Like Scream, this is a film I’ve watched to death over the years. But unlike Screamit doesn’t quite hold up as well.
The opening sequence in the cinema is a fucking all-timer. It’s Craven firing on all cylinders and is inventive, surprising and upsetting in equal measure. I’ll never forget that image of Jada Pinkett screaming her final scream in front of a packed theatre of ghostfaces while certain audience members take off their masks to cover their ears. Christ is that shit tough.
I also love how this sequel picks up and continues a bunch of threads from the first film. It feels like a true continuation. Sidney doesn’t just revert back to being helpless. She really kicks a lot of ass here and refuses to succumb to being a mere victim. You feel her plight throughout the movie. There’s a sense that she knows all of this will never stop and in one way or another she’s always going to be alone. The Cotton Weary stuff is also terrific and, from Liev Schreiber’s brief appearance in the original, feels like it was planned all along (it probably was as writer Kevin Williamson had completed outlines for the sequels sold alongside the script for the first film). I’m all for the Dewey/Gale Weathers stuff. I saw these movies a good fifteen years too early for the whole “one true pairing” shit but those guys were always my favourite “will they/won’t they” power couple. I also dig how all the characters have a new look, from Gale right on down to Randy. These guys are growing up and changing. The film doesn’t ignore that. Plus the film even has the balls to off a fan favourite. Randy biting it was always a massive shock and a real ace in the film’s hand and Dewey getting stabbed and surviving again (!) is both cruel and hilarious.
All the horror-sequel musings are on-point as well. Maybe even more focused and sharp than the riffs in the first film. Williamson is really on fire with all that stuff. Craven seems more confident in his abilities as well by staging some excellent set pieces of varying scales. The phone-call/intruder in the house from the first film’s opening is upped with Sarah Michelle Gellar’s segment and the crashed police-car sequence is a textbook example of stripped-back suspense.
Where this film stumbles in comparison to its predecessor is in its finale. The ending is nowhere near as clever or surprising as the original and feels too overblown for its own good. The script for Scream 2 was famously leaked onto the internet during production which forced Williamson and Craven to frantically re-write and re-think much of the film in order to stay ahead of the audience. When all is said and done, the mad rush and scramble is quite apparent. The idea of bringing Billy’s mother into the fold as a secondary killer is good in theory but becomes a bit too ridiculous under scrutiny. It edges things a tad too far into soap-opera territory rather than Scream. Timothy Olyphant and Laurie Metcalf both go to town on their roles though and I always enjoy their work in all its shouty, crazy-eyed glory.
Re-watching Scream 2 directly after re-watching Scream dampened its impact somewhat. That film’s effectiveness comes from the reinvention of so many classic tropes and environments (school hallways, country houses, spotless suburbia) that the sequel, with its campus setting and myriad of grand locations can’t help but feel less iconic and striking. On the whole though, as far as horror sequels go, this has to be one of the strongest. It doesn’t simply re-hash the original film, it pushes the concept further and re-asserts itself in terms of setting, tone, ambition and scale. Its a bigger film, with more rules to break and for the most part matches the first film in the thrills, kills and excitement department. Plus: the characters. It’s worth firing Scream 2 up just to spend another two hours with Sidney, Dewey, Randy and Gale. It’s no Scream but its a damn good Scream 2.