Screenplay : Kevin Williamson
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 1997
Stars : Neve Campbell (Sidney Prescott), David Arquette (Dewey Riley), Courteney Cox (Gale Weathers), Liev Schreiber (Cotton Weary), Sarah Michelle Gellar (Cici Cooper), Jerry O'Connell (Derek), Timothy Olyphant (Mickey), Jada Pinkett (Maureen), Omar Epps (Paul Stevens)
The only movies more ripe for ridicule and satire than mindless slasher films are the endless sequels to mindless slasher films. Considering how deftly unoriginal slasher pics are in the first place, it doesn't take much to imagine how even less original the same movie is with Part 2 plastered after its title.
With that in mind, Scream 2 deserves a hearty round of applause for not tumbling into the trap that has engulfed so many other forgettable sequels. Like the original film, Scream 2 dances delicately around its inherently cheesy material by being an effective thriller that adheres to the rules of the genre while simultaneously mocking itself and those same rules by which it so steadfastly lives. It is all at once a rehash of the first film, a satire on sequels in general, and a satisfying extension of characters we already know and care about.
Returning from the first film are Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), the heroine of the original who is now a freshman at Windsor College; Randy (Jamie Meeks), her high school pal who knew all the rules of the slasher genre and is now applying his knowledge to film classes at the same school; Dewey Riley (David Arquette), the bumbling police deputy who only narrowly survived in the first film; Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber), the man Sidney wrongly accused of murdering her mother years ago; and Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), the shark of a newscaster who covered the original murders with exuberant glee and has since cashed in by writing a best-selling book about it. The film also includes small roles for some of today's most popular young actors, including Jada Pinckett, Omar Epps, and Sarah Michelle Gellar (plus an amusing tongue-in-cheek cameo by none other than Tori Spelling).
When the film opens, a movie version of Weathers' book Stab is opening at all the multiplexes. Scream 2 immediately sets its tone of both horror and satire in these early scenes, when a double-murder takes place in the movie theater among the jeering audience members who are too caught up in the movie to notice. Is it life imitating art, or is it just a freak incident? (Of course it's life imitating art, or else there wouldn't be a movie.) Next thing we know, a copycat killer is on the loose on Windsor campus, and sorority girls are being dropped as quickly as high school teeny-boppers were in the original film.
In addition to returning cast members, Scream 2 boasts a true rarity in the slasher genre: the same writer/director team that created the original, evidence that this sequel was a planned event and not just a quickie churned out to capitalize on an earlier success (although the speed at which it was produced would suggest exactly that). Horror veteran Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street) once again shows a sure hand behind the camera while guiding the screenplay by Kevin Williamson, who has become one of the hottest screenwriters in Hollywood.
There are several great set-pieces in Scream 2 and a number of memorable conversations, including one on whether or not any sequels have ever been superior to the originals (a few mentions include Aliens, Terminator 2, and The Godfather Part II). There is an endless list of pop culture references, from Quentin Tarantino, to Star Wars, to Jennifer Aniston, to Showgirls. Unfortunately, some of the more broad-based humor, especially jokes aimed at the perceived shallowness of fraternities and sororities, is mostly trite and belongs in a lesser movie.
But, most of Scream 2 comes off as great, self-referential fun. Along the way, Craven and Williamson actually build on their characters, making them deeper, more insightful, and more interesting, which is a true rarity in this market. The worst part about most slasher films is that, with the exception of "the Final Girl," the characters are dull, boring, and unsympathetic. Here, we actually care about the characters, which adds impact to the screenplay.
By making everyone fair game, and not just the "disposable" characters, Williamson adds a sly touch of uneasiness that increases the suspense and surprise when the knife flashes. In Scream 2, finding out who gets killed is almost as surprising as finding out who the killer is.
Copyright © 1997 James Kendrick