Scream 2 Movie Review
Same victims, same killer, new rules. Craven’s sequel to his popular murderous ‘whodunit’, is as meta as his first one!
Genre: Horror / Mystery
Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courtney Cox, Jamie Kennedy, Jerry O’Connell, Laurie Metcalf, Timothy Olyphant, Liev Schreiber, Sarah Michelle Gellar & Jada Pinkett-Smith.
Run Time: 120 min.
US Release: 12 December 1997
UK Release: 01 May 1998
German Release: 23 April 1998
It’s Throwback Thursday! In anticipation of Scream VI, I decided to review the rest of the franchise on a weekly basis. “Sequels suck!” is a statement made by Randy Meeks, one that I tend to agree with! Most continuations of unique-based ideas don’t hold up with the original product. Only a handful of sequels are worthy to be called that, with even fewer surpassing the first film. Wes Craven’s second instalment of his horror-mystery franchise is one of those rare occasions, specifically for a slasher. In fact, I still consider it to be the best follow-up of the series. So, grab your knives and let’s “stab” into my review!
— WARNING, THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! —
Two years after the Woodsboro murders, Ghostface re-emerges during a preview of “Stab”, the movie based on Gale Weathers’ novel of the Woodsboro massacre. Two college students, who share name fragments with some of the original victims, are murdered during the screening. Officer Dewey Riley travels to Windsor College, to check up on Sidney Prescott, who was the prime target of the first killers.
Reporter Gale Weathers is also on campus, trying to force a reunion between Sidney and Cotton Weary, the man who was wrongly accused of having killed Maureen Prescott, her mother. Meanwhile, Randy Meeks, another survivor, who is a motion picture enthusiast, suspects that the new killer is trying to create a sequel to the original massacre. But who is behind the mask and what is their motivation?
The planning for Scream 2 happened unusually fast. Aspiring screenwriter Kevin Williamson, who wrote the script for the first flick, had also penned a five-page outline for a follow-up, hoping to attract buyers with the potential for a franchise. When audiences reacted well to a test screening of Scream, Dimension Films moved quickly to produce the sequel. However, the production faced many difficulties, with pages of the script completed on the day of filming, as well as an internet leak, revealing the identity of the killers.
Nevertheless, Scream 2 remains to be the best sequel quality-wise, which has a lot to do with the fact that it maintained the formula of its predecessor; combining the slasher subgenre with a compelling ‘whodunit’ mystery element. The tongue-in-cheek comedy is kept, modifying the satirical meta element that criticised horror filmmaking, now expanding into Hollywood’s need for sequels or franchise building. Still, what makes this truly an entertaining story, is the fact that it acknowledges the plot of the previous movie, building on it, while simultaneously diving deeper into its themes.
The script draws on the silly mishaps that happen in follow-ups to hit flicks, fully leaning into them, making fun of errors, criticising the industry as a whole, just like exploring different horror clichés. The narrative is not only incredibly self-aware, but it is also a spectacularly good example of how horror should be handled for the big screen.
The dialogues become academic, as it takes place in college, involving film students. The media in this fictitious world picks up real-life arguments that are still going on today, about the influence of violence that slasher pictures can have on troubled minds.
Now, while this might be a near-perfect continuation, it holds characters that drag the overall quality down a bit. Be warned, because it is in this section I will delve into spoiler territory.
Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott is once again brilliant! She does sell her mixed feelings of being worried at the fact that the killing spree is starting anew, as well as her nuisance of being targeted again. Most impressive is the fact how she was written! Instead of a female lead, paralysed by fear, Sydney grew from her experience, becoming bolder, tougher, yet more vigilant on who to trust. Her characterisation is very well handled!
David Arquette, on the other hand, has little to do as Dewey. There was no real reason for him to leave Woodsboro, I feel like a call to Sidney would have sufficed, however, his presence was needed to pair him up with Gale again, played by Courtney Cox, for romance's sake. Speaking of Gale Weathers, though she does have a reason to be on campus, the role feels as if it had been reset to what she was like at the beginning of Scream.
Laurie Metcalf gave an outstanding rendition as the small-town journalist, constantly bugging Gale with her eagerness of wanting to step into her shoes. Or so she lets audiences and Gale herself believe, as it is revealed in the third act she is Billy Loomis’ mother, on a revenge trip against Sidney, for killing her only son.
Timothy Olyphant’s character Mickey is fun at first, appearing as a movie connoisseur adversary for Randy. Nonetheless, the big reveal at the end, about him being the second killer, while plausible, is handled clumsily, turning his persona into a cheap Stu Macher knock-off.
Liev Schreiber returns as Cotton Weary in a larger role. The character had been wrongly incarcerated in the previous feature, and while his name has been cleared, people still treat him like a felon. This gives him the perfect motive as a possible suspect. Schreiber played Cotton wonderfully obnoxiously.
Just like the script, the cinematography fully embraces the fact that it is a self-aware horror-comedy, coming to full closure at the finale, where the standoff between Sidney and the killers takes place on a theatre stage. As in the predecessor, shadows are used to full effect, although a lot more takes place during daylight. The feeling of claustrophobia is again induced in specific scenes, such as the car accident with Ghostface. Finally, the effects are practical and look realistic.
Marco Beltrami returned to helm the score, building on his previous soundtrack adding more female choral arrangements plus western motives. Danny Elfman also collaborated in this project, composing the choral track “Cassandra Aria”, used during a scene for a play, as well as in the finale.
Verdict: In all honesty, with all problems that plagued production and the creation of the final script, it is a miracle that Scream 2 turned out as good as it is, less becoming one of the best sequels in a franchise. The screenplay builds on what is already established in the original, shifting from fun, tongue-in-cheek meta references, to a more cynical tone that fully dissects the genre's formula. In addition, it is overly critical of the media coverage of violent films, the industry's reliance on franchises, plus the general audience as a whole. Characters are mostly fleshed out or developed, though Dewey seems to be wasted here. Mrs Loomis is written as a homage to Mrs. Vorhees. The cinematography is solid, making use of practical effects, while the score is eerie and fun! Wes Craven’s successor to a movie that revived a horror sub-genre, deserves an 8.0 out of 10!
Which Scream flick is your favourite? Do you agree with my review? Leave a comment in the section below. Thank you for reading!