It’s easy to forget how influential Scream was to the horror genre. Not only did the series pave the way for meta movies it paved the way for horror-comedies. Would we have movies like Shaun of the Dead without the Scream franchise? Scream was a trendsetter, but what about Scream 2? Well, I’m happy to say that not only is Scream 2 just as influential, it’s just as good.
The film begins as a couple, Maureen (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Phil (Omar Epps), are attending a sneak preview of a new horror movie called “Stab” starring Tori Spelling. If you can’t tell, Stab is a film-within-a-film about the events of the first Scream. While Phil couldn’t be more excited by the buzz and free costume giveaways at the screening, Maureen couldn’t be more bored of slasher movies. It’s a nice commentary on the predictability and redundancy of the slasher genre. What no one seems to realize is that not only are they watching a film about the Ghostface killer, but the Ghostface killer is in attendance! Everyone else is wearing Ghostface costumes, so how would anyone ever know? Ghostface kills Phil in a bathroom stall and stabs Maureen in the theater. This is great because everyone assumes it’s just part of the show, but it’s real.
We pick up with Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell), one of the main survivors of the original string of murders, attending college as a theater major with her best friend Hallie (Elise Neal). Also returning from the first film is Randy (Jamie Kennedy), the series’ resident horror expert, Officer Dewey Riley (David Arquette) and journalist Gail Weathers (Courtney Cox), who has since written a book about the Woodsboro murders. New characters…and suspects include Sidney’s new boyfriend Derek (Jerry O’Connell), Derek’s friend Micky (Timothy Olyphant) and Cici (Sarah Michelle Gellar). Also returning from the first film is Cotton Weary (Liev Schrieber) a creepy guy on the path of redemption after spending a year in prison for being framed for the original murders.
The film is unique in its self-analysis of sequels. Particularly, how sequels up the body count, have more elaborate deaths and are usually inferior to their predecessors. These scenes usually involve Randy fielding movie questions and shooting down other’s responses. It’s crazy to think there’s a movie where Jamie Kennedy plays the most likable, interesting character, but it’s true. That’s not to say the other characters aren’t likable and interesting in their own right.
Something I love about Scream is its aversion to having a cast of sexy, bad acting douchey teens. The performances are solid around the horn. Neve Campbell plays damaged and moody without being annoying and Liev Schrieber steals every scene he’s in with his stone-faced solemness. I don’t know if the characters are relatable but they are at least likable.
Another positive unique to Scream is Ghostface. Every slasher film has its baddie; Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, but Ghostface is different. Ghostface isn’t one person. Ghostface is an identity donned by a different character in every film, giving each installment a kind of “Scooby-Doo Whodunit mystery.” Therefore it always gives you something extra to chew on while watching. “Who’s the killer?” The only downside to this is that the reveal is always followed by a cheesy expositional speech by the villain, often while waving around a gun. It’s like something out of a bad James Bond movie. FINISH THE JOB ALREADY!
The film holds up surprisingly well considering how much it breathes the 90s. The hairstyles and alternative soundtrack feel like they would be just as at home in 10 Things I Hate About You, but this a minor complaint. I think the reason these first two films are still great is how well they work as both comedies and horror films. Kevin Williamson’s scripts poke fun at horror cliches but it’s out of a place of love and respect, not venom. Wes Craven also had a knack for making films with strong tonal shifts and never goes too far in either direction.
Scream 2 was followed by a sequel in 2000—that had a Jay and Silent Bob cameo—though by that point Williamson seemed to have been running out of ideas. Scream 4 was released in 2011, and although better still felt a little tired. A Scream TV series followed on MTV which has its moments but is mostly a bunch of sexy, melodramatic bullshit. Regardless, the series will always live on in some form. Whether it’s in a movie, or TV show, or in the back of the mind of any aspiring horror screenwriter’s head.
Goin’ in for the smooch!