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If the Dimension Collector's Series release of SCREAM doesn't sell as well as expected, it will be because of three key mistakes made by the disc’s producers. One, this release is not the unrated director's cut of SCREAM. Fans of the movie want the director's cut… no ands, ifs, or buts about it. Two, the Letterboxed transfer does not contain the anamorphic enhancement for wide screen televisions. The anamorphic enhancement has become one of the most crucial features for discriminating DVD collectors; many of whom will not purchased non-enhanced DVDs. Three, the $40.00 asking price is going to be deemed excessive when compared to other special edition DVDs priced at $25. Let's face it, if you expect consumers to pay a premium, you have to give them what they want. Fans of SCREAM are unlikely to pony up the extra cash for a special edition DVD that contains mistakes one and two.

Without a doubt, SCREAM is one of the most influential horror films of the last decade. SCREAM has grossed over one hundred million dollars at the box office, and in doing so has brought respectability to horror movies as well as director Wes Craven. SCREAM also has reinvigorated the entire genre, as the countless horror films released in its wake can attest. Unlike the usual horror fodder released by Hollywood, SCREAM features a witty screenplay by writer Kevin Williamson that works as on multiple levels. Williamson has made SCREAM an effective and frightening horror movie that also works equally as well as a clever send-up of the genre. Plus, Williamson's screenplay also pays homage to the classic horror films that preceded it. SCREAM uses the standard psycho-stalking-teens plot line as a framework, however Williamson cleverly take the audience’s expectations for the genre and then turn them inside out.

SCREAM opens with a PSYCHO inspired moment featuring actress Drew Barrymore. The first unrelenting moments of SCREAM begins with a tease that draws the audience into the familiar world of horror films by playing a game with them. However, the on screen game quickly turns deadly, driving the audience right onto the edge of their seats. This superb sequence takes the tension level to an unbearable level thanks to Wes Craven's assured direction and Drew Barrymore's outstanding performance. Once Craven and Williamson have the audience engulfed in the story, SCREAM does not let go until the final frames of the film.

The sequence with Drew Barrymore is only a prelude to the film’s central story that features Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott. Sidney is a troubled teenage girl forced to deal with killing of a friend almost a year to the day that her own mother was viciously slain. However, things turn far worse when Sidney discovers that she becomes the main target of the film’s masked killer. Adding to Sidney’s troubles is tabloid television journalist Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) who will stop at nothing to get a story. As SCREAM unfolds, the audience is presented with numerous red herrings that keep them guessing about the identity of the killer. While the audience is left guessing, a number of well paced shocks come leaping out at them, throwing them completely off balance.

Another thing that separates SCREAM from the bulk of horror films released by Hollywood is the outstanding performances of the ensemble cast. Both Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox are terrific in their respective roles. However, kudos must go to Ms. Cox for delivering the most surprising performance of her career. Prior to SCREAM, I thought Courteney Cox was a lightweight actress, since her career has been comprised of appearing in fluff. With SCREAM, Cox proves she is a real actress; capable of delivering a riveting performance. Gale Weathers is a shark and Courteney Cox plays her to a tee. Additionally, Skeet Ulrich, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Jamie Kennedy and David Arquette all have a number of inspired moments that contribute greatly to the success of SCREAM. These gifted performers turn their characters into real people, which only serves to heighten the film’s level of horror. The cast of SCREAM also includes Linda Blair, Wes Craven and Henry Winkler in uncredited cameos.

As part of the Dimension Collector's Series, SCREAM has been made available on DVD in the Letterboxed format. The Letterboxed transfer reproduces almost all of the film's 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio. However, as I mentioned above, the 16:9 anamorphic enhancement is absent from this presentation. SCREAM was director Wes Craven's first film in the Panavision ratio and he certainly makes great use of extra width of the canvas. Craven's compositions are surprisingly assured for someone working in this aspect ratio for the first time, plus much of the film’s camera work is utterly marvelous. There is no way in the world that a cropped version of SCREAM would be worth watching on DVD, so the absence of such a presentation should be considered a plus. The transfer itself is very sharp and well defined, and for looks alone, it cannot be faulted. Colors are well saturated, while the black level is deep and true. Chroma noise was never a problem on this DVD. Motion artifacts were seldom apparent thanks to a superior compression job.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack had a great mix, filled with jarring sound effects that added to the fright inducing atmosphere of the film. Dialogue reproduction was natural, while the surround channels were used to add both atmosphere and emphasis to the soundtrack. English subtitles have been encoded into the DVD.

The interactive menus completely lack imagination, and since this is a premium priced title, its producers could have done a lot better. The menus allow one to navigate their way through the DVD's supplemental features, but offer no entertainment value of their own. The chief supplement is a running audio commentary featuring Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson that was prepared for the director's cut Laserdisc edition of SCREAM. The commentary is very enjoyable and filled with a lot of production information that will tickle fans of the film. The commentary also makes reference to the footage that is only contained in the director's cut of the film. Other supplements include a featurette that takes the viewer onto the set of SCREAM where they can see the film in production and meet the cast and crew. The Collector's Series DVD also includes two theatrical trailers, seven television spots, additional behind-the-scenes footage, a cast and crew Q&A, cast biographies and a "film facts" section.

As I mentioned above, the Dimension Collector's Series release of SCREAM has a few problems. Since I am a fan of the movie I'm glad to have the extras contained here, however I'll be holding on to my Laserdisc until the director's cut of SCREAM appears on DVD with the anamorphic enhancement.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1998 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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