I doubt the horror movie was ‘dead’ before Wes Craven’s Scream (1996) came out. Hadn’t The Silence of the Lambs (1991) had a revolutionary impact on the genre? Ah, but some of you might consider Lambs a thriller. I digress, though. Scream was novel, in at least one respect. It was an ironic horror movie about cineastes who love horror movies and know all the cliches. It was a sleeper hit, a refreshing spin on worn tropes.
With Craven back in the director’s chair and Kevin Williamson back on script duties, Scream 2 keeps the self-knowing smirk of the first movie. Aware of its status as a cash-in on a clever template—and of its role as a sequel—number two is still a let-down. I’m a Scream fan. From here on out, though, the series grates.
After a slam-bang (or stab-happy) start, in which a doomed couple (Omar Epps, Jada Pinkett Smith) attend a William Castle-like premiere of a movie inspired by the murders of the first film, Scream 2 takes us to college. Here, the movie reunites us with Sidney (Neve Campbell), Gale (Courtney Cox), and Dewey (David Arquette), all of them survivors of Ghostface, who is now back on the scene, ready to fillet Sidney and anyone who gets in the way. And… That’s it.
At their best, the Scream films hook us with the violent ways the characters evade and succumb to the horror-movie cliches they (and we) enjoy but still find tired. However, the cleverness of this conceit has its limits. In the first film, Craven & Williamson struck a neat balance between humor and horror. The movie was a toothy, entertaining critique of slasher films and the broken homes that create latch-key kids who love watching these movies. It was a bit of a one-trick pony, but still—Craven made a good movie. And it was more fun than scary.
Scream 2 walks in the same footsteps, but it limps. Lacking a single death that’s sad and-or shocking, the movie has us guess who the copycat Ghostface is, how the story will end. Every character, of course, is a suspect, and yet the real culprit (across the franchise) is the ripple effect the death of the nuclear family has on snarky youth starved for attention, steeped in ‘content’ and the notoriety sparked by their creation of, and participation in, ‘content.’
Scream 2 riffs on the first movie. It’s smart about what it’s up to (to a point), but it doesn’t feel as fresh. I overthink, I know; but I just can’t believe that the destruction wrought by the killers in Scream keeps inspiring lunatics to go after Sidney.
Oh well—there are some moments by which to remember Scream 2. Like the opening scene, the soundproof booth scene, and the locked car scene. Craven cranks things along. These moments aside, though, I can’t help but feel the air left the series here, in the sequel. The extent to which you like the movie depends on how much you enjoyed the original. And on how much mileage you think the franchise can pump from a concept that grows staler by the installment.
The first movie was the best one. The other entries are just thin excuses to string along more gotcha scares for an audience nostalgic for the films the Scream movies cheer and jeer, and for Scream Mach-1 itself.
Scream 2 is the best of the follow-ups.
Two discs of the film are in the new Paramount 4K UHD steelbook. The 4K disc features audio commentary by Craven, producer Marianne Maddalena, and editor Patrick Lussier. The Blu-ray disc has the same commentary, plus deleted scenes, music videos, outtakes, and TV spots and the theatrical trailer. There’s also a making-of featurette. Overall, the 4K UHD transfer looks good.
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