When you look back at the 90s in retrospect, the horror output seems better than it really was. You’ve got In The Mouth Of Madness, From Dusk Til Dawn, Dead Aive and a variety of others, but there were really only enough GREAT films to fill up a Top 20 for the decade. After wallowing in (fun) stupidity for the entirety of the 80s, the genre slowly began gravitating away from functioning in excess by default – after all, you can only be considered over-the-top and boundary pushing for so long before everyone starts copying you and you seem boring in comparison. With only two or three memorable horror films materializing every year, something really needed to be done. Something that would completely tear down the genre and rebuild it from the ground up. Something like Scream.
Like Randy Meeks, the “horror guru” of the film played by Jamie Kennedy, Scream is successful because it knows the ins-and-outs, plots, plot holes, and clichés of every major horror film known to man. But the awareness present in Kevin Williamson’s script, the real star of the film, is what keeps the audience hooked, effortless playing with the conventions and using them for laughs and legitimate scares. It’s that break in between laughing at how self-aware the film is for presenting a cliché situation and the unexpected jolt – courtesy of Wes Craven’s tight direction – that follows shortly after that created a brand new wave of horror (and, interestingly enough, its release coincided with the amount of homes with caller-ID tripling in America). The approach was often imitated, but never duplicated to quite the same success.
That is, unless you count Scream 2. Slashing its way across screens a mere year later, it takes the “life imitating art”/crossover of realities idea that was touched upon in the original and goes full-throttle with it, sadly coming across a little heavy handed at times. Still, Williamson’s script keeps its charm and, watching it again for the first time in years, is much funnier than I remember it. The way Sidney (Neve Campbell), the series’ token survivor girl, comes across is actually the most off-putting thing about the film; although she’s been through a lot, it was an odd choice to make her come off as a bitch. She’s bound to have trust issues after what happened in the first film, but she’s directly responsible for at least two characters’ deaths by way of her stupidity.
Scream 3, despite being labeled as the black sheep of the franchise, is more a victim of its own success rather than being a truly terrible, awful film on its own merits. With Williamson sitting out this time around, newcomer (at the time, anyway) Ehren Kruger’s script doesn’t have the sharp tongue and wit of its predecessors, coming across as a huge disappointment in comparison and average, or slightly below, when compared to slashers in general. It’s basically a carbon copy of the meta approach of the second film and is generally unfunny overall. In the end, it wraps up the trilogy – not as memorably as some of us might have liked, mind you – and ultimately suffers because the series had already run the gamut with horror clichés and there wasn’t much left to lampoon. The brightest spot of the film is the revolving door of cameos, including a supporting turn from Parker Posey as Jennifer Jolie, an actress playing Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) in Stab 3. But seriously, when is Parker Posey not a highlight of any film she’s in?
But the real question here isn’t whether or not these films are worth a damn; odds are, you already own the special edition DVDs and have seen one or all of these dozens of times. The issue at hand is if the Blu-Rays are worth upgrading for. And the answer is simple: it kind of depends what you really want out of them.
Lionsgate’s 1080p encodes are incredible across all three discs, and is a night-and-day comparison when looking at its DVD counterparts. There are some small differences between the PQ of the three films, though overall they have great color saturation (red and blacks especially… obviously), a natural grainy appearance and crisp details. Scream is a bit softer in appearance than it’s sequels, flesh tones seem a bit off in Scream 2, and Scream 3 falls somewhere in between. Each disc also includes a very strong DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, capturing the gravely tone of Ghostface’s voice perfectly and recreating the busy, jokey ambiance of the films. The dialogue is completely intact – with the score never overpowering it – and it’s loud but crisp. In terms of AQ and PQ, these Blu-Ray ports are definitely worth upgrading for.
The special features department, however, is where they’re lacking. Scream 2 and Scream 3 kept all of their supplementals, despite not listing the music videos (Master P, Kottonmouth Kings, and Creed!) on their respective back covers. Scream is only missing a trivia track, which is really not a big deal, and a special effect concept art slideshow. If you own the DVD trilogy box set, none of the features on the fourth disc made it over to these ports, including additional outtakes, screen tests for Neve Campbell, Skeet Ulrich and Jamie Kennedy, Sunrise Studios trailers, an interactive editing program that lets you rearrange scenes, and `Behind The Scream’, a documentary about the franchise. In other words, no new bonus features and an absence of ones we all know are already out there. Perhaps the eminent release of not one, but two brand new Scream documentaries made it seem pointless to Lionsgate, but it still would’ve been nice to have. And even after all these years, they still can’t get the cover art right for the original, which still features Skeet Ulrich with facial hair that he doesn’t have in the finished film.
Films – Scream: 4.5/5, Scream 2: 3.5/5, Scream 3: 2/5
Blu-Rays – Scream: 4/5, Scream 2: 4/5, Scream 3: 4/5