Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Jerry O’Connell, Jamie Kennedy, Liev Schreiber, Timothy Olyphant, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jada Pinkett Smith
Plot: When a horror movie depicts the events of the Woodsboro killings is released, it inspires a brand new killer to target Sidney Prescott (Campbell) and try to recreate his own sequel.
I really didn’t get the first Scream. I understood the post-modernism poking at the horror genre, but I felt that the lack of real horror and a story that never took itself seriously kept getting in the way of the enjoyment. I really stand apart from the crowd with this one, unable to understand its hype. This meant that I wasn’t really looking forward to the sequel, but, to my surprise, Scream 2 is actually a pretty awesome movie.
There are a few reasons for this. The main one is that sequels are far easier targets for Wes Craven’s post-modernist humour. Jamie Kennedy’s insights into horror movie sequels always hit home and feel a lot less forced than they did in the first movie. As the body count rises and the deaths get gorier (one demise at the end of a car chase sequence is particularly gruesome), Jamie Kennedy gleefully ticks off his predictions. I also enjoyed the irony of the movies heartlessly celebrating the anniversary of the killing spree, caught up in the fantasy of serial killers and almost driving Sidney Prescott to madness yet again. The lack of empathy makes for a great opening scene where Ghostface hides amongst a crowd of people, dressed in his iconic mask and cloak. Another reason the sequel is better than the original is that some of the characters return and are much easier to understand. In the first one, some of them felt like cut-out figures for Craven to play with. Prescott was clearly the heroine, Kennedy was introduced for the meta-nods and Gale Weathers felt like a plot device rather than an actual character. This time, everyone develops that little bit more. Courtney Cox is the star of the show here, ruthless yet likeable at the same time. Her romance with David Arquette is allowed to develop naturally, as if they are in a TV show rather than a movie, not being rushed into any sudden directions. The newcomers are also better cast. I am a big fan of Schreiber and the bit parts from Olyphant and Gellar are much better handled.
It still isn’t quite scary. Don’t get me wrong, it is much better than the first, which went with mindless violence over clever suspense scenes. I think that Scream 2 works to beat the first one, which gives Craven the inspiration to go with some pretty iconic moments. The two scenes that stood out for me were the chase through the recording studio and the moment where Sidney has to crawl over Ghostface’s unconscious body to get out of the car, she is trapped in. I wouldn’t call it fear, but there is a certain amount of exhilaration at wondering what scare Craven is going to use next. The problem with Scream is that Ghostface just isn’t scary. Sure, as he glides across set-pieces with the speed and determination of a seasoned horror movie veteran, but he keeps doing small things that hurt the power of the character. When he finally gets to a victim, he trips over everything in his path and uses his knife with the precision of a drunk darts player. When a chair being thrown in his path overpowers the villain, it is hard to be too threatened by his next appearance. Sure, he might be behind that door, but the good guys will probably get away by punching him in the gut.
Scream 2 falls back on a good old murder mystery story though. I think Scream also did this, in fairness, as it is the same routine of lining up red herrings, most of them the classic rogue gallery in a horror movie, and playing with who is the actual killer. The problem with the first was that the twist was unbelievably awful, whereas here, it works. It helps that the bad guy is played by someone who can actually act. The clues are dangled in front of us and cleverly leads us down the wrong path several times. I got the killer wrong, yet I still had fun in the smoke and mirrors deployed by Craven. Some of the surprises held in store are good too. Certain deaths come out of the blue and take you by surprise. One character I didn’t predict getting so suddenly removed from the story, but I guess that is what makes a good horror movie. Or story, in general. So yes, Scream might not be my favourite franchise, but this sequel raises the bar and finally lets me understand why this is such a loved cornerstone of the horror genre.
Final Verdict: There is a discussion about sequels that beat the original buried in this movie. I would like to add Scream 2 to that list.