Retro Film Review: Scream 2 (1997)


Wes Craven's 1996 film Scream is often referenced as one of the most successful 1990s Hollywood parodies. It is also one of the most influential films, at least judging by the way it resurrected the "teenage slasher" horror films in 1990s - the very genre it had parodied it. But Scream was far from being perfect or complete parody for one simple reason. One element of the genre referenced in Scream is Hollywood's habit of making sequels of successful horror films. The only way for Hollywood horror sequels to be parodied was to make a sequel of horror parody. Craven did it in 1997 with Scream 2.

The plot starts few years after the carnage described in the original film. Gale Weathers (played by Courtney Cox), television reporter and one of the survivors, described those events in bestselling book, later turned into film which is about to have its premiere. However, it seems that someone else wants to reconstruct those events, this time by actual murders. The victims and methods indicate that the next victim or killer's ultimate target is going to be the same person who was target before - Sindey Prescott (played by Neve Campbell), young woman who, together with her friend and fellow survivor Randy Meeks (played by Jamie Kennedy), tries to live normal life as a student at Windsor College. Because of that, Prescott is hounded both by reporters and by people from her past. As killings continue, Sidney is becoming convinced that the killer might actually be someone she trusts.

Thanks to the ingenious script by Kevin Williamson and Craven's direction, Scream succeeded both as a genre film and parody of a genre. The authors' task in Scream 2 was harder - how to make a sequel which is at least as good as the original. Williamson again applies the same trick with Scream 2 - he mentions "rules" of the sequels, similar to the "rules" of the genre mentioned in the original, and the audience later has fun noticing how those "rules" are applied and mocked through plot. Yet, whole concept of Scream 2 had serious problem - how to remain faithful to the "rules" of sequels and have sequel that won't be noticeably inferior to the original. Craven solves this problem in the brilliant opening scene – it works both as a copy of the opening scene in Scream and its almost surreal parody. At the same time, that scene establishes that film won't parody the horror film themselves but Hollywood and modern popular culture in general. Scream 2 is both frightening and funny because its script recognised how today's mass media managed to blur the line between reality and fiction.

The opening scene also represents a problem which Craven and Williamson didn't solve. The scene is so effective that everything that comes afterwards seems bland in comparison. The plot, despite Williamson's efforts to spice it up with few "red herrings", looks too much like the murder mystery of the original. Its resolution is also not very satisfying, but this is somewhat compensated with the epilogue that twists some of the "rules". The most disappointing element of the film is Marco Beltrami's music, but, thankfully, there are relatively few scenes during which the audience would pay much attention to it. Those and other flaws are compensated by Craven's direction, excellent dialogue, very good acting and successful combination of suspense and comedy. With Scream 2 Craven contradicted his statements about sequels being bad - this one is at least as good as the original.

RATING: 7/10 (+++)

(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup on May 11th 2004)

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