Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox in Scream 2.
As film student Randy (Jamie Kennedy) says in this movie, "Oh please! By definition alone, sequels are inferior films!" For a movie so wise about the rules of horror movies like Scream was though, a sequel was practically required. And yes, this movie is slightly inferior to its predecessor, but not by much and is still filled with thrills, some genuine scares and several moments of real suspense. Like the original, it also has fun by playing with the conventions and rules of the horror genre.
The story picks up two years after the events of the first movie. Sidney is now a college student, but her past has come back to haunt her in the form of Stab!, a movie based on the Woodsboro murders of the original Scream. An in-joke is that in Stab!, Sidney is played by Tori Spelling, which is who she'd joked would end up playing her if they made a movie about what was happening in the first movie. Several other famous faces pop-up in cameos as characters in the movie within the movie.
When two murders are committed at a screening of Stab! near Sidney's college, the police fear a copycat killer might be on the loose and the surviving characters from the original movie all gather together. Gale Weathers, who wrote the book that Stab! is based on, is there to cover the story. Deputy Dewey, who is still suffering the effects of his stabbing in the first film, shows up out of concern for Sidney. Randy, who harbors a secret crush on Sidney, is attending the same college as her. And Cotton Weary, the man who had been falsely accused of murdering Sidney's mother, turns up wanting Sidney to take part in a televised interview as a way for both of them to make money.
As the murders continue, the script and Wes Craven's direction keep you guessing as to who the murderer might be. Is it one of the original characters, or could it be one of the new ones who are introduced here, such as Sidney's roommate, or her new boyfriend, or the ditzy sorority girls, or a host of other characters? It's fun trying to guess who, but the real point is just to enjoy things as they happen.
There are plenty of scares and tense moments as the Ghostface killer pops up everywhere and anywhere, hacking and slashing his way through the student population. You may find yourself yelling at the screen, as Jada Pinkett's character does as she watches Stab!, "Bitch, hangup the phone and star 69 his ass!" In what might be the best scene in the movie Sidney and Hallie must climb over the unconscious body of the killer in the front seat of a car. It's a brilliant moment that drips with suspense and anticipation,
Along with the scares, the script is packed with little moments and funny lines that lighten the mood and keep things fun and the pace fast. For instance, when Randy is asked by the killer what his favorite movie is, he replies, "Showgirls. Absolutely frightening." And David Arquette gets this line, which is funnier than it reads when you know his character and see how he delivers it, "How do you know that my dimwitted inexperience isn't merely a subtle form of manipulation, used to lower people's expectations, thereby enhancing my ability to effectively maneuver within any given situation?"
Sure, maybe because this is a sequel and not quite as fresh, it doesn't live up to the original, but it comes damn close and is still more enjoyable than most first installment horror films.
David Arquette and Jamie Kennedy in Scream 2
Like Scott, I enjoyed all of the in jokes. Randy's line about sequels is classic. In another scene Dewey and Randy are talking about some online nude photos of Gale. She quickly corrects them with, "It was just my head, it was Jennifer Aniston's body!" In reference to Courtney Cox's former "Friends" cast mate and real life friend.
The absolute best film reference though was not intentional, as the film being referenced had not even been made yet. After the initial murders, the film teacher says to his class, "You could say that what happened in that theater was a direct result of the movie itself." Sorority girl Cici responds, "That is so Moral Majority. You can't blame real life violence on entertainment." Another student jumps in with, "Yes you can. Don't you ever watch the news?" These students are talking about the screening of "Stab" but they could just as easily have been talking about the showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado where a man dressed as The Joker shot indiscriminately into the audience, killing 12 people and wounding 59.
I watched Scream 2 with vested interest, trying to guess who was behind the murders. Then however, we get to the climactic reveal on the stage. The entire scene is over the top and almost played as a farce. Gale's and Sydney's comments on the killers change of appearance seem rather unimportant at that moment. After the killer is down for the count, Gale asks Sydney if the killer is dead, who responds, "I don't know. They always come back." She then shoots the killer in the head, "Just in case." The line fits the mood of the film but it adds a bit of levity to a scene that was supposed to be tense.
Yes Randy, this sequel is an inferior film but still a very enjoyable one.
David Arquette, Jamie Kennedy, Duane Martin and Courteney Cox in Scream 2.
Scream 2 features a running conversation about movie sequels, specifically pondering the question of whether or not they can ever be superior to the original. No doubt the makers of this movie were attempting to do just that and they nearly succeeded. This sequel is only slightly inferior to the first Scream. Its one flaw is in the climax, which lacks the impact of the original installment. As Eric wrote it becomes almost farcical in the scenes on the stage. Especially in the bug-eyed lunacy of Laurie Metcalf's performance.
Just about everything else in the movie is spot on. It opens with a memorable double murder at the movie premiere of Stab, the movie within the movie. I love Stab's tagline, "This Is Gonna Hurt." If anything the script is even more clever than the first movie, with tons of self-referential nods and winks, and plenty of tidbits for fans of movie trivia. Jamie Kennedy gets this funny bit of dialogue, “I cannot believe it. They get Tori Spelling to play Sid, and they cast Joe Blow Nobody to play me. At least you get David Schwimmer. I get the guy who drove the stagecoach for one episode of Dr. Quinn!”
I can't think of another horror franchise that so beautifully blended scares with laughs. Somehow the lighthearted moments don't detract from the movie's ability to frighten. And the cast have all grown into their roles. I think it helped that they started filming this movie just 6 months after Scream premiered. The roles were still fresh in everyone's memory.
One horror movie trope that Scream 2 turns on its head is in its treatment of the African American characters. It begins by killing two of them off in the opening scene after Jada Pinkett's Maureen says, “It's some dumb-ass white movie about some dumb-ass white girls getting their white asses cut the fuck up, okay?” Later Duane Martin, as Gale's cameraman, says, “Brothers don't last long in situations like this.” He then proceeds to get out of town and as a result survives the movie.
Scream 2 doesn't quite top Scream but it comes damn close.
Photos © Copyright Dimension (1997)