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Scream: The Ultimate Collection
10-12-2007, 06:06 AM
Review Date: October 12, 2007
Released by: Dimension Home Video
Release date: 9/26/2000
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: No (Scream)
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes (Scream 2 and Scream 3)
Eleven years ago, horror master Wes Craven and hotshot writer Kevin Williamson unleashed upon audiences a thriller called Scream. Although many in the film industry predicted it would sink at the box office, the movie quickly gained momentum with teenage audiences, resulting in a massively profitable franchise, innumerable imitators and significant controversy. Though not reviewed or discussed much today, the films are still important and worthy of another look...
WARNING: Contains spoilers
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot1s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot1l.jpg)We open at a farmhouse in the countryside, as a teenager named Casey (Drew Barrymore) makes popcorn and prepares to watch a movie. The phone rings. She answers, and is confronted by the somewhat sinister sounding voice of a man who keeps saying he wants to talk to her. After hanging up on him several times, he calls back and the two enter into a friendly discussion about horror films. But the conversation goes downhill when Casey realizes that the caller is watching her through the house’s large windows. Knowing that she is all alone, Casey starts to get freaked out. The man calls back and tells her to look out onto the back porch, where she sees her boyfriend Steve (Kevin Patrick Walls) bound and gagged. The caller tells Casey that they are going to play a horror movie trivia game, and if she answers the questions correctly, Steve will be allowed to live. She gets the first question right, but when asked who the killer is in the original Friday the 13th, she incorrectly answers Jason Vorhees, causing Steve to be disemboweled. Suddenly, an assailant wearing a black costume cape and a ghost mask bursts into the house and chases Casey outside, where she is slaughtered and hung from a tree.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot2s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot2l.jpg)We are next introduced to Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), an attractive teenage girl who is living with a terribly sad burden. A year earlier, her mother was raped and then killed in a brutal slaying that shocked her small town. The man convicted of her murder admitted to having an affair with her, but denied actually killing her. Sidney’s mother had a reputation for being the town slut, something that Sidney has tried to deny. Ever since the murder, the still virginal Sidney has had intimacy issues, causing much frustration for her boyfriend Billy (Skeet Ulrich)
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot3s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot3l.jpg)Arriving at her high school the next day, Sidney is shocked to discover a media circus as reporters and camera crews converge on the town. Her best friend Tatum (Rose McGowan) tells her about the killings, and we are introduced to two of Sidney’s other friends, Tatum’s boyfriend Stu (Matthew Lillard) and geeky video store clerk Randy (Jamie Kennedy). To Sidney’s dismay, the crimes have also drawn the hated journalist Gail Weathers (Courtney Cox) to the school. Gail works for a tabloid news show that ran many exploitive stories about the death of Sidney’s mother, and Gail herself is writing a book about the case claiming that the wrong man was convicted. Not surprisingly, Sidney doesn’t think too highly of her.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot4s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot4l.jpg)Sidney’s father is away on a business trip, and that night she finds herself alone at home. The phone rings and, even though she doesn’t realize it, the voice on the line is that of the same man who called Casey previously. He tries to draw her into a discussion about horror movies, but Sidney isn’t a horror fan. She eventually becomes nervous about the caller, and she is suddenly assaulted by the same attacker wearing the ghost costume. Sidney runs up to her bedroom and barricades the door, and the killer, unable to get in, runs off. Suddenly Billy appears at the window, seemingly there to rescue her. But as he is comforting her, a cell phone falls out of his pocket. Realizing that the killer had to have been calling her on a cell phone, Sidney panics and runs downstairs where she meets Dewey Riley (David Arquette), a sheriff’s deputy - and Tatum’s older brother - who has responded to a 911 call she placed. Billy is placed under arrest, but is released the next morning when phone records reveal he didn’t make the call Sidney received.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot15s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot15l.jpg)The killer is still on the loose, and a curfew is placed over the terrified town that night as Stu throws a wild party at his house for his fellow students. But before the night is over, the murderer will strike again and again, forcing Sidney herself into a confrontation that will reveal not just the killer’s identity, but also the real secret of her mother’s murder...
Before we even delve into the qualities of Scream as a movie, it might be useful to revisit the controversy that erupted because of it within the horror fan community, which found itself in a state of virtual civil war for several years as the arguments over the merits and demerits of Scream raged back and forth on newsgroups and message boards. Never before or since have I witnessed a genre film that has provoked such a bitter and divided response for such a long period. The following comments were posted on the alt.horror newsgroup between 1997-98, and will give you an idea of just how embittered or enamored some fans were of the movie:
Even though I dislike many horror films, I do think that "Scream" is worlds better then that overrated "Halloween." Scream is much faster paced then Halloween. When I was watching Scream, I could'nt take my eyes off the screen. When I saw Halloween, I kept checking my watch. Halloween is boring, and not the least bit suspenseful. – 7/29/1997
It was made for the 13-19 year old crowd. I'm a little older that that and am insulted by the fact that all "horror" coming out is brainless shit for the MTV generation. – 1/16/1998
I don't mind Scream but I do not like the way people bash it because it is popular. If it were made 20 years ago in Italy and very few people had heard of it then it would be the most praised film on this newsgroup. – 7/14/1998
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot16s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot16l.jpg)The popularity of Scream amongst the young adult demographic essentially revealed the generation gap between older horror fans who had been around long enough to have either seen the slasher classics theatrically, or who at least had been old enough to have seen them on their initial home video releases, and younger neophyte fans who may have been familiar with the older slasher films but did not hold them near and dear to their hearts the way the elders did. This conflict was in many ways irrelevant to how good or bad Scream really was.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot10s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot10l.jpg)From the start, Scream was a youth phenomenon. When I began my freshman year of high school in the fall of 1997, I distinctly remember a number of my classmates listing it as their favorite movie. Something about it clicked with them. But it did not click with the older fans who generally seemed to dislike the movie, or at least dismiss it as a minor and overrated film. Although I do not want to seem dismissive of these older fans, by and large their complaints seemed shortsighted and reactionary. Many complained that the teenage Scream fans – the “Screamy Boppers”, as they liked to refer to them – were calling the film the end all of horror movies. They were claiming it was the best horror film ever made, and all other horror films they saw were being judged in comparison to it.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot12s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot12l.jpg)The “Screamy Bopper” notion that Scream was the best horror movie ever made was hilariously naïve, but the sentiment was at least understandable. It was a result of teenage exuberance. An adolescent who only has a limited frame of reference and critical perspective can be forgiven if they make such an egregious error. When you’re a teenager all you’re experiences seem bigger and more important than they would to an older observer. But the older horror fans who complained about the wanton love for Scream should have known better and understood this.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot8s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot8l.jpg)A frequent complaint amongst older fans was the self-referential style of Scream, in which the “rules” of modern horror films are exposed and even turned into objects of humor. They complained that this turned the genre into a big joke. But yet the horror genre – or at least the slasher subgenre – had already turned itself into a joke with its trend towards lowbrow shocks, formulaic plots and endless sequels. At the top of the slasher subgenre there is a very small handful of films which can be counted as genuine masterpieces (particularly Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street). Below that is a larger number of films which, while not masterpieces, are well put together and highly entertaining in their own right (Friday the 13th, Prom Night, etc). Below that are a huge number of mediocre films which never rise above the mundane (most of the franchise sequels). And below that we have the slasher films that are downright awful. Want to know how bad it can get? Call up some of the reviews written by my colleague Rhett of crap like The Forest and Don’t Go in the Woods. When you come down to it, making fun of the clichés of the slasher subgenre is a lot like making fun of an overweight child. The insult hurts because the kid knows that it’s true. The Scream insult hurt older fans because they knew it was true.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot5s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot5l.jpg)I can go on and on talking about this, about the way the older fans complained that Scream set off a wave of mindless teen horror movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer (which seems unfair – how many crappy rip-offs did Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street all collectively spawn, after all?), or the fact that the movie featured a hip cast of teenage TV stars (a logical casting choice, since it was aimed at the teen market) but there’s no need. If I have not changed anybody’s mind by this point, I probably never will.
So now that I have cleared the air, what do I think of Scream? I think it’s a great movie. It’s not a masterpiece, but it is a minor classic, one that will withstand the test of time the same way that only the very best of the 80’s horror films will.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot7s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot7l.jpg)What Scream does so well is that it is able to point out the unofficial rules of surviving a horror film, mock those rules, break them, and ultimately still work as a slasher film. Casting Drew Barrymore as the first murder victim immediately confounds the expectations of the audience. The opening murder scene is both disturbing and beautifully filmed, even in its R-rated version. If a major starlet such as Barrymore is allowed to be so viciously killed in the opening minutes of the movie, then audiences have no assurance that the rest of the cast is not in similar danger, thus increasing the suspense. If Drew can die so horribly, then anyone else can as well. It is an unnerving feeling, but one that is ultimately a tease on the audience, since the most likeable actors all show up alive and well in the sequel.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot14s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot14l.jpg)Once the plot starts developing in earnest, Craven and Williamson skillfully weave two separate storylines into one. The first storyline is the plot of the murders themselves, while the second is Sidney’s gradual realization and acceptance of the fact that she was wrong about both her mother’s life and her death (for those who have not seen the film, the murder of Sidney’s mother is not useless backstory baggage – it really does play a role in the plot). Of course, the secondary storyline has a subordinate role to the murders, and Williamson’s script by and large does a good job of making the average viewer off balance trying to guess who the murderer(s) might really be. The tricky task of mixing the killers with the obligatory red herrings and generic side characters – something that has been the downfall of many otherwise well made giallos – is craftily handled by the script, which also succeeds in isolating characters at critical moments. Each time the killer calls or strikes, there is always a hefty reservoir of characters unaccounted for who could be the murderer.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot11s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot11l.jpg)The movie is helped along by its cast of young performers, some of whom had made their names on the various teenage TV dramas that were so prevalent in the 90’s. Although this was much criticized, for the most part the young cast takes possession of their roles, to the point where it becomes difficult to see any other actors in those same parts. Neve Campbell projects a near perfect mix of innocence, strength and confusion that is so necessary to showing Sidney as a believable character. Jamie Kennedy nails the role of Randy flat on, while Matthew Lillard’s histrionics during the movie’s climax are absolutely hilarious. The only weak link is Skeet Ulrich. His character is supposed to regularly alternate between being normal and innocent and being sinister and possibly the killer. But there’s just something about the character that just isn’t right, and when it is revealed that he is one of the murderers, it is only a surprise because of Williamson’s script, which tricks us by not tricking us. By having Billy arrested for the crimes during the first third of the movie, the audience identifies him as an obvious red herring who can’t actually be the killer. When Billy’s guilt is revealed, it came as a surprise to many audience members who had been conditioned by other movies to believe that the most obvious suspect couldn’t possibly be the actual killer.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot17s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot17l.jpg)This DVD edition of Scream is actually a simple repackaging of an earlier special edition that had been released in 1998. As a result, there are several things about it which are representative of how studios treated their movies in the early days of the format. The first is the non-anamorphic transfer (more on that later). The second is the fact that this is the R-rated version of the film, as opposed to the unrated version that was available on laserdisc. At this point in time studios were often reluctant to release unrated product. Laserdisc was a niche format, hard to use compared to a VCR and prohibitively expensive to many consumers. But DVD was a mass-market format and thus the rules were different. Dimension Home Video, being a subsidiary of Buena Vista, which was itself a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company, probably had its hands firmly tied by corporate policy. Not surprisingly, the Japanese DVD, which featured a 16x9 enhanced transfer of the unrated version, complete with the U.S. disc’s supplements, was a popular import until it went out of print.
The unrated version contains the following changes:
During the opening scene, the death of Casey’s boyfriend is noticeably more graphic. The shot in which Casey’s dead body is shown hanging from the tree (the camera literally moves towards her body) is shown at normal speed in the unrated version, but is sped up in the R-rated version.
During Tatum’s death later in the movie, the unrated version has an extra shot of her head being crushed.
When Gail’s cameraman has his throat cut, the unrated version features an extra shot of his face as he dies.
When Billy and Stu are stabbing each at the climax, the unrated version is more graphic in depicting Billy’s assault on Stu. Also, the unrated version features an extra shot of blood dripping from Stu’s hand into a puddle.
The fact that Dimension could not release the unrated version is unfortunate, and for the many consumers who owned the uncut laserdisc it is a frustrating example of a corporate double standard.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot18s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot18l.jpg)Scream 2 takes place two years after the events in the first film. Sidney has finally started to move on from her experiences with the murders. She and Randy are attending the prestigious Windsor College, she has a steady relationship with a beefy fratboy named Derek (Jerry O’Connell) and she’s being wooed by one of the campus sororities. Of course, there are still reminders of what happened to her, particularly the new release of a movie called “Stab”, which is based on the book that Gale Weathers wrote about the killings.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot19s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot19l.jpg)At the local premiere of “Stab” two students from the college are brutally slashed to death. The resulting media feeding frenzy brings an army of reporters to the campus, amongst them Gale herself. Gale brings with her Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber), the man who was originally convicted in the death of Sidney’s mother, and who spent a year on death row before events of the first film revealed his innocence. Cotton is desperate for some of the fame that Gale and Sidney have acquired. Meanwhile, Dewey also shows up at the college, concerned about Sidney’s safety and well being. His injuries from the first film have left him permanently disabled, resulting in a very premature retirement from the police force.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot20s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot20l.jpg)Another murder occurs, this time claiming the life of a preppy sorority girl named Cici (Sarah Michelle Geller). This is followed up by a failed attack on Sidney that leaves Derek wounded. From there the bodies begin to pile up, and it becomes obvious that somebody is trying to write a real-life sequel to Sidney’s story...
The tremendous popularity of the first Scream made a sequel inevitable, much to the chagrin of those who didn’t appreciate the existence of the original. Yet a sequel offered fresh territory to continue exploring the conventions of the slasher genre. After all, what’s a good splatter flick without five or six sequels to back it up? In fact, for that reason Scream practically demanded a sequel.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot21s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot21l.jpg)Scream 2 contains all the aesthetic elements that make for a successful slasher movie, but it lacks much of the wit and ingenuity that made the first film so good. The violence is brutal, and the blood flows noticeably more freely than it did in the R-rated cut of the original. But the story and direction are lacking, and the script was clearly written in a tremendous hurry. The movie premiered almost exactly one year after the first film debuted, and I assume that not only was Williamson distracted by his own duties as a television writer and producer, but that he also had to hurry so that the film could be shot in that limited window of opportunity when Courtney Cox and Neve Campbell were not needed on the sets of their respective TV shows. In addition to that, there were numerous rewrites to the script while shooting was actually occurring, including changes made because plot details were leaked onto the Internet. All these elements add up to a script that never quite seems to form a cohesive whole.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot23s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot23l.jpg)Whereas the original film played a skillful balancing act between traditional slasher thrills and spoofing the conventions of the genre, Scream 2 jettisons much of that latter element in favor of the former, with more emphasis on suspense and shocks. In one respect this is not such a bad thing. Wes Craven, a wise and experienced horror professional, was navigating familiar waters here and knew how to mount a good kill. In fact, there are several scenes in Scream 2 that equal the power and intensity of Drew Barrymore’s death scene in the original (which was the best death in the entire movie). Thanks to Craven’s skillful handling of the horror scenes, the movie is never boring. What the movie is, though, is repetitive. The slashings, the chases and the scares all start to seem the same after awhile. We’ve seen this all before in too many other movies.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot22s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot22l.jpg)Kevin Williamson’s script shows some initial promise, despite some contrived plotting needed to bring together all the surviving characters from the first movie. Early on in the film there is a scene in which Randy, attending a film theory class, engages in a heated discussion with his classmates about the nature of sequels, and then later on him and Dewey have an in-depth discussion about horror movie sequels. Yet Williamson makes a huge mistake by killing off Randy midway through the film. His death is a powerful blow to audiences who assumed that such a likeable character would never be allowed to die, yet Williamson doesn’t have any other film knowledgeable characters to take his place. With the mouthpiece of horror movie wisdom dead, Williamson has no choice but to charge full steam ahead with pure horror elements.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot25s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot25l.jpg)Ultimately the script is lacking in another important area, one which makes it far too easy to solve the mystery. In the mad rush of stabbings, slashings and slicings that is the final third of the film, it becomes easy for an objective viewer to properly deduce the true identity of the killer. All they have to do is be aware of the one character who inexplicably drops out of sight for the entire last half of the movie. Said audience member might have a more difficult time figuring out who the killer’s puppet master is, but even that shouldn’t be too hard. Neither Craven nor Williamson seem to be putting a lot of effort into disguising the identities of the murderer and his helper. This is a regrettable step down from the intricate efforts both men made to disguise the identities of the murderers in the original Scream. The changes made in order to keep plot spoilers off the Internet were ultimately self-defeating. It prevented those walking into the theater in 1997 from knowing the film’s ending, but when the projector started rolling it made it easier for those viewers to unravel the mystery on their own.
Although decently entertaining, the movie is disappointingly inferior to the original. Perhaps Williamson knew it would be when he had Randy tell another character that sequels by definition are inferior to the originals. In the case of Scream 2, he was certainly right.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot26s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot26l.jpg)This brings us to Scream 3, which takes place two years after the events at Windsor College. Cotton Weary is now a celebrity with a hit talk show, and we catch up with him as he sits in the busy traffic of a Los Angeles freeway. He receives a call on his cell phone from what appears at first to be an admiring female fan, but then the caller suddenly takes on the now familiar voice used by the murderers in the previous films. The voice informs him that he is in Cotton’s house watching his girlfriend take a shower, and if he doesn’t tell him where Sidney is, he’ll kill her. Cotton races back to his house where he and his girlfriend both meet a grisly death at the hands of a maniac wearing the obligatory ghost costume. At the scene of the crime the killer leaves an old photograph of Sidney’s late mother, apparently taken when she was a very young woman.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot27s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot27l.jpg)As for Sidney, she has now retreated into complete isolation, living all alone in a rural house in northern California where she is protected by an electronic security system and doors with multiple locks on them. She works under a pseudonym as a phone counselor for women in crisis. But her isolation is about to be disrupted by the events in Hollywood. Right before he died, Cotton had finished filming a cameo for “Stab 3”, a fictionalized continuation of Sidney’s story. The production on the film is continuing under the direction of the unhappy Roman Bridger (Scott Folley) and is being overseen by John Milton (Lance Henricksen), a veteran producer of horror films.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot28s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot28l.jpg)Gale is approached by Detective Mark Kincaid (Patrick Dempsey) of the LAPD. He shows her the picture left at the crime scene, and, being the foremost authority on the previous murders, she agrees to help, and she quickly joins forces with Dewey, who is serving as technical consultant on “Stab 3”. More murders follow Cotton’s death, with more pictures of Sidney’s mother placed at the crime scenes. Whoever the killer is, he has a link to Sidney, and it won’t be until she comes out of hiding to face this new maniac that she will learn the truth about her mother’s sordid past.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot29s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot29l.jpg)I saw Scream 3 theatrically in the winter of 2000. As I left the theater, I realized that the thing I had enjoyed the most about the film was a surprise cameo from Kevin Smith’s immortal creations, Jay and Silent Bob. It was a clear sign as to the lack of impact the movie had on me.
Although Wes Craven is still onboard as director, Scream 3 is missing the direct involvement of Kevin Williamson, who was unable to write the formal screenplay since he was busy working on his directorial debut film, Teaching Ms. Tingle (now when’s the last time you heard anybody mention that one?...heh). Williamson is listed as an executive producer, and he did sketch out the basic story for the film, but it was left up to relative newcomer Ehren Krueger to write the formal screenplay, to good and bad effect. Whereas Scream 2 did too little to integrate its plot with the conventions of horror movie sequels, Scream 3 is much more successful at combining its story with the conventions of a trilogy, the guidelines of which are helpfully laid out by the deceased Randy in a videotape that the characters watch. Krueger is also able to successfully capture the interplay between characters that existed in the previous films.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot30s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot30l.jpg)Nevertheless, the film’s production was plagued by the same chaos that hurt Scream 2 so much, in the form of hastily written scenes, seemingly endless rewrites and quite a bit of re-shot footage. Kruger’s participation also results in a lot of needless garbage being thrown into the story. Want cheesy dream sequences of Sidney’s mother as a zombie, or a gigantic, colossal explosion that rivals anything put in a formal action movie? Well, he’s thrown both of them in. And, in the most unfortunate story aspect of them all, Sidney – the leading lady for the two previous films, the girl that everyone in the audience was rooting for – is demoted to a secondary character. For the first half of the movie she is kept out of the action and mostly kept off-screen, emerging only when the plot cannot move forward without her presence. Although this was necessary from a production standpoint (they only had Neve Campbell available for twenty days worth of shooting), it awkwardly forces David Arquette and Courtney Cox to carry with movie without her.
In general, Scream 3 seems tired out and derivative. Craven’s direction of the murder set pieces, which had been razor sharp in the previous films, lacks energy (rumor has always had it that Craven only agreed to direct it after he was given the green light on Music of the Heart). Neve Campbell looks like she doesn’t want to be there, and it’s clear that by this point she would have preferred to have seen her career going in a different direction.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot33s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot33l.jpg)Yet, if nothing else, Scream 3 at least does a good job of wrapping up the series. In the special features on this release it is repeatedly stated that Scream was always meant to be a trilogy. This comes straight out of the mouths of Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson, and with all due respect to both men, I regard their statements as utter bullshit, something said by them for publicity purposes (I suspect that the trilogy idea was only adopted after the principals involved realized that the series would cease to become respectable if it extended beyond a third movie). The reality is that slasher movies just don’t lend themselves to the trilogy format because it is simply too easy to bring the killer back for another round of mayhem. You can cut off Michael Myers’ head, put an axe through Jason’s face, or send Freddy to hell for what seems the final time, but what does it matter? They’re just going to be resurrected again. Even in the Scream series, where the badguys are always mortal, there never seems to be a shortage of fresh recruits to put on the ghost costume. But Scream 3 does a surprisingly good job of tying up all the loose ends. As disappointed as viewers might be with the film’s mediocrity, by the time the final scene fades to black we at least get the satisfaction that comes with the sense of closure the movie provides. We genuinely believe that this is the end of the series, and that for Sidney the nightmare is finally over, and she will be able to live free of the terror that for so many years has taken over her life.
So there you have it, the great Scream trilogy. For a series of fairly recent films that were such an amazingly popular phenomenon, the movies seem to be virtually forgotten by horror fans today. In fact, a check of the “Track the films you watch” threads that we run on our forums here reveals only a very, very limited number of listings for the movies since 2004. But perhaps this isn’t such a bad thing. As long as they were popular, emotions amongst fans were destined to run high. With them no longer as popular, the issue has largely disappeared, and although the sequels may never regain that popularity, there is little doubt in my mind that someday Scream will be remembered as the great horror film that it is.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot6s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_shot6l.jpg)As noted before, this box set features a repackaging of the 1998 Scream special edition, which itself ported over its transfer from an earlier DVD edition released in 1997. For a ten year-old non-anamorphic transfer, the disc doesn’t look too bad. The film was brand new when the 1997 release hit stores, and film elements it was struck from were almost flawless, with only a few specks and blemishes apparent throughout the entire film. Outdoor exteriors look great, with excellent colors and clarity, and above average shadow detail during night scenes. However, when the action is taken inside some of that clarity is lost, with poorer shadow detail and occasional color bleeding.
Scream 2 and Scream 3 are given 16x9 enhanced transfers in their original 2.35:1 aspect ratios. Both have that slick, glossy look to them that you’d expect from Hollywood movies, with excellent clarity and contrast, great shadow detail and flawless film elements. The only significant flaw is in the transfer of Scream 2, which features strange variations in color saturation, with colors becoming strangely brighter or duller, sometimes during the same shot! Certain shots will literally fade or brighten for no apparent reason. Bizarre.
All three films are presented in Dolby 5.1 Surround, and all three are well designed and well reproduced by these discs with a great use of rear channels and a good balance between dialogue, sound effects and music.
Scream contains optional English subtitles. The two sequels have both English and Spanish subtitles. The two sequels also feature French 5.1 Surround tracks.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_p1menus.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_p1menul.jpg)Not only does the disc for each individual movie contain its own supplemental material, but this set also includes a bonus DVD of special features.
The biggest extra for Scream is an audio commentary with Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson. Unfortunately, it is a little bit of a snoozer, with lots of quiet spots that provide annoying dead space. It should also be noted that this is actually the commentary track from the laserdisc – or, to be more specific, the unrated laserdisc. Somebody took advantage of the track’s numerous dead spots and edited it to sync up with the R-rated version. Unfortunately on the laserdisc Craven and Williamson always take time to point out footage that was cut by the MPAA, and nobody bothered to edit these comments out for the DVD, so we’re left listening to them as they discuss footage which is no longer there.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_eshot1s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_eshot1l.jpg)Next up, we have a useless “making-of” featurette that is made up mostly of clips from the movie, and several behind the scenes footage segments that are more interesting, including a look at the filming of Drew Barrymore’s death scene.
These are followed by two theatrical trailers, seven TV spots, a short still gallery of special effects concept drawings, some unusually in-depth talent bios, several question and answer session segments with the cast and crew (topics covered: what everyone’s favorite horror movies are, and why audiences in general are so attracted to them) and some film trivia.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_p2menus.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_p2menul.jpg)The special features for Scream 2 kick off with a mediocre commentary track featuring Wes Craven, editor Patrick Lussier and producer Marianne Maddalena. The commentary starts off bad but improves slightly as the movie progresses. The most striking thing about it is just how confused even they seem to be about how many different versions of the script there were and how many alternate plotlines existed, which I think is a telling sign of how chaotic Kevin Williamson’s contribution to the film came out to be. Since the original 1998 DVD release of this title had no real special features, they had to be created for this box set, and the commentary here wasn’t recorded until 2000. It certainly sounds like the memories of all three could have used a little jogging.
The next extra on the disc is a useless “making-of” featurette that runs about seven minutes and is little more than a studio fluff piece that may have originally been intended to be used as promotional material.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_eshot2s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_eshot2l.jpg)Next up we have two deleted scenes, and about nine minutes worth of outtakes. The first deleted scene simply shows Derek and another student bringing coffee and doughnuts to Sidney and her roommate. The scene adds nothing to the movie and cutting it was a wise choice. The next scene is a little more interesting. It is an alternate version of the classroom scene where Randy discusses the nature of sequels with other students. The original version features mostly different actors, somewhat different dialog and is set in an auditorium instead of a classroom. The scenes are included with optional commentary by Craven, Maddalena and Lussier.
Two music videos of songs from the film’s soundtrack are also included. The first is a song called “Scream” from a rapper named Master P. The song itself isn’t very good, but the video is appropriately trippy and macabre. The second video is from a group of white rappers calling themselves the Kotton Mouth Kings for a song called “Suburban Life”.
The disc is finished off by a theatrical trailer, nine TV spots and some talent bios for the cast and crew.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_p3menus.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_p3menul.jpg)Wes Craven, Marianne Maddalena and Patrick Lussier are also on hand for a commentary track for Scream 3. This time the three are much more on the ball, and provide a very illuminating discussion of the film’s development, including the numerous rewrites and alternate plots that were considered. Unlike their track for the second film, this one never drags.
Eschewing the “making of” fluff piece included on the other discs, this one instead features six minutes of behind-the-scenes footage from all three films, providing a nice little retrospective on the making of all of them.
This is followed up by six and a half minutes worth of outtakes, an alternate ending that is only marginally different than the finished ending, and twelve and a half minutes worth of deleted scenes, including two alternate versions of Cotton Weary’s death scene. All are presented with commentary by Craven, Maddalena and Lussier.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_eshot4S.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_eshot4l.jpg)The supplements are finished off by a music video for the Creed song “What If?” (the video features members of the band being picked off by the killer, and even has David Arquette in it), a promotional trailer for the film’s soundtrack album, two theatrical trailers, an astounding fourteen TV (!!!) spots, and some talent bios.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_eshot5s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_eshot5l.jpg)The first extra on the bonus disc is a thirty-one minute retrospective documentary on the three films called Behind the Scream. This is the type of documentary that is only made by corporate-controlled DVD studios. It contains little real substance and is mostly filled with interview subjects who don’t do much other than kiss each other’s asses. It does provide a glimpse of the first film’s story development and pre-production phase, but other than that it’s mostly actors and producers who talk about how wonderful all the movies are and who heap gratuitous praise on Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_eshot8s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_eshot8l.jpg)This is followed by four minutes of outtakes from the first Scream, and the original screen tests for Neve Campbell, Jamie Kennedy and Skeet Ulrich. These are actually fascinating to watch, and Campbell manages to deliver a performance very similar to the one in the actual movie.
There is an interesting feature called “The Cutting Room”, which allows you to re-edit Cotton’s death scene from Scream 3, and it includes some footage which didn’t make the final cut of the movie. I played around with it for a few minutes, but quickly lost interest.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_eshot9s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/screambox/screambox_eshot9l.jpg)We also get some mock theatrical trailers for horror movies made by “Sunrise Studios”, which is the fictional production company that produces the “Stab” movies in the world of the Scream series. Some of the mock movies include things like “It Walked from the Waves”, “Frankenpimp” and “The 1st House on the Right”. Some of the mock trailers are amusing, but none are good and many are downright awful. The production values of some of them are also quite poor, leading me to suspect that Buena Vista solicited contributions from film schools or from the public at large.
The bonus disc also has talent bios for some of the usually unacknowledged members of the film crew, such as director of photography Peter Deming.
There is also included DVD-ROM content. There’s a trivia game, a “character web” that shows the intricate relationships between the characters in all the films, the complete scripts to all three films along with shot lists, a screensaver and some archived website pages for Scream 3 (these are on the disc itself, not weblinks).
A booklet of liner notes also comes with the set.
Here’s a question for you – what is Neve Campbell up to these days? Or, what is Courtney Cox doing now that Friends is off the air? What’s David Arquette doing, other than being married to her? When was the last time you heard anyone in the entertainment media mention Kevin Williamson? In all probability, you don’t know the answers to most these questions, unless you’re an especially active TV viewer or have been specifically following their careers. The reason for this is that none of the individuals I’ve just mentioned has done much of note since the Scream series ended. Although Wes Craven - whose career had started to sag thanks to forgettable movies like Vampire in Brooklyn - received a boost from the series, most of his collaborators have seen their careers stagnate. All of them have continued working, but nobody has been able to recapture the success they once had.
Overall this set is only slightly above average. The non-anamorphic, R-rated transfer of the first film, two mediocre commentary tracks and general over-reliance on promotional material instead of real supplements all serve to drag it down, and the bonus disc adds little extra value. This release is out of print, but, in another sign of the way the series’ popularity has declined, it is cheap and easy to find. All three films are also available individually with the same on-disc extras. If nothing else, though, this set is a good way for a collector to consolidate all three movies into one package.
Movie – A-
Image Quality – B
Sound – A
Movie – B-
Image Quality – B+
Sound – A
Movie – C
Image Quality – A
Sound – A
Supplements – B+
Running Time – Scream - 1 hour 51 minutes
Running Time – Scream 2 – 2 hours
Running Time - Scream 3 – 1 hour 56 minutes
English 5.1 Surround
French 5.1 Surround
English and Spanish subtitles
Special effects still gallery
Q&A with cast and crew
The Cutting Room
Sunrise Studios trailers
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Ash J. Williams
10-12-2007, 07:27 AM
Awesome fucking review.
10-12-2007, 10:18 AM
Thorough and incredibly perceptive. I really liked the way you brought in your own viewing experiences with the films, because like you said, these films are definitely of a time and place. Those alt.horror posts were nice and researched, too, keener. That's why we pay you the big bucks. Err, well...the cheque's in the mail.
10-12-2007, 11:49 AM
Words simply cannot describe how much you rock right now!
Sorry if that sounded like a 14 year old girl. Must be over-dosing on the Scrubs or something. :lol:
10-12-2007, 10:24 PM
Great review, especially of the first two films and the supplemental material. I saw Scream in the theater twice and really enjoyed it, especially the self-referential bits, which is what hurt the sequel for me too. It's a shame that there were sequels as I feel they only served to dilute the original. (And a shame about that missing unrated content and poor commentary on the original film).
10-13-2007, 06:28 AM
Thanks for this review! Glad to see some Scream love, even if it is only for the first film ;)
I don't really agree with you on your review of the 2nd film, even though I can't deny the flaws you mention. Thing is, they never really felt like flaws to me and didn't ruin my enjoyment of the film. That said, I saw it when I was 14 years old, an avid Scream-fan already, and so it has a very certain nostalgic quality in my heart. But, like you say, there are a handful of ingenious scenes in that film, and at least it is smarter than a LOT of other films in the same genre. Even if it does fail on some intellectual level (and I'm not saying it does, because I think it works), at least it tries, which is a lot more than can be said about 90% of all Hollywood films made today.
As for Scream 3, I totally agree with what you say BUT, I'd just like to take a reference you made towards the "older generation's" reaction to the original film and apply it to the third one: If Scream 3 were an Italian production from the 80s, we'd all ADORE it! I mean, come on: It's about making movies. It's got crazy dream-sequences that come from nowhere. It's got a climax set in a mansion with a lot of horror-film props. The identity of the killer is horrendously ineffective and stupid. And back to the climax, it's practically an insane chase sequence that runs a bit too long, but has plenty of crazy shenanigans going on. It's FUN. I really hated it when I saw it theatrically, but have learned to respect it, if not genuinely love it, on DVD since then.
But, yeah, great review! Good to see some real talk about these much-maligned films :)
10-21-2007, 10:12 PM
WOW! What an amazing review!
For those who are looking for a strong transfer, an HD version will be coming up on Starz HD this Saturday Oct 27th.
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