Warning: This article includes Scream VI spoilers.
I love going to the theater. I mean, who doesn’t? The chance to see a great horror movie up on the biggest screen possible is one of the simplest pleasures in life. And now there’s a bevy of options to see your movie in such as RealD 3D, Dolby, IMAX, and Laser Projection. Premium Formats, they call them, and I have experienced almost every single format out there.
But one in particular always eluded me for various reasons: 4DX.
What exactly is 4DX?
4DX is a premium format that allows films to be projected with various practical effects like rain, wind, strobe lighting and motion-seats. The goal is to fully immerse the audience in the movie and the effects allow for recreations of various effects seen on screen. For example: a character standing in the rain on screen will cause the water jets installed on the back of every seat to disperse water to recreate the effect (thankfully users have the option of turning off the water), and movie goers will feel every adrenaline-fueled turn in the latest Fast and Furious movie when their seats shift them around back and forth.
Making its debut in South Korea all the way back in 2009, the format has seen a steady rollout over the years but still isn’t widely adopted. As of 2020 there are only about 32 locations in the USA that are 4DX equipped, 5 of which are on the west coast.
But why Scream VI?
You may think from that description above that only the biggest of blockbusters make their way to 4DX. After all, it seems like a lot of work goes into the synchronization of the effects and the film. So an R-rated slasher film is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of potential prospects for a movie to be exhibited this way. Imagine my surprise when I learned that not only was Scream VI coming to this format but that I also lived minutes away from a theater recently equipped with the 4DX technology!
Horror is no stranger to gimmicks in the theater going experience. Perhaps the most famous example is William Castle and the strange gimmicks he employed for his films. Everything from an inflatable skeleton that would swing around the theater for House on Haunted Hill, to the electric shocks that would hit moviegoers seeing The Tingler. With a rise in more interactive horror experiences such as VR gaming or even walk through fan experiences, I was curious if the advancement of technologies could work in the slasher genre.
So I did what any Scream mega-fan would do and went to a 9:40pm showing on a Wednesday night. For those curious, a 4DX ticket in Southern California currently runs $20.75 (nearly double what I usually pay for my weekly theater trips). I walked into the theater and was greeted by seats divided into fours as if it were a theme park ride, and they were absolutely loaded with electronics. Visible on the seats are water and air jets positioned both in front of and behind viewers. The seats also appear to be on risers and have foot rests with a single rubber tube sticking out the bottom that people call “the tickler,” which activates during certain points. Along the top edges of the theater are huge fans mounted to the wall that are the source of wind effects.
I wasn’t sure what to expect until a 4DX trailer started and the seats began to rise; I was thrown around back and forth, with flashing strobe lights and all. Things were getting interesting.
Okay enough about the tech! Tell us how Scream VI is in 4DX!
Scream VI is wildly entertaining in 4DX! I find Scream VI to be a larger movie than previous installments with more set pieces and thrills than the series usually has. For example, right off the bat from the gory opening sequence with Samara Weaving’s Laura character being brutally murdered, the seat shakes around violently with every stabbing motion. When gore appears on screen the water jets shoot out a burst of water that mimics blood splatter, And when characters use firearms, strobe lights go off to imitate the muzzle flash. Hell the “tickler” even gets some use when Sam uses a taser on a douchebag partygoer.
But perhaps the best uses of the format are in the infamous “ladder” sequence in which Devyn Nekoda’s Anika is thrown violently to her death from atop Sam and Tara’s apartment. The seats mimicked the violent up and down shaking of the ladder and the wind fans were in full effect, presenting it in a way that had me convinced I was standing outside in the cold air. It was wildly immersive and less distracting than I thought it would be. The subway scene is also a standout with constant vibrations as the train traveled along the tracks.
The subway scene happened to also use the strobe lights to good effect, employing them to match the lighting in the scene and adding to the tension of it all. Although probably not the best way to view it for the first time, Scream VI in 4DX is a blast. Especially for returning fans eager for a repeat viewing.
Horror is a versatile genre. In a gimmicky theatrical setting that at times feels like a theme park ride, a wild slasher movie like Scream VI can be enjoyable as hell. I’ll always be happy to revisit this film but the memory of experiencing it in 4DX and being fully immersed in the moment will always linger with me. I just wish William Castle was around to see it.