Scream 2
directed by Wes Craven
(Dimension, 1997)

As a whole, ignoring the conclusion for a moment, I judge Scream 2 to be the best film in the Scream trilogy. The opening scene is quite brilliant in design, setting the backdrop as a movie theatre premiering the movie Stab (based on Gale Weathers' book about the killing spree documented in the original movie); basically, we watch enthusiastic audience members raucously enjoy a dramatization of the opening scene of Scream, and the first murders take place in this theatre full of masked, knife-wielding audience members -- it's a perfect backdrop (but Jada Pinkett's death swoon is incredibly prolonged).

Rather than shirk criticism about this just being another rehashed sequel, Scream 2 is built around the very idea of recreating the events of the first movie. We are on familiar ground from the very start of the action, feeling quite comfortable with the main characters from the original film: Sidney, Dewey, Randy, Gale and -- in a manner of speaking -- the killer. The introduction of Cotton Weary, the man who was wrongfully sentenced to prison for the murder of Sidney's mother, is a very effective addition that does much to increase both the suspense and mystery of the film as well as the list of possible suspects. New cast members I took special note of include Heather Graham, Sarah Michelle Gellar (in a definite non-Buffy role), Portia de Rossi and the singular Rebecca Gayheart, and I am happy to report at least one of these most attractive women does not succumb to the killer's knife.

The original Scream was a pretty original take on slasher films, and I was a little surprised to find the plot of this sequel equaling if not bettering that of the original film throughout the first two-thirds of the drama. To some extent, we have seen all of this before -- the killer calling his victims on the phone and then jumping out of nowhere with that familiar mask and sharp knife; individuals trying to escape the killer's grasp and usually failing to do so; Sydney facing up to her fears and trying to survive. It all works well here, though. The killings are not quite as violent or gory this time around, but the suspense is palpable throughout the entire movie. The killer even made me twinge a time or two, and that rarely happens.

The only criticism I would have of Scream 2 is the ending. It is much too long and drawn-out, for one thing. It is also somewhat weakened by the fact that we know what kind of revelation to expect; it was well nigh impossible, even for as talented a scriptwriter as Kevin Williamson, to top the power and surprise of Scream's final moments. Even though I was unsure who the bad guys were in the first movie, in retrospect I could go back and analyze the clues to see that it made sense. While the identity of the killer(s) did surprise me somewhat in this sequel, this was largely because the evidence I needed to figure out the mystery was not there for the most part; too much of the truth is hidden from us until the climaxing moments of the movie.

Scream 2 is a remarkably good sequel, one that does not fall victim to the curse of progressively bad follow-up films the horror genre is rife with. Its additional comedic element, such as can be found in the interaction between Dewey and Gale as well as in Randy's theories on horror sequels, does help to offset any disappointment to be found in the film's ultimate revelations. Of course, it is all but impossible for it to achieve the same effect on the viewer as the original Scream did because, while you may not know exactly what is coming, you can be reasonably sure that you know the form in which it will appear.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 18 June 2005

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