When Drew Barrymore was killed off in the first five minutes of the original Scream it came as a surprise to audiences everywhere. Any sequel was going to be hard pressed to top that idea, all they could really do is find a bigger star to slaughter early on. Who they got though was Jada Pinkett, which tells you from the start what kind of film you’re dealing with when it comes to the sequel.
Scream 2 (1997) picks up the story of Sidney Prescott a year after the traumatic events in her home town. Now in college with her friend Randy, Sidney is studying theatre (so a career in the fast food industry awaits her upon graduation) and is just on the verge of getting her life in order when a movie called “Stab” is released. The film is based on a book about the murders in the first Scream written by Gale Weathers, the reporter who covered the events. The film stirs up all the old memories for Sidney, especially as two people are murdered at a sneak preview. With the media on Sidney’s case once more the news media are giving air time to Cotton Weary, the man Sidney had wrongly accused of the killing of her mother, which just adds to the strain she’s under.
One night, during a big party at a frat house, a girl is murdered in a nearby sorority house. The killer is wearing the same halloween costume as the killer from Sidneys past and it quickly becomes apparent that there’s a copycat killer on the loose.
The first Scream movie did a lot for the horror genre so it was inevitable that there’d be a sequel, the only surprise was how quickly it appeared, only one year after the original. In the same way that Scream knew it was a horror film filled with cliches, Scream 2 is aware of its status as a horror sequel and plays to that fact with great effect. There are several references to sequels and loads of contrivances to get people into place so that they can take part. Sidney and Randy went off to college together, Dewey gets wind that there was trouble on campus so he turns up, Gale is there in her role as a reporter to cover events and so on.
Scream 2 does up the ante in a few areas, most particularly in terms of the cast. Neve Campbell returns as Sidney, David Arquette is back as Dewey, and Courteney Cox shows up as Gale Weathers too. Added in for this outing is Sarah Michelle Gellar, Timothy Olyphant, Jerry O’Connell and a few other recognisable faces. Jerry O’Connell is surprisingly good as Sidney’s boyfriend and there’s one scene where he sings a song that could have been a disaster but turns out quite well. That scene reflects a greater focus on comedy that runs through the whole film with the usual references to horror films present as well as several jokes about the TV show Friends, at Cox or Arquette’s expense.
The violence in Scream 2 is a little more graphic than the first with more time spent on showing the stabbings, but it never gets really gory and it never gets really scary either. Scream 2 is not in the least be frightening but it’s not so out and out funny as to be a comedy either, it’s as if it was so completely wrapped up in being a homage to horror sequels that it forgot to actually be a horror sequel.
Unfortunately Scream 2 is further let down by it’s ending which, instead of honoring horror films seemed more to be based on the endings of several episodes of Scooby Doo. In looking at the ending something struck me that was missing from Scream 2. Normally in movies the main character goes through some sort of change, something happens in their life that makes them a different person. In most slasher movies a female character is faced with some baddie that makes her change from being a regular girl into a tough as nails sort unfazed by monsters and the like. In Scream, Sidney goes from being a weepy insecure paranoid chick into being a fairly hardy bitch. In Scream 2, she’s already a tough sort so she doesn’t develop, in fact none of the characters develop so there really is a feeling of going through the motions.
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