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Scream (2022) (4K Ultra HD)
Reboots are tough. So are delayed sequels. It is also difficult to recapture the 1990s magic of a film like Scream, whose director Wes Craven and talented cast created something of a phenomenon; a film that is scary, funny and wholly entertaining. There is also the "meta" aspect of Scream and its countless imitators. Not every movie does a good job using self-referential humor and wink-wink dialogue. Craven and writer Kevin Williamson found the right balance for this amid some violent kills and teenage angst. More than a decade after Scream 4, which holds up pretty well, the franchise is resurrected by Ready or Not directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. Despite being a direct sequel to previous films, the movie is simply titled "Scream." I was excited when I heard Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett were directing, as Ready or Not is a wildly entertaining mix of horror and black comedy, and the directors have expressed their love of horror tradition and the Scream franchise in interviews. What we get on screen is a loving homage to Wes Craven and the original film that suffers from a number of issues, including uneven pacing, an underwhelming narrative, and a legacy cast that is not given much to do.
Twenty-five years after the Town of Woodsboro is upended by Billy Loomis and Stu Macher's killing spree, Ghostface returns to attack high school student Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) in her home. She survives, and Tara's estranged sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) brings boyfriend Richie Kirsch (Jack Quaid) to the hospital to see Tara. The Carpenter sisters become the film's heroines, and Ghostface returns to attack Sam at the hospital. Skirting death, Sam takes Richie to meet Dewey Riley (David Arquette), who is divorced from Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), and ask for help stopping the killer. He provides advice and calls Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), who decides to proactively return to Woodsboro, and also texts Gale that "Ghostface is back" in a funny moment that later earns him a justified scolding from the news anchor. Ghostface begins slicing up Tara's young friend group and other townsfolk, as our legacy cast tries to stay ahead of the game and keep their lives.
Although I was left somewhat underwhelmed by the final film, I do note the passion that its directors and cast have for the material. This is evident from behind-the-scenes interviews and also seen on screen. James Vanderbilt (Zodiac ) and Guy Busick's (Ready or Not) script struggles to balance franchise nostalgia with fresh ideas. Scream takes too long to get to the meat of the story after the opening sequence. I have seen this film in a packed theater with a good audience, and much of the script's humor simply does not land. Some of the lines delivered by Quaid, Arquette and others as comedic relief fall very flat, and the relative lack of action in the film's midsection really hurts the pacing. The acting by Ortega and Barrera also falters compared to Campbell, Arquette and Cox, and the sisterhood at the core of the film threatens to crumble under the weight of a serial killer.
It is difficult to discuss this film without offering some SPOILERS so read on at your discretion. I understand why Sidney, Gale and Dewey take a backseat to the new characters, but I kept wanting them back on screen. Scream does sacrifice a couple of characters to show that the stakes are real, but the killer's ultimate reveal is underwhelming. It can be argued that the killer's identity is apparent, but even if you do not guess correctly, it does not really matter. Unlike previous films where the killer or killers are intertwined with the characters, the baddie here is placed simply to further a meta storyline about overzealous horror fans displeased that the fictional Stab films about the Woodsboro killings have turned to shit. This jokey climactic diatribe is either more or less funny depending on how you view it since this Scream suffers from the same diminishing returns.
Despite not having much to do, it is always great to see Campbell, Cox and Arquette back on screen together. Dewey gets some real emotion out of his performance, and Campbell does a great job playing a character whose past traumas have not robbed her of a life in which she is a wife, mother and friend. Highlights from the supporting cast include Marley Shelton as Sheriff Judy Hicks and a returning Skeet Ulrich as Billy Loomis. He appears in Sam's hallucinations and is revealed to be her biological father in a story arc that I actually like. The death sequences are a mixed bag. This new Scream is not particularly scary and, save one extended cat-and-house stalking sequence, most of the kills are fairly abrupt or off-screen. At the end of the day, Scream is not without merit. The movie is mostly entertaining, made by well-intentioned directors and actors, and gives audiences a chance to relive something special, even if this 2022 update cannot match Wes Craven's magic.
THE 4K ULTRA HD:
Paramount delivers a slick, highly detailed 2.39:1/2160p/HEVC/H.265 transfer for Scream with Dolby Vision and HDR10 from a native 4K source. Unsurprisingly, this 4K transfer is impressive, offering excellent detail and clarity throughout. Close-ups reveal abundant facial features and fabric textures, and wide shots are crisp and highly detailed. Skin tones and highlights are accurate, and colors are beautifully rendered thanks to the HDR pass. There are some tight, shadowy sets, and the transfer handles these shots with ease. Black levels are strong, with excellent shadow detail, and I noticed no issues with compression artifacts or blooming. Other than some minor aliasing, this is an unproblematic image.
The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix recreates the theatrical experience (well, mostly, since the film had an Atmos mix in some theaters) with excellent effects panning and depth of field. Dialogue is crystal clear, whether delivered from the center or surround channels, and the effects layering is top-notch. Ambient effects surround the viewer, and action effects are quite explosive, coming from every speaker and using the LFE to great effect. The score and soundtrack selections, including the always-welcome "Red Right Hand" by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, are given appropriate weight and are expertly layered with effects and dialogue. The disc also includes a slew of 5.1 Dolby Digital dubs and subtitle options.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This single-disc release includes the 4K disc and a digital copy. The case is wrapped in a slipcover that recreates the appealing theatrical poster. Extras include an Audio Commentary by Writer/Producer James Vanderbilt, Writer Guy Busick, Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, and Producer Chad Villella that offers plenty of information on the production, several Deleted Scenes (2:57/HD); New Blood (7:33/HD), which looks back at the previous films and shows how Scream incorporates the past into a new storyline; Bloodlines (8:33/HD), about both the new and returning cast members; In the Shadow of the Master (7:22/HD), a tribute to Craven; and a Trailer (1:31/HD) for the original film.
This new Scream offers fans of the franchise a chance to relive some of the magic, but the impact falls far short of the Wes Craven-highs of previous films. Returning cast members Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette steal the show despite having little to do, and the enthusiastic directors and new cast members do their best to offset an uneven script and questionable narrative decisions. Despite its flaws, Scream is Recommended.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.