Scream 2 Review
Rarely these days do film sequels happen so quickly after their predecessor. In December of 1997, Scream 2 proved to be one of the exceptions to the rule. Released a little less than a year after the original Scream sold out theaters and rejuvenated the horror genre, Wes Craven, Kevin Williamson and the remaining cast were tasked with creating a sequel that somehow didn’t fall into the pitfalls that other horror sequels had in the past. And yet despite a rushed shooting schedule and a major production leak halfway through filming, they succeeded. While Scream 2 may not be as fresh as its predecessor was, it’s still contains plenty of laughs and thrills on a bigger scale. All in all, Scream 2 may have been the first worthy horror sequel to be released in years.
A year after the bloody events in their hometown of Woodsboro, friends Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy) find themselves in Ohio at the small school Windsor College. At first glance things are normal; Randy has thrown himself into film class while Sidney has found herself a new, nicer boyfriend in Derek (Jerry O’Connell). Then a couple (Omar Epps and Jada Pinkett Smith) is murdered at the premiere of the film Stab, based off Gale Weather’s (Courtney Cox) book on the Woodsboro murders, and once again all hell breaks loose. The media, again led by Weathers and newcomer Debbie Salt (Laurie Metcalf), soon arrives, the body count rises, and once again everyone is a suspect. Could it be Sidney’s boyfriend again? Is it Dewey (David Arquette), the seemingly nice if bumbling Woodsboro officer who turns up right as the killings start? Or is it Cotton Weary (Live Schreiber), the attention crazed former convict who was once convicted of killing Sidney’s mother?
A sequel to Scream wasn’t altogether surprising, as writer Williamson had written an outline for two potential sequels before he even sold the script for Scream. What was surprising however was how quickly Miramax and Dimension Films had production started. Scream may not have been out of theaters when Scream 2 was green lit in March of 1997 with an expected December release, forcing Williamson and the returning Craven to work within a nine month window for production and post production. The rushed schedule would have a massive effect on the script, as Williamson would be forced to do a quick rewrite in July after the film’s original script was leaked in its entirety. As result, the film greatly differentiated from Williamson’s original intention, and while the film itself shows no signs of being changed on the fly (a testament to the ability of both writer and director), you can certainly tell some scenes were rushed or not thought through. One scene in particular, where Sidney goes back to a car to see who the killer is (he’s supposedly unconscious after a car accident), is just plain dumb, to the point you wonder if someone else had taken of the script for a scene. That mistake reeks of something that wouldn’t have happened if production had been on a normal timetable.
Beyond that though, the film works in the same way the original did, only on a grander scale. Clearly nodding to the fact that sequels are generally much more massive than their original, Craven and Williamson crafted Scream 2 to be just that. The kills have become more elaborate, the gore is more noticeable, actual theater is featured (Sidney is acting in a college play) and most notably the concept of a film within in a film is introduced with Stab (which is pretty much an intentionally poor remake of the first Scream directed by Roberto Rodriguez). Despite going bigger though, Craven and Williamson never forget what brought them to the dance and perfectly balance the increased spectacle with the tongue in cheek approach of the first film. The film references continue to fly, the characters continue to remain smarter than your standard horror stereotypes and the pacing is never dull. And once again Craven is a master behind the camera; like the first film he makes the setting dreamy and claustrophobic (the characters are very much confined to the campus, much like they all were in Woodsboro) and once again uses several techniques to throw red herrings at the audience.
After a good but not great performance in Scream, Neve Campbell makes Sidney Prescott a fully realized character in Scream 2. Whereas her interpretation of Sidney in the first film was of someone who was kind of pathetic, Campbell this time presents her as a scarred, paranoid loner who could easily break one day the same way the people trying to kill her have. The result is a much more interesting and badass character; this Sidney Prescott is someone you wouldn't want to run into in a dark alley. Courtney Cox and David Arquette are also better this time around as well, though that has more to do with increased roles. Of the two Cox is more impressive, swinging from bloodthirsty reporter to concerned detective during the film’s running time. The chemistry between Gale and Dewey is much more fleshed out here as well; the small romantic angle they had in the first film felt largely contrived (and not just because Gale was using Dewey), whereas here it feels like something that works.
While there’s no Matthew Lillard among the supporting cast, there’s very few weak spots as well (interestingly enough, Lillard appears in a blink-and-you-missed-it cameo during a party). Live Schreiber is the best of the bunch, making Cotton Weary a strange enigma; does he want revenge for Sidney putting him in prison, redemption, fame or some combination of the three? Close behind is Laurie Metcalf, who’s Debbie Salt shows us what happens when you don’t become Gale Weathers. Jamie Kennedy is once again effective as Randy (though his role is sadly limited this time around), Duane Martin gets some laughs as Gale’s new cameraman, while Timothy Olyphant and Elise Neal are serviceable as Sidney’s college friends. Once again, only Sidney’s boyfriend is the weak spot. Jerry O’Connell has proven to be a fine actor over the years, but here he merely outdoes Skeet Ulrich as being the blandest man Sid’s had in her life. Even his rendition of The Partridge Family's "I Think I Love You" to Sidney in the Windsor College cafeteria is more lame than it is funny. You’ll likely spend most of his screen time wishing Craven had cut him out.
Much like Scream, there’s so much to talk about with Scream 2 that something inevitably gets left out. Once again it’s taken me this far to mention the music (again great thanks to the returning Marco Beltrami), and I haven’t even mentioned yet the large amount of cameos the film contains, with performers like Sarah Michelle Gellar, Heather Graham, Tori Spelling, Joshua Jackson, Luke Wilson and Portia de Rossi making appearances (several of them as themselves portraying characters in the Stab film). It’s further proof that, just like its predecessor, Scream 2 is a winner. Is it the first film? Not quite; there’s a couple of lapses in judgment from the script and you can tell that the freshness the first film had is starting to fade a bit (something that would affect Scream 3 far more a few years later). But even if it’s not as sharp as Scream was, Scream 2 is still the rare horror sequel that maintained its formula and grew its characters while also getting bigger. That’s an unqualified success in my book.
How good is Scream 2?
© 2014 Eric Mutter