The 90s classic makes its 4K debut in time for its 25th anniversary
Back in the spring my wife and I went to a drive-in to catch Scream. It had rained earlier in the day, but somehow we got a cool evening (by Texas’s standards). Our car radio was torn between the drive-in’s signal for the movie sound and the signal for a Tejano station. The sound outside of the car was fine, so we sat on the wooden parking stop, which was thankfully dry. So we sat, under the stars, and watched a movie we’ve seen more times than I can count. It was perfect.
Regardless where the series would go in the sequels, Scream caught lightning in a bottle. On its surface it’s a sharp, playfully deconstruction of horror. But underneath the jokes and the buckets of blood is a rich mythology of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell). Grappling with the loss of her mother and the possible wrongful conviction of the man she believes is responsible, Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber), Sidney is destined for a life of misery at the hands (and knife) of Ghostface and the mask’s many donners. The genius of the movie, and Williamson’s script, is that the story gets deeper as the body count rises, but it never gets bogged down by its exposition, something the sequels would inevitably struggle with.
Still, for this first outing, Scream earned its classic status. The opening terrorization of Drew Barrymore’s Casey Becker made the movie’s reputation, but it’s everything else that followed that put the movie in the horror pantheon. The core cast (Campbell, Courtney Cox, Matthew Lillard, Skeet Ulrich, Rose McGowan and Jamie Kennedy) is tremendous, Craven’s direction is as purposeful as it ever was, and Williamson’s script is perfectly constructed. It’s magic.
Scream is one of those time machines that Don Draper once spoke so eloquently about. Making its debut in 4K in time for its 25th anniversary (and a couple months before the fifth entry is released), it’s a fine vehicle for nostalgic viewers. The movie looks and sounds better than ever, but I wouldn’t call the transfer revelatory by any means. For a movie of its stature, I held out hope for this to be a definitive version of the film, but it achieves that status mostly by default. But, just having a quality HD version of the movie makes it worth picking up.
Watching the film for this write up, I was transported to past viewings. There’s the first time, back when I was 12 and talked my mom into renting for me. It was the first horror movie I made it all the way through and it terrified me and made me want to chase that feeling all the way down the horror rabbit hole. There was the summer where I watched it daily for over a week while housebound with a brutal sunburn. And all sick days where I’d lay in bed watching the series, only getting up to switch the VHS, then DVDs. Scream is on the shortlist of movies I’ve seen the most in my life. I never get tired of it. It’s pop-horror at its finest.
The biggest disappointment with the disc is the special features. The old commentary by Craven and writer/Scream mastermind Kevin Williamson is carried over. It’s a fun and informative commentary, and Williamson and Craven’s chemistry makes it feel like you’re sitting with two friends. Most of the special features are reheats from past releases. There’s a shaggy charm to these old bits, mostly in seeing how the cast and crew felt about the movie before the world got hold of it. The lone new feature is a quick-hitter from the key players of the upcoming Scream sequel. It strikes a balance between series newcomers Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillet, Jasmin Savoy Brown, and Dylan Minnette heaping praise on the original. The best part of this feature, and all of the features, is legacy players Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and David Arquette waxing nostalgic about Wes Craven. There’s real affection, which almost feels out of place in this standard issue feature, but is very welcome.
Fans of the film will certainly want to upgrade, but I’m hard pressed to call this an essential purchase for now. Especially because I’m curious if the rest of the series will get the 4K treatment with the fifth film eventually hits home video, but that’s just my (hopeful) speculation.
Scream is available now on 4K UHD Blu-ray and Digital from Paramount Home Entertainment.