Scream 4 Blu-ray Review
Well, I hope you like hazy Summertime and lens-flares, folks … because Scre4m is the hi-def home video equivalent of a Californian mid-afternoon in the sun. The image is full of that squinty-eyed shimmery sheen during the daylight sequences, and it remains gauzily bright and colourful even during the night-times. This is the aesthetic that Craven wants, though. Despite the subject matter, he doesn't see Ghostface existing in a spooky old dark house sort of setting. This is the modern day and these luxurious American suburban sprawls are like day-glo castles, the resulting film visually striking and radiant, even if it lacks the sharpness that you'd think it would boast.
Thus,the 2.35:1 image appears soft and suffused. But this is how it is supposed to look. Craven’s DOP, Peter Deming, has used pretty much the same lighting and colour-timing style as we’ve seen on the other films in the series. I don't mind this – it provides a singular appearance, a sort of family likeness, for the stab-happy siblings of the series. This one, though, does look the softest of the bunch.
There is ample detail on offer with this AVC encode, though this is not necessarily a transfer that you will ever use as a reference tool. Certainly, you can savour the foreground and the close-up imagery. Texture is fine and film-like, with appreciable skin-tones, depth and a more-then-acceptable level of finite clarity. We can see pores and crags, pimples and barely concealed blemishes when up close. We can see the surface of a teen-babe’s lips, some hair-separation, good delineation of eye-lashes, the gleaming of Hollywood teeth and the sparkle in the eyes of starlet-wannabes. Material texture is also on show, but this is a film that knows implicitly what elements it wants to exhibit primarily. The cult and horror posters on a bedroom wall have plenty of good clarity to them. But once objects are in the mid to background of the frame, they lose distinction, swallowed-up in that dream-like haze. This is not a particularly three-dimensional image. In fact, it often looks quite flat. Again, this is inherent to the desired visual effect.
The colour palette has a comic-book vogue, and this is no bad thing. The film is naturally heightened, and although we aren’t talking Hanna Barbara saturation – the image is too diffuse for that – it becomes a vibrant delight. The primaries are broad and bright. Yellows sing out and there are some agreeable midnight blues. Blood can be either very red and splashy or surprisingly dark and ink-like. There’s one killing in which it looks like slowly seeping tar. Contrast has been manipulated in post-production, but it is an affectation of the visual style and fits the look very well. It is high and light and helps ensure the vogue of worn-out neon on a hot evening. I have seen better and more consistent blacks, but I would say that there is little to complain about with how they come across here. As I said earlier, though, this isn’t an image that relies too heavily upon shadow depth and delineation. Ghostface doesn’t often utilise the dark corners so much, and the lights are always on. There is, however, one great moment when a character genuinely blends in with the background gloom to escape an attack, and there are some great flourishes in which the white mask actually seems to be floating, the black robes of the killer blending well with the shadows. This even happens during one scene when Ghostface is standing out in the middle of a well lit street. So, although the black levels can appear compromised sometimes, they can still offer plenty of stability and strength.
What I don’t like, however, is the stylised interpretation of how the police lights seem to warp out the surrounding image. It’s done on purpose, I know, but there are times when this seems to draw some unwanted attention to itself and makes a large portion of the frame look blurred. Edge enhancement is not a concern. Nor is smearing or banding, apart from a tiny little flurry that wobbles about in the film's title logo. Compression artefacts aren’t prevalent either. Aliasing? Well, there might be a brief instance of this occurring but, again, this is nothing to worry about. DNR – I wouldn’t say so. This is a glitzy, high-sheen image that looks sparkling and modern. It is also a fine BD transfer that doesn’t make any errors and presents a stylised image with vibrancy and integrity.
Overall, I liked the visual appearance of Craven's film. It is not what you might expect. It is almost as though JJ Abrams has snuck in and tampered with the lighting when nobody was looking, but it gives the film a distinctive appeal.
You can scream along with Scre4m in glorious DTS-HD MA 5.1!
EIV's UK disc provides a fine audio presentation that savours the slicing and the dicing of blade/flesh interaction and the bump 'n' crash of Ghostface stumbling about and getting hoofed down the stairs. It is a busy track, and one that is far from stellar, but it is a consistently entertaining one that more than delivers an appropriately pulverising experience.
Bass levels are deep and satisfying. There are lots of bodily impacts and objects getting smashed. We have some gunshots too. All of these elements are treated to a fairly convincing degree of bombast. Steerage around the set-up is seamless and transparent – screaming, screeching tyres, shattering glass. Directionality is finely honed and the soundscape feels nice and wide and deep. The surrounds come into play often and with some vigour. I would say that the best use of rear support was to be heard in Scream 3, which had some excellent surround usage, but this is certainly no slouch. Effects travel past you and are caught by the rears, thoroughly immersing you in the action. Little discrete elements and some well-mixed ambience also filters out from behind you.
Beltrami's score is typical of his Scream music since day one. It is brash, driven, slightly chaotic at times, but full of stabbing blurts and barrages of brass and percussion, the quintessential symphony of murder. I wouldn't categorically state that this presents his music with pin-sharp clarity – this isn't the sort of score that celebrates such finesse – but it comes over with warmth, a full range and a healthy dose of dynamics. There’s no problems with the dialogue either. The mixing and the placement of voices is actually quite important to the drama, what with its copious phone-calls, the dialogue over the police radios and the garbled spiel from people trapped on one side of a barrier but heard from the other side. All of this is accomplished with style and without any errors.
The Scream series has, across the board, what I’m sure many fans will believe is a terrific and barnstorming sound-mix. You cannot dispute that it performs precisely what it intends to, but there isn’t much in the way of subtlety or nuance. It is not a refined mix, but then nor does it need to be.
Sadly, the check disc for this Region B release has no extras features beyond the film’s theatrical trailer.
I will update this field when I receive the full retail copy, so please refer back at a later date.
Defying the odds, Scre4m won me over. I've been a vociferous detractor of this series since the ridiculous Scooby-Doo climax of the first film but, finally, it seems that I have come to an understanding with it. Craven's cheeky, pop-quiz death-fest has put one over on me.
Real fans will no doubt already have the Scream Trilogy boxset, to which this will make an essential addition. The image is possibly not as good as what has gone before – they all have a sunny, warm and bright disposition despite their subject matter, but Part 4 seems even more hazy and dream-like – but the audio transfer certainly packs some wallop, even if it is almost entirely composed of the most obvious knee-jerk type of effects, stingers and bludgeoning musical barrage.
There is no plot, but after the lunacy of Scream 3, this is a blessing. The film thunders along, hurling you from one frantic set-piece to another at ramming speed. We have no mid-movie crooning, as painfully witnessed in Scream 2, and it is a genuine pleasure to see some of these characters meeting their makers. The various twists and turns, as wacky as a couple of them can be, still make you roll your eyes and groan come the curve-ball final reveal, but this is still well-helmed and spirited stuff. This is Scream going back-to-basics and doing what it does best. It's lost some of that self-conscious desire to impress the kids, which can only be a good thing, but still retains the slickness, the referential wit and the assembly-line of attractive flesh just waiting to get ripped-up. Campbell has become the Ripley/Sarah Connor of the genre, whilst Cox and Arquette provide the heart and soul. Ghostface, whoever is behind the mask at the time, is still the clumsiest, dorkiest, most accident-prone assassin ever to embark on a campaign of terror. Craven, who just can't seem to leave the teen crowd behind, directs with savvy-rife flourish, fast and pumping and aggressive, but that original, taboo-shredding verve is clearly long gone.
Scre4m is great fun … which is what it's all about. This is Californian Giallo and, against the odds, I had a bloody ball with it.
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