Flippin' Through Franchises: Scream 2

I remember the wait for Scream 2 was an intense one. I of course loved the first movie, watching it constantly on VHS. The second one was released in theatres a year later and I wasn’t able to see it right away as it was rated R, which here in Canada means being with an 18 year old don’t mean shit unless you are also 18-years-old. So I had to wait even longer for the VHS, getting to the rental store bright and early on release day in order to secure a copy. In retrospect, they really shouldn’t have let me rent it without an adult but whatever, it worked out pretty well for me. That night I had my friend over to watch and we were so damn ready for this.

And then I didn’t like it. I was stunned. I watched it one more time a few months later thinking I would be less critical of it. Still didn’t like it. Now it has been like 16 years so I assume I’ll be ok with it now right? Eh, kinda. I can at least upgrade my thoughts to “yeah it’s pretty good I guess, I don’t know”.

Scream 2 begins the tradition of each movie in the franchise being far more meta than the last. In this one, there is a movie being released called Stab which is about the events that took place in the first Scream. Scream 2’s opening takes place at the premiere of this movie so while we’re watching the events of this movie; we’re also watching a movie within the movie that is depicting the events of the previous movie. If I recall, this kinda shit gets even more extreme in Screams 3 and 4. I will say though that Stab is the perfect depiction of what the first Scream would have been like if less talented people had made it. Also it stars young Heather Graham in the Drew Barrymore role which is pretty cool.

This opening already has an uphill climb after the amazing opener in the first movie and to me it definitely falls short. Remember, spoilers galore from this point forward. First off, the way that Omar Epps’ character is killed makes no fucking sense. He is stabbed in the face through a bathroom stall door after he leans in close to get a better listen to some bizarre sounds he hears in the adjacent stall. This means the killer’s plan was to go in a bathroom stall, hope that not only does Epps eventually use the bathroom, but that all the urinals will be occupied, Epps won’t want to wait, he will go into that exact stall, definitely will be curious about the sounds he hears and lean in, and then the killer will hopefully stab the right spot in the wall where his face is. Are you fucking kidding me?

At first I thought maybe the killer was simply waiting there to stab anyone who happened to walk in but no Epps was definitely being targeted as later in the movie they talk about how the first three victims in this movie share similar names to the first three victims in the first movie. This idea by the way is never mentioned again, does not help the investigation in any way, and in fact I think is immediately proven incorrect with the fourth victim. So that does indeed mean that this poor guy fell victim to a series of Reindeer Games-esque coincidences that led to his demise. Poor son of a bitch, fate really hated him apparently.

I do like the idea of this opening as you have a theatre full of people wearing the same costume as the killer so it could make for a very suspenseful sequence where the victim doesn’t know who the actual killer is amongst this sea of people. Instead, the real killer simply sits down next to her wearing Epps’ jacket and then stabs her. That’s it. No chase or anything, he just plops down next to her. I get that it’s meant to be effective because nobody notices a person actually being stabbed in the midst of all the chaos but I do think there was more potential here that goes unmet. It’s an ok opening but can in no way compare to the one from the first movie.

Once again the cast here is full of recognizable faces. You of course have all the survivors of the first movie returning here – Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courtenay Cox and Jamie Kennedy. You also have a host of new characters like Sidney’s new boyfriend Derrick (Jerry O’Connell, looking exactly the same then as he does now, it’s quite eerie actually), a completely disposable blond character played by Sarah Michelle Gellar in her adorable Buffy days, a film geek played by pre-famous Timothy Olyphant, and you even have young Portia De Rossi show up as a sorority girl who I don’t think got an actual character name.

The original characters are still great, with Neve Campbell once again being great in the role of Sidney who is even more badass here than in the first one. She easily has the movie’s best scenes and especially the best one-liners. Cox and Arquette are great together and it’s very clear they were quickly falling for each other in real life as well. Kennedy isn’t actually as funny as I remember but his character is still enjoyable.

The new characters however might as well be wearing red shirts across the board as they are all under developed knife fodder who don’t add much other than to create as many suspects as possible. Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Cici character seems to exist solely because the movie needed another kill sequence. Her scene is a pale imitation of the opener of Scream 1. She doesn’t even get a good chase. The killer shows up, she runs up the stairs (because of course she does), throws a couple things at him that he easily bypasses, then she is immediately caught and thrown off a balcony. Cue Everclear song. Very disappointing.

As you can imagine the movie puts its focus on having the character dissect sequels. There are some enjoyable conversations of how sequels suck, are always inferior to the original and how they destroyed the horror genre. It’s a fine line to walk, insulting sequels while at the same time making one. They certainly live up to the sequel being inferior, though by calling it out I guess that’s them excusing themselves of making an inferior sequel? They also don’t follow the rule they establish of the sequel being bloodier as I felt this one has less gore than the first. The first movie shows intestines hanging out of two characters within the first 10 minutes. Here, one of the biggest deaths happens off camera and by the end the killer is just straight up shooting people which certainly doesn’t make for exciting kill scenes.

Speaking of the killer, they don’t even attempt to hide that there are clearly two killers at work here. The first movie made it a revelation and gave you the desire to watch the movie again to try and pick up on any hints given. Here, it’s very obvious one person isn’t capable of all this since they will cut back and forth between two scenes of the killer stalking people. The real revelation would have been three killers. Now that would have been good. Instead it’s just two killers again and their reveal is a letdown because it’s really the safest choices they could have made. Their motivations are also questionable.

That’s a lot of negatives but I do have some nice things to say. There are numerous great scenes here; including what is perhaps the most suspenseful sequence in any of the movies where two characters have to escape from a crashed car with the killer passed out behind the wheel. I won’t get into the many different ways they could use the situation to their advantage and don’t, I will just say it’s a very well done scene. Cox and Arquette’s scene inside the university is well done as well, with great use of sound proof glass. They also made a very ballsy move in regards to the death of one character that pissed me off to no end when I first watched it but I can now respect the courage it must have taken to make that decision. There are also a good number of clever lines and dialogue exchanges, including a fun throwback to a one off line in the first movie about Tori Spelling (extra kudos to the writer for not pointing out the joke in this case). Also as mentioned, Campbell as Sidney is still fantastic. Oh and I love that the black camera man who gives the standard "black people always die, I should leave" speech, actually bails! He doesn't show up dead later on either, he completely survives! That was pretty cool. So there ya go! Some nice things!

It’s not that Scream 2 is a bad movie; it’s just an ok one that is unable to fully replicate what made the first movie work. It has its moments certainly and the main characters (at least those who are returning from the first movie) are strong, but I find a lot of just doesn’t work. I remember liking the third Scream even less so I don’t think things are going to pick up from here.