When first hearing about a fourth installment in the 'Scream' series, I wondered why in the world horror-film legend Wes Craven would stoop to such levels, especially after the disastrous, and probably best forgotten, third entry. (I prefer to live in my own alternate universe where garbage like 'Cursed' and 'My Soul to Take' don't even exist.) Watching 'Scream 4' — or as it more commonly publicized, 'Scre4m' — I started thinking 'why the heck not?' In fact, why didn't Craven and franchise creator Kevin Williamson make this surprisingly fun thriller much sooner? The series was, of course, always originally intended as a trilogy, so no surprise there that we never saw another movie. But frankly, and despite not being as good as the first, this twist on a modern slasher favorite is a marked improvement and makes a far better closing chapter.
Granted, Williamson's script runs through the usual plot devices which inch us closer to that shocking final reveal — and quite the unexpected, well-played twist it is. It's one that informs us again that kids watch too many scary movies and act like answering trivia questions is a sign of film knowledge rather than just plain geekiness. But it also tells us that Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) comes from a really messed-up family, one with lots of secrets, and she probably is the Angel of Death incarnate since people tend to die when she's around. No surprise here, 'Scream 4,' follows the franchise's signature, now-clichéd tropes of being über-meta, self-referential, self-aware and critically deconstructive of the genre it gleefully aims to celebrate and adopt. So what's new exactly?
Well, nothing, which is part of the point. In this age of endless remakes, reimagining and reboots, it's depressingly difficult to find anything that feels new, fresh, and original. The opening sequence cleverly addresses this issue through its movie-within-a-movie repetitiveness, recognizing its importance for establishing the mood while equally acknowledging its drawbacks. The best thing to do then is have some fun with it by showing two television stars (Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell) break down its effectiveness as silly drivel. It even takes a stab (pun intended) at the 'Saw' franchise as proof of underdeveloped, wooden characters meant as fodder for a gorefest and not a genuine horror title that scares. Ironically, this sets the tone for the rest of the movie, a quasi remake/reboot of the first that humorously works with convention and audience expectation.
Once that's said and done, we finally jump into the real meat and potatoes of 'Scream 4,' and again, the murder of two popular high school girls gets the ball rolling. Coincidentally, Sidney (Campbell) returns to her hometown of Woodsboro that same night on a promotional tour for her new book about moving on with her life. As we catch up on old times with Dewey (David Arquette), now sheriff of the town, and Gale (Courtney Cox), now a retired housewife, we follow through the list of usual suspects. My money is betting on either Trevor (Nico Tortorella), the two-timing boyfriend, Deputy Judy (Marley Shelton), an overzealous peace officer, or possibly Kate (Mary McDonnell), Sidney's strange aunt. While Emma Roberts does fairly well as Sidney's cousin Jill, the real standouts are Hayden Panettiere and Rory Culkin as horror movie buffs.
The fourth film in the 'Scream' series essentially tries to recapture the same feel and energy as the first, which reignited audience, as well as box-office, interest in a fledgling genre. It doesn't completely succeed in that area, but it does bring that same level of witty smarts and clever insight, examining where the horror genre is presently while also turning a critical view towards its viewers and moviegoers in general. That's where Craven and Williamson leave a winning impression, with several funny, quirky remarks about the latest Hollywood filmmaking trends, especially the current stagnant stench of remake mania. 'Scream 4' knows what's it doing with its revisit to part one — the quasi reboot/remake approach — but it does so in fun and amusing fashion while remembering, as Sidney so eloquently put it, "You don't f**k with the original."
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Anchor Bay and The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment debut 'Scream 4' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack. The first is a Region A locked, BD50 and the second a DVD-9 with digital copy, both housed inside a normal blue keepcase on opposing panels. The package comes included with a flyer and scan codes for a purchasable app game. The disc starts with a series of skippable trailers before moving on to the standard main menu selection with music and full-motion clips.
The fourth installment to the 'Scream' franchise takes a stab at Blu-ray with a very good but somewhat stylized 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
The cinematography by Peter Deming, who also worked on the previous two movies, comes with an intentionally digitized appearance, echoing the same quality seen of internet videos. This high-def video clearly stays true to that with contrast levels which fluctuate between various scenes. Daylight exteriors in particular run slightly hotter than normal, causing several instances of clipping and make highlights bloom. Blacks are affected noticeably, falling flat for a great deal of the movie's runtime, but suddenly show better accuracy and richness at night and during interior sequences.
The rest of the picture displays strong shadow details and clarity. Overall definition is pretty much as we'd expect from a freshly-minted transfer — first-rate and satisfactory. Fine lines and objects in the distance are plainly visible and distinct, although the blooming highlights in daylight scenes tend to diminish their precision a tad. Still, the presentation looks great with a warm and welcoming color palette that delivers bold, bright primaries.
The video is accompanied by an even better DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack which does a great job at setting the proper mood.
Being a horror thriller, it's precisely what the fans want, full of random, off-screen noises which (mis)direct a viewer's attention. The rears terrifically provide that with convincing movement and eerie effectiveness. They're subtle discrete effects in the distance, including a dog barking or birds chirping, that create an enjoyably immersive experience, and then expanded upon when gearing up for the next scare.
Most of the attention in the design is understandably front-heavy. But even here, the soundstage appears very wide and spacious with lots of activity and an imaging that's quite engaging. Channel separation is excellently well-balanced with dialogue that's precise and intelligible. Dynamic range is sharply rendered and clean, exhibiting remarkable clarity and detail during the many sudden jump-scares. The low-end is also quite responsive with palpable weight and force, making this a very enjoyable and gratifying lossless mix of a fun horror thriller.
Special features appear to match the day-and-date DVD counterpart.
Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson reunite with Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and David Arquette to bring the fourth installment in the 'Scream' franchise. A younger, fresher cast also joins in on the fun to revisit/reboot/remake the first movie, delivering an entertaining and amusing entry. It's not quite as good as the original, but it's a marked improvement over the last one, making this a much better and satisfying closing chapter. The Blu-ray comes with a stylized but very strong picture quality and a better audio presentation. Supplements are somewhat disappointing, but overall, it's a good package for devoted fans of the franchise.