on a “whodunit” type of mystery.  Many innocent people and even close friends of Sydney end up being made as suspects.  You are left guessing to the very end.  That’s why the movie is billed as a “clever thriller” and that’s why if you have never seen the Scream films, then you owe to yourself to at least give the first one a chance.  If nothing else, you will get a few laughs.  I promise.  That’s the magic formula of the franchise.  It will be interesting to see if they change, do anything different or reinvent themselves in anyway in the upcoming installment this April.  Until then, I’ll be waiting.

Video  

Lionsgate brings the first Scream film to the Blu-ray format with a modest and respectable 1080p AVC encoded transfer perfectly framed in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation.  Minimal levels of grain are present throughout, but they are never distracting.  Color balance and fine detail are two attributes I like to highlight here.  Just how many freckles does Neve have on her face?  I don’t know.  Why don’t you tell me!  Moving on…I’m fine with all the black levels.  There are no issues there.  Really, the only problem I had with this transfer is a few contrast issues here and there and softness dilemmas I found that plagued midrange shots.  Like I implied in the first sentence here, the transfer is respectable, but just not perfect.  However, I can think of plenty of newer films on the Blu-ray format that don’t look half as good as what we got here.  This is the best Scream has ever looked and this is the way it should be enjoyed.  Thanks Lionsgate!

Audio  

Perhaps what impresses me most about this catalog Blu-ray release is it’s audio.  Going in, I was expecting the surround track to be a dud.  Was I ever mistaken!  Scream’s lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix really delivers the goods.  The soundfield is most impressive here.  Effects are brilliantly balanced and harmoniously staged in their execution.  Everything from Ghostface’s disguised vocals to the subwoofer’s stabbing attacks are just spot on cue.  I could not be happier with how things turned out here.  I never saw this one coming.  To borrow from a band in the 90’s, Bush, it’s the “little things’ that kill here.  For example, a ringing telephone in this movie takes on a whole new meaning thanks to surround mix.  Like Leonardo DiCaprio’s last lines in Blood Diamond, I’m really happy to have known this audio track.

Special Features  

With the good usually comes the bad.  So let’s get this section over quickly.  This is always my least favorite section to review on a Blu-ray release especially when I have to tell my readers that the supplemental material is not in HD.  It’s always hard for me to be the bearer of bad news.  If it were not for the fun and witty commentary track, I would have given this section a much lower score.  Call me crazy, but don’t you think you would have promoted the fourth film a little more on this Blu-ray disc with I don’t know, maybe a little behind the scenes action on the set of the new film?

  • Audio Commentary – This is the crown jewel here in this section.   The commentary track contains a witty, funny and insightful conversation with Director Wes Craven and Writer Kevin Williamson.  You will pick up tons of little factoids you may have never known about this film.  I was certainly impressed.  I will let you discover this one for yourself.  I highly recommend this track.  The others…um…not so much.
  • Production Featurette (SD, 6:12) – It’s nothing more than what the title implies.  It’s basic, short and straight to the point.
  • Behind the Scenes: “On the Scream Set” and “Drew Barrymore” (SD) – These two scenes (less than 7 minutes combined) consist of Wes Craven interviews, behind the scenes footage and the famous opening scene starring none other than Drew Barrymore.
  • Q&A With The Cast and Crew (SD) – This special feature is split up into two questionings (totaling less than 6 minutes), “What is Your Favorite Scary Movie?” and “Why are People So Fascinated By Horror Films?”
  • Theatrical Trailer (SD)

Final Thoughts  

You can say what you want about the film, but even after all these years, Scream still remains a rare treat that’s responsible for breathing new life into the horror genre.  In my mind, Scream held the horror title until a new breed of PG-13 rated schlock took the world by storm, ushered by a champion known as The Ring.  Lionsgate brings the 1996 classic to the Blu-ray format with a respectable video transfer, an exceptional 5.1 lossless surround mix and a handful of special features that Scream fans will care about, albeit nothing new.   So what are you waiting for?  Hit that link below and order yourself a copy today!  Every horror fan needs this one in their collection.  Hurry, operators are standing by!

Stills above are used from blu-ray.com.

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Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

9 Responses to “Scream (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Gerard Iribe

    Is this the UNRATED cut or the R rated cut? Way back in the day I had the LD version which was uncut and had more gore.

  2. Aaron Neuwirth

    Well Wes Craven did make the worst film of 2010, so I’m still highly skeptical about Scream 4, but we’ll see I guess. At least I can revisit the original (and the first sequel, which I do like quite a bit) on Blu.

  3. Brian White

    Wow! I did not know there was an unrated cut. This is definitely not the unrated version.

  4. Gerard Iribe

    Yeah, it had like 10-20 seconds of added gore/blood/violence to it. It may sound like nothing, but those scenes were really cool. I’d rather not spoil it on here for those that haven’t seen the film yet. In fact, I thought the previous Dimension 2 disc dvd set had the Unrated cut. I don’t remember.

  5. Sean Ferguson

    What a bloodthirsty group we have here! 🙂

  6. Aaron Neuwirth

    You’d have to see it to know, as I don’t think it was ever billed as an “Unrated Cut” it just happens to have those extra moments left in. Like the Cable version (HBO or whatever) wouldn’t show the full cut, but the laserdisc did for whatever reason. Probably because it was before the idea of marketing “Unrated Version” became so popular.

  7. Brian White

    Yeah…I’ll tell you what..I’m not going to lose any sleep over 10-20 seconds worth of extra footage 🙂

  8. Gerard Iribe

    Brian, look at it this way…imagine them taking away 20 seconds of violence, gore, blood from the remake of I Spit On Your Grave.

    Yeah.

  9. Eddie

    There was 6 secs more. I’m trying to track a copy down, although if you search youtube for Scream director’s cut it is on there in about 10 parts. Although obviously a very small difference it is the way Wes wanted it and he did hisbest to have it kept in.