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Scream 2 (1997) Is the Best Scream
A celebration of the film as it turns 25.
Something that I mention frequently in the articles I write and the podcasts I appear on is my lack of exposure to “must-see” movies. I have clear holes in my film resume; things like Titanic, The Sixth Sense, and up until a year ago - Scream.
Scream came out in 1996, a year before I was born, which meant that I was well-acquainted with the Ghostface killer. Friends and neighbors donned their black robes and white masks each year for Halloween, and I have a specific memory of a Ghostface mask that included a button that would make it look like blood was pouring from it. It still makes me shiver.
Despite this, and even watching Scary Movie as a tween, I never got around to watching Wes Craven’s instant classic. In anticipation of the fifth installment, Patrick decided to show me all of them.
Scream is so iconic. Drew Barrymore’s bleached bob, the twist of the killers, a stellar up-and-coming cast - it deserves every ounce of praise that it received then and still receives today.
With that said, one installment stands above the rest for me, and that is Scream 2.
First of all, the opening scene is amazing. While it’s hard to beat the iconography of Barrymore’s scream queen, I think this does the best it possibly can as a follow-up. Jada Pinkett Smith is lovable as the horror skeptic and pseudo-film critic, and her death is haunting. The only thing more terrifying than being murdered behind closed doors is being murdered in plain sight with no one around who notices or cares to notice. Her boyfriend’s death is equally chilling, and their fast, witty dialogue instantly sets the mood: this is not going to be your usual underwhelming sequel.
Wes Craven’s strongest asset, arguably, is his self-awareness in his filmmaking. His knowledge makes this franchise loveable for horror nerds and newbies (I fall into the latter category) alike. He has a way of making his movies incredibly smart without making them inaccessible to his audience, while also not giving too much away. I marvel at his ability to seamlessly weave film history, criticism, and nerdiness into his dialogue, themes, and stories.
His self-awareness particularly shines in Scream 2 because everyone’s favorite film buff, Randy, is front and center. One could argue that Randy can flex his movie muscles in a later installment more with his pre-recorded movie murder manifesto, but we get to see his wheels turning live for most of Scream 2, and that is such a treat.
Randy is also the vehicle through which the rules of a sequel are shared: The body count is bigger, and the death scenes are more elaborate, eliciting more blood and more gore.
Rules to succesfully survive a horror movie sequel:
The body count is always bigger.
The death scenes are always much more elaborate, with more blood and gore.
If you want your films to become a successful franchise, never, ever, under any circumstances assume the killer is dead.
I am a terrible horror movie watcher. I’m exactly like Jada’s character, except maybe even more annoying. I hate when characters open doors they shouldn’t, walk home alone, or get drunk - which is why I knew Scream would be a franchise I loved from the get-go because the script battles that head-on and makes those decisions the butt of the joke.
Randy’s matter-of-factness to these sequel trademarks don’t do justice to the way in which Craven actually executes these expectations.
Randy’s own death is one of my favorites, once again being taken and murdered in the daylight and in plain sight - two tropes that are acknowledged and tastefully fought against by Craven.
I would watch Sarah Michelle Gellar read a phone book, so I may be bias, but she’s impossible to look away from while enduring her untimely fate. Her final departure off the balcony makes every bone in my body ache and my mouth fall open. Craven let us know outright that he was not holding back in this movie, which still could not have prepared me for the blood bath that is Sydney’s confrontation with her killers.
His self-awareness also shines in his casting of the actors in Stab. Tori Spelling as Sydney Prescott and Luke Wilson as Billy Loomis? It truly doesn’t get better than that. I’m putting it on the record now that if Stab had also been created with that cast, I’d be writing a love letter to that movie right now instead of Scream 2, but alas I have to live with the short hallway scene in the opening and the full cast teaser we see in Scream 3.
The stellar cast, riding the high of their last box-office success, are on their A-game in this sequel. Not only does the cast look better than they ever have thanks to the newly bloated budget (Courtney Cox even manages to pull off the popular red highlight trend of the Y2K era), but they’re giving it their all the entire way through. You can feel all of their investments in this story.
Because of the success of the first movie, however, they clearly had a firm foot on the accelerator for the second installment, making the dialogue and pacing less than desirable at times. But hey - no movie is perfect! As a marketer, I can’t say I wouldn’t encourage them to ride the coattails of the first either.
Even with the occasional bloated scene, this movie has so much to offer. It really finds its groove with the balance of humor, horror, drama, and sincerity.
Scream 2 hits every late 90s/early 2000s beat and more. It has successful one-liners, an even bigger killer twist than the original, incredible additions to the already amazing cast such as Sarah Michelle Gellar, Elise Neal, and Laurie Metcalf, and yet it still manages to honor the original in every way - serving as a stand-alone classic while also being a fitting continuation of the first.
I was so happy to rewatch it on the big screen at my local AMC as a Fathom Event- if only they had played the blu-ray rather than the grainy DVD! Despite my willingness to shout my love for this movie from the rooftops, I was relieved to share the theatre with just one more person. What can I say, I was worried someone would try to recreate the opening scene!
If you haven’t revisited Scream 2 in a while, now is the perfect time. The movie itself serves as somewhat of a time capsule with its lingo, fashion, and haircuts, while also remaining timeless and endlessly rewatchable.
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