What was it like to use my connections to the local AMC St. Vincent 6 to watch Scream 2 only minutes after being thrilled by Scream and somewhere around 12 hours before most of the planet got to watch it?
Well, it was a hell of a lot like the opening sequences of Scream 2 itself, in which a RABID Crowd, decked out in Ghostface costumes gathers like a school of piranhas to watch Stab, the film-within-a-film that serves to recap the story told in Scream (with an even funnier edge, as directed by an uncredited Robert Rodriguez) and to push the story a step further.
In the context of the screenplay (by series creator Kevin Williamson) Stab is the movie version of The Woodsboro Murders, the super-successful book by none other than Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) who lived the real story first hand.
While the concept of a terrifying sequence taking place in a cinema showing of a horror movie is nothing new (see also cool scenes in Popcorn and Dèmoni, amongst many others), returning director Wes Craven executes this great opening with the same striking mixture of pure horror, but also funny satire that feels more like a reference to similar works without being a rip off of any kind. After all, Scream and its sequels are known for their brilliant riffing on the horror genre and individual slasher milestones without ever crossing into "Spoof" territory.
Scream 2, like Scream is an amalgamation of great scary movie moments, while somehow remaining its own film. But while Scream was a commentary on the big Splatter pictures that so often terrified audiences as one-shots, Scream 2 repeats this formula with a special focus on Slasher Sequels in that same great metafictional method. As such, there are new rules to abide by in this self-aware, real life horror movie. The body count is bigger, the death scenes are more elaborate, there is more blood, more gore, more "Carnage Candy" and by no means can anybody assume that the killer is really dead!
Yes, Yes, sports fans, it seems that while Stab-mania is causing everybody and their Giraffe to dress up in Brigitte Sleiertin's Fun World fright mask, grab voice disguisers and call up Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) in the creepy voice of Roger L. Jackson, it appears that there is at least one real killer with a Ghost Face running around Sidney's own Windsor College, looking for REVENGE against the first film's survivors.
As always, the focal point is poor Sidney herself, which, of course, immediately pulls in her new closest friend and roommate Hallie (Elise Neal) and new boyfriend Derek (Jerry O'Connell). That's not to mention her good old Woodsboro Amgio Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy), who followed Sid to the same college to study film... mostly HORROR films, of course. Right, so the creepy horror movie geek moves from California to Ohio... to study film. This makes sense, of course, as California is neither known for its film schools, film studies... or film in general.
Then again, if Randy were really much of a threat based on that alone, then so would be fellow movie students like CiCi Cooper (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Mickey (Timothy Olyphant) and that other "Film Class Guy" (Joshua Jackson)!
Did I mention that right about this time Gale Weathers herself has arrived in town to cover the story and that Dwight "Dewey" Riley (David Arquette) shows up, too, as soon as he hears about the copycat(s)? And who, oh, who might that be lurking in the shadows, just begging for a spotlight? Could it be Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber), who spent a year behind bars thanks to Sidney's testimony? Eh... COULD BE-EE!!!
So we've got our damaged survivors from the first flick and a gaggle of potential new victims and villains, too (though, let's face it, one of them is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so I'm thinking the ghost with the most stands no chance). Take note, though Sports Fans... the lineup is STILL far from complete! Just like in Scream, even the CAMEO cast is filled with notables like Jada Pinkett, as Maureen, Omar Epps as Phil, the appropriately cast Lewis Arquette (David's father) as Police Chief Hartley, Laurie Metcalf as local reporter Debbie Salt, Duane Martin as cameraman Joel who is more than a little freaked that last time (OH MY GOD) They Killed KENNY, Rebecca Gayheart as Sorority Sister Lois, Portia de Rossi as Sorority Sister Murphy, Selma Blair as a friend of CiCi's (voice only), Kevin Williamson as an Interviewer, Wes Craven himself as a Doctor, the mighty David Warner as Drama Teacher Gus Gold and... aw, no WAY... Matthew Lillard as some Guy at a Party! Yo, we SEE you, "Stu" and, you know, we never ACTUALLY saw you die in Scream, did we? I'm on to you, BUDDY! (Check out the cast of Stab for even more fun Cameos).
The above is just one MORE example of how Scream 2 successfully ups the ante that Scream laid down the year before. Amazingly, however, though the conceit of "Everyone's a Suspect" is pushed to even greater limits this time out, somehow this feels even more appropriate and less cheap as each character is well explored for their own screen time and has a plausible connection both to Sid, and to the Blade. When the final revelation does come to light this not only makes sense and satisfies the expanded plot, but also magages to push the mythos of the Scream saga to the next logical (yet completely surprising) level!
Scream 2 succeeds in being that rare sequel that exceeds its predecessor (albeit, not by a whole football field), but at the same time is a movie that depends a great deal on knoweldge of the first film to make it great. Scream can stand alone, while the somewhat superior Scream 2 relies on Scream for its surprises and structure to work at all. On that note, I'm glad as hell I watched Scream first back in 1997! On the other hand, the story of Scream started before the events of the first film actually came to light, beginning the previous year with the murder of Maureen Prescott. Thus, there is a Sequel Air to Scream itself and the very appearance here of Cotton Weary (as someone we already know) shows how well Williamson and Craven manage to fill backstories without long, expository speeches or fragmented narratives... so who knows? Scream 2 is a great film and perhaps the best of the series to date and many of the biggest, yet most sensible surprises.
As in the first film, the music of Marco Beltrami enhances the story without overpowering it. It's a credit to both himself and Craven the director that a Startle-Cue can be thrown in at just the right moment, without actually feeling like a startle cue, thanks to the built suspense and quality music design. Separately, there is an absolutely beautiful sequence in which Sidney is starring in a dress rehearsal for Cassandra. The imagery is stunning, the action fast paced (showing some more amazing skills from editor Patrick Lussier) and the terror is astounding, especially given the fine acting by the lovely Neve Campbell. This scene, however, was scored by none other than Danny Elfman and though this is a "Composer's Cameo" in and of itsef, his work helped to make this among the most memorable scenes in the film. BRAVO!
It helps that, while topping Scream in many ways, or attempting to (whether tongue-in-cheek or not) in that Horror Sequel way, Scream 2 never tries to rehash Scream (aside from the humorous on-screen scens from Stab) and carries its own load as a film in its own right. Yes, all of those great, great elements that made Scream such a surprisingly high quality film are here in spades, from the great Edvard Munch-inspired mask to the pleasant-cum-scary voice of Roger Jackson, to the metafictional self-awareness to the humor to the violence against just about anyone, proving that ANYTHING can happen! But the rules are new, the surprises are new and even the modus operandi is familiar, yet unique. This is what sequels should be... continuations, never remakes. I couldn't dig this more if I had a steam powered escavator with KISS Stickers pasted on it!
Scream set the scene brilliantly and was the best example of comedy horror that was DEFINITELY comedy and definitely horror, without dilluting either half of this strange dichotomy. Scream 2 pushed the boundaries without ruining the formula and somehow managed to become a slightly better film in its own right, also earning Four Stars out of Five! The Ghostface/ Father Death/ Candyman Grim Reaper screamer is still out there and showing up again soon... but who might be behind the mask is a surprise every time. Good job, Wes and Kev. I'll see you two clowns in the NEXT REEL!
Click HERE again for more reviews!
No matter how many times you do it...
You'll find they're a REAL SCREAM!!!