Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Complete Scream Collection (DVD Review)

DVD Review of The Complete Scream Collection films 1 - 4 directed by Wes Craven and starring Neve Campbell

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Spoiler Notes:
  • The Scream series is highly referential on the world of horror film, especially from the 70's and 80's so be prepared to plot line breakdowns & analysis as well as call outs, shout outs, hommages and spoilers for pretty much all the classics of those times.
  • Each review below is spoiler-free in it of itself, I wouldn't recommended reading the next review until you've seen the previous film. Collections are tricky for the spoiler sensitive folk, especially horror series!
And now for the DVD Reviews of The Complete Scream Collection - All 4 Films are on Separate DVDs with special features on Scream 2, 3 & 4 and it comes with an actual Ghostface Mask!

Dir: Wes Craven (My Soul to Take, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), The Serpent and the Rainbow)
Cast: Neve Campbell, Skeet Urlich, Rose McGowan, Matthew Lillard, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Jamie Kennedy
USA, 1996

Reason to see: Being October it's all about the scary movies and I was really curious to re-visit the original Scream which I first watched on Halloween many, many years ago.

It's amazing to see everything old is new again at play, and that's exactly what Scream does: on the surface it's a slasher horror film following young Sidney (Neve Campbell) who's family met with tragedy but she prevailed and survived. She's a high school student, so we get lots of high school drama of relationships with boyfriend (Skeet Ulrich), partying, angst and general goofiness but this crowd is a cut above in the eyes of most film fans as they are highly literate in the world of horror films. One of the things I love about the film, and the series as a whole, is it's great use of an ensemble cast. We have the high schoolers of Sidney and her boyfriend Billy, Sidney's best friend Tatum (Rose McGowan) and her boyfriend Stuart (Matthew Lillard), plus Randy (Jamie Kennedy) the resident film supergeek and video store clerk (and that's old school VHS as it really was pre-DVD times). Filling in the roles of the adult we have nosy journalist Gail (Courteney Cox) and one of my favourite characters, the earnest Deputy Dewey (David Arquette) who are on the crime solving & fighting side of things. How they manage to fit in so many important characters is amazing, and completely necessary to provide enough doubt, distraction and intrigue for a true mystery-thriller.

Scream is one of those rare films that did what never seemed possible, it completely breaks the rules by overtly referencing it's own genre of horror films and continually points out how the genre works and then somehow also manages to make that predictability work for, rather than against, it's own plot. It hits all the right beats, creates great tension and gives enough information distract, confuse, and unfold everything perfectly. You always believe what's happening, it's scary and it's also very funny. Overall, it's brilliant and holds up very well since it's release a whopping 15 years ago. After watching the entire series I would happily name it my favourite of the bunch.

Scream DVD Extras:
  • No Extras
Shannon's Overall View of Scream:
I loved it
I'll happily watch it again and again
It's essential viewing for all horror fans

Scream 2

Dir: Wes Craven (My Soul to Take, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), The Serpent and the Rainbow)
Cast: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, Liev Schreiber, Kevin Williamson, Timothy Olyphant, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jamie Kennedy, Jerry O'Connell, Jada Pinkett
USA, 1997

Reason to see: The first Scream was great so why not continue the adventure?

After the horrors of Scream we are back into the lives of the characters of Woodsboro, but we've graduated from high school to college and understandable have some new live friends to the world of Sidney (Neve Campbell) and wow, I was crazy surprized to see that this included Jerry O'Connell who plays Sidney's boyfriend and Timothy Olyphant as Mickey. I thought I had seen this one before but I don't remember them being in it at all. We also have Sarah Michelle Gellar as a sorority sister, which made it hard for me to not make comparisons to the 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' series, especially the high school to college transition. Low and behold I didn't need to worry at all because Scream 2 does what few horror sequels can manage: it's actually a really great film. It builds on the foundation of Scream, but still packs in a whole whack of new punches, or in this case slashes.

The referential element is still in full effect here, although it starts to get a little meta as it begins to not just reference it's own history and film history but creates it by creating a fictional film based on the happenings in the first film. It's oddly more complicated and more understandable than it sounds, but it serves the film well as it gives a healthy does of the ridiculous and lots of comedy and scares to boot. Of course there is more slasher violence and mayhem and our inadvertent crime solvers of Gail (Courteney Cox) and Dewey (David Arquette) are back to attack, or rather try to avoid attacks. Like the first film, they make great use of the truly ensemble cast and work in great story lines that walk the wonderful line on the edge of the unbelievable but always manage to make it work. I think I literally yelled "No way!" while watching and it kept me intrigued throughout. Scream 2 is another great entry into the Scream franchise.

Scream 2 DVD Extras or rather 'Option Speciales':
  • Text filmographies of David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, Liev Schreiber, Kevin Williamson, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jamie Kennedy, Jerry O'Connell, Jada Pinkett & Wes Craven, although the text for the menu and the filmographies is In French (although the film plays in English).
  • Trailer
Shannon's Overall View of Scream 2:
I really enjoyed it
I'll watch it again
I highly recommend it if you enjoyed the original Scream

Scream 3
Dir: Wes Craven (My Soul to Take, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), The Serpent and the Rainbow)
Cast: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Parker Posey, Emily Mortimer, Patrick Dempsey, Scott Foley, Lance Henriksen, Liev Schreiber
USA, 2000

Reason to see: After being impressed with Scream 2 I couldn't help but keep going.

Scream 3 continues our slasher horror journey of the Scream franchise and was the original close out to the series. The film picks up what feels like not too much longer than Scream 2 but the tone feels pretty different going darker and deeper into the mythology and history of the characters and also building on the meta-series Stab started in the previous film of this series. I liked how they work in the meta element even further going with filming an actual Stab film and introducing actors playing actors who play the characters. Again, it sounds confusing but when you are watching it's just funny and ridiculous and a nice balance in tone to the scares along the way.

But, there lies the trouble with trilogies: you have now a fair amount of source material to work from but the first pass of choice story lines have likely already been taken. What remains are limited choices and with that the places to go can lead far, far away. To quote the film on trilogies, as it self-referentially helps us out, 'All bets are off". And boy are they ever. It's the one film of the series where I didn't like the bets they went with, especially given the strong final girl sentiment in the series. They also went with some things that were a little convenient, which hasn't been the case in any of the other films in the series so that made it a bit of a disappointment. But, there were some things I still loved about Scream 3, the meta elements are pretty ridiculous but still very entertaining and I adored the cast editions of hilarious Parker Posey and wonderful Emily Mortimer.

The scares were still good and I did have some laugh out loud moments but the tone wasn't as enjoyable and the story wasn't quite as fail safe as the rest of the series.

Scream 3 DVD Extras:
  • Outtakes (6 minutes) You can tell they had fun making the film and there are a fair number of flubs as well as silly outtakes. The quality on some of the outtakes is pretty degraded but the Happy Birthday serenade to David Arquette and Lance Heinrickson flubbing are both pretty awesome.
  • Behind the Scenes Montage (6 minutes total) This is actually behind the scenes footage from each of the first three films including the original Scream including a lot of the physcial stunts and general goofiness, to the iconic and often-used-in-the-films Red Right Hand by Nick Cave (2 minutes), then behind the scenes of Scream 2 (2 minutes) and Scream 3 (2 minutes) general mayhem on set and a lot of physical goofs, stunts stunts and silliness.
  • Deleted Scenes (4 scenes, 13 minutes) combination of alternate and deleted scenes with option commentary by director Wes Craven, producer Marianne Maddalena and editor Patrick Lussier. Two alternate takes on the opening sequence - which both are pretty awesome, plus cut scenes and even some goofs and an additional scene with the 'actors' group. I liked having the audio commentary as they walk through what is different and why, but you can't initially tell who is who as they don't differential themselves. And again the visual quality of these are very degraded and without score.
  • Alternate Ending (10 minutes) with option commentary by director Wes Craven, producer Marianne Maddalena and editor Patrick Lussier which explain that lots of the humour cut from this section and why they went with the final cut, but and all give big kudos to Neve Campbell here. I actually found the alternate pretty interesting although it's pretty long and not too much was different. Again the visual quality is quite degraded.
  • Trailers (Theatrical & International)
Shannon's Overall View of Scream 3:
I didn't love it
I'll watch it again if I do a Scream-a-thon
I'd recommend it only if you are particularly fond of the series

Scream 4
Dir: Wes Craven (My Soul to Take, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), The Serpent and the Rainbow)
Cast: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox-Arquette, David Arquette, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Rory Culkin, Anthony Anderson, Adam Brody, Mary McDonnell, Marley Shelton, Nico Tortorella, Marielle Jaffe, Kristen Bell, Anna Paquin, Lucy Hale, Shanae Grimes, Aimee Teegarden, Brittany Robertson
USA, 2011

Reason to see: Once you hop on the Scream train - you have to ride it out to the very end

Over 10 years after the release of Scream 3 and a whopping 15 years from the first Scream we get a new installment in the franchise with Scream 4. I was a little leery going into this one after not loving Scream 3 but I had to give it a chance and I'll be honest I'm a completist and once I'm in something I'm in for the long haul. Turns out in this situation that is a good thing as Scream 4 brings back the energy, anarchy and intelligence that started off the series.

Scream 4 continues on the series strength of giving us a fantastic ensemble cast with Sidney (Neve Campbell), Gail (Courteney Cox) and Dewey (David Arquette) and adds a whole new set of the high school generation including Sidney's cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and her entire group of friends including the delightfully snappy Kirby (Hayden Panettiere). To update to the times, they bring elements in current horror tastes in terms of extremeness which felt like a necessary evil but thankfully it also continues the beauty of the referential factor and also projects forward to what would be the next big thing to take the horror and killings to the next level. I'm not a super big fan of this choice especially given the first film the tone of reinventing and celebrating the past, and the tricky thing about the current is that we are in it at the moment and only when the chips fall do we really know what will have a lasting effect. That being said, it feels like an earnest choice that they really went for so I can appreciate going all in.

There scares are definitely still running strong, as is the comedy and referential moments along with the great ensemble cast that nice bridges the different generations and pipes in new resident film geeks as cinema club leaders, there is lots to enjoy in this installment in the franchise. I'm actually really happy to have sat through them as a set, as after Scream 3 I was skeptical but Scream 4 was back to the roots of a great story, scares and unique cinematic flair.

Scream 4 DVD Extras:
  • Feature Commentary with director Wes Craven, stars Hayden Panettiere & Emma Robers with a special guest appearance by Neve Campbell on how the film captures teenager behaviour, discussing original concept for opening scene, lots of notations to when it mirrors the original film, the camaraderie between the characters of Sidney, Gail & Dewey, how the younger set of actors bonded on set, some technical notations, how audiences know when certain characters are going to get knocked off and also the things they never predict, the difference between filming it and seeing it with an audience, the stunt work & stunt doubles and a pretty hilarious mini-rank on the annoyance of fake blood, the challenge of defining a new decade of horror, red herrings and when or if they are cleared up in the film, the challenge of working with knives, calling out favourite lives, stories from being on set and thanks (Neve Campbell joins remotely from about 15 minutes in to about 1 hour, and Hayden Panettiere is on it until 1h 12 minutes in).
  • Deleted Scenes & Extended Scenes with optional commentary by Wes Craven (20 scenes, 26 minutes) a huge number of scenes including an alternate opening, extended ending, a great scenes with Dewey & Gail, scenes that were in the trailer but not the actual film, also talking about why they were scenes didn't make the final cut and and notation on when the directors cameo would have been.
  • Gag Reel (9 minutes) lots of reactionary scare shots - many of which are genuine scares to the actors, hilarious line flubbing, stunts & physical gags and goofing around.
  • The Making of Scream 4 (10 minutes) film clips, behind the scenes footage and interviews with director Wes Craven & actors Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Adam Brody, Anthony Anderson, Alison Brie, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettierre on what is iconic to a Scream film, on the drawn back to the Scream world and the players in place, the changes in horror and the online world has change since the first film, working together over such a long period of time and the welcoming in of the younger cast and the connection & chemistry between the 2 generations of characters, the role & voice of Ghostface,
  • Scream 4 Video Game promotion
The Complete Scream Collection is available on DVD as of October 4, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca

Shannon's Overall View of Scream 4:
I enjoyed it
I'll watch it again
I'd recommend it if you enjoyed any of the Scream films so far

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© Shannon Ridler, 2011

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