Here’s the incredible follow-up to the smash hit phenomenon “Scream!” Away at college, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) thought she’d finally put the shocking murders that shattered her life behind her…until a copycat killer begins acting out a real-life sequel! Now, as history eerily repeats itself, ambitious reporter Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), deputy Dewey (David Arquette) and other Scream survivors find themselves trapped in a terrifyingly clever plotline where no one is safe – or beyond suspicion! Director Wes Craven (Scream) and hit-making writer Kevin Williamson (Scream, I know What You Did Last Summer) team up once again, coolest, edgiest thrill-ride ever!
Scream 2 6.5
eyelights: the cast. its many discussions of the genre and sequels. its talk about the impact of films on society.
eyesores: its lack of focus and weak plot development.
“Never, ever, under any circumstances, assume the killer is dead.”
After the monstrous success of ‘Scream‘, it only seemed natural that a sequel would be made. However, with ‘Scream’, the bar had been re-set. High. Horror films could no longer be mindless and tossed together lackadaisically as they once were; they had to be clever, well-performed and constructed. Naturally, this standard applied to all horror films.
Including its own sequels.
Sequels are typically weaker than their forebears, and writer Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven were very aware of this. In “Scream 2′ they tried to address this all the while trying to avoid the pitfalls they themselves had set. Unfortunately, they didn’t quite succeed, and ‘Scream 2’ paled in comparison; it was decent, but not great.
The picture continues the story of Sidney Prescott, taking us two years later, now in college and dealing with the repercussions of her notoriety: Gale Weathers wrote about on the Woodsboro murders and it has been made into a movie called ‘Stab’. She’s now a target for hoaxers and copycat killers and, soon, bodies start to turn up and pile up.
If anything, this ‘Scream’ feels like a half-baked picture. It’s full of great ideas that don’t amount to much. The perfect example is the opening that takes us into a preview showing for ‘Stab’ and that has two African-Americans discussing the racism inherent in the genre. It’s a great discussion to have and it’s a gas to see ‘Scream’ spoofed in ‘Scream 2’.
But then it unfolds in the most ridiculous fashion, with one character getting killed in a bathroom stall because he was listening in on the killer making strange noises and then the killer dressing up as the victim and going after his girlfriend. The kills were both stupid but it also begged the question: How did the killer plan it? How could he/she?
And that’s the biggest problem with ‘Scream 2’: whereas the original was credible enough that you could buy into it wholesale, a lot of this one doesn’t make an ounce of sense – case in point, when Sid and her best friend stop their car at a red light and the killer comes at them. How did the killer know they would be there and get the red light?
Or the moment that Dewey and Gale go looking for a VCR in the college to play a tape that might lead to the killer’s identity and are targeted by the killer – who somehow expected them and set up the television there with his/her own video. None of these are at all possible, and thus they reduce our ability to believe and let go.
So I spent much of the picture wanting to like it but winding up being dragged out of my glee by its inconsistency. It’s too bad, too, because there are great elements to it, like the discussions of the impact of film violence on culture or of sequels between the students or the one between Dewey and Randy as they try to figure out who the killer might be.
There’s also some nods and pokes at celebrity culture, now that Cotton Weary is out of jail, having been exonerated by the first film’s killings. Now he looks his redemption by telling his story in the media and he seeks any occasion to be in front of a camera, going so far as to stalk Sid for her collaboration on the matter. It’s funny and creepy at once.
It also has some great bits with Sid being concerned that she’s the catalyst for all this violence in her loved ones’ lives. The self-awareness is what makes Sid such a great part, on top of her intelligence and feistiness. As in the original, Neve Campbell delivers full force here, making Sid a three-dimensional character. She’s excellent.
Unfortunately, Sid is sidelined a little bit here as she comes under police protection and Gale and Dewey become the focus of the investigation. As much as I like the others as secondary characters, I much prefer Sid as a lead, and here she is dropped a notch to become just as important as the others. I’m sure the other actors’ contracts demanded it.
But it weakens the picture.
Furthermore, not all the secondary characters are nearly as good as in the original film. The returning characters are, but Sid’s boyfriend, Derek (played perfectly fine by Jerry O’Connell), is pretty cookie-cutter and drab. Her best friend, Hallie (played by Elise Neal), is sweet but otherwise not very interesting either. It leaves Sid poorly surrounded.
Liev Schreiber is terrific as Cotton Weary, making him smart but awkward. And that’s part of the problem because he’s off-putting, difficult to like. Sarah Michelle Gellar plays a cookie-cutter sorority girl who serves literally no purpose in the picture other than to add a victim to the count. That was a total waste of space and could have been cut out.
Timothy Olyphant is fine as Mickey, Derek’s friend, but he doesn’t really stand out in any significant way – not in the way that Matthew Lillard did. He’s under-used. And Laurie Metcalfe comes off as a bit off her top as a local journalist who is following the story; she’s all googly-eyed, crazed-looking and she just pops up and disappears randomly.
There are a couple of excellent bits of casting, however, starting with Tori Spelling playing herself playing Sid in ‘Stab’ – following the joke (in the original film) that, with Sid’s luck, she’ll have Spelling play her in the movie version of her life. It’s a great nod to the original and some excellent self-deprecation from Spelling. I loved that bit.
And then there’s Duane Martin, as Gale’s fill-in cameraman, Joel. He’s amazing. I love the part because the guy is intelligent and cautious. He comments on the events and (unlike most horror film characters) decides that his life is more important than a gig. Martin is excellent, balancing the humour and tension just right. He’s a standout here.
There are also superb scenes like the one that has Randy, Dewey and Gale getting a call from the killer and wandering about the college’s lawns looking for him/her while trying to keep him on the phone. It was set up really well and its conclusion was completely unexpected. You couldn’t get a more satisfying mixture of suspense and humour than this.
Similarly, although the sequence in which Gale and Dewey are trapped in the college by the killer starts off on the wrong foot, its continuation is superb, delivered with all the claustrophobia and vulnerability that the intended victims must have felt. And, once again, its conclusion is unexpected and shocking. It’s quite hard to forget.
But the film falters so often that these don’t make up for the weaknesses. Derek’s song in the cafeteria is such a cringe-worthy moment that it kills the movie for me, and the whole ending is complete utter crap – from the traffic light confrontation onward. It completely lacks momentum, it’s not interesting nor is it clever; it totally lets the air out.
Of course, a lot of these issues may come from last-minute rewrites: in 1997, the full script of ‘Scream 2’ was leaked on the internet, forcing Williamson to change the killer’s identity, the ending and the development of a few key characters because they were now well-known to the public. And, with suspense pictures, surprise is absolutely everything.
Whatever the reason, in the end, ‘Scream 2’ is a disappointment. It not only fails to meet the heights of its predecessor, it doesn’t even stand up on its own. It is so poor, in fact, that I didn’t feel like seeing the third picture in the (then) trilogy. I just assumed that the series would go downhill from there, as most of these tend to do.
I was soon to find out that it’s quite the contrary.
Date of viewing: August 6, 2015