The first Scream was perhaps the only horror film to be released in the 1990s. It was a wonderful satire and I am lad that everyone seems to agree on that. So, instead of retreading that ground, I felt it would be better to take a look at the sequels. They are apparently making a fourth on of these, which will probably not live up to the original. So, how does the second one compare to the first.
Not as well, although it could be far, far worse (I am talking Halloween II bad). It falls into some of the cliches that it originally so wonderfully slashed to ribbons. Mostly, the humor comes from characters bickering whether or not sequels are better than the original films. I would not use Scream 2 as an example of such a thing, but it is not bad. In fact, in its own way, it is rather good.
The film takes place two years (or so) after the first. Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) has published a book based on the event of the first film that has been turned into a film (known as Stab). While at the premiere, a man dressed as Ghost Face murders two of the attendees (played by Omar Epps and Jada Pinkett, who was not yet married to Will Smith). Later, at Sidney Prescott’s college, another student is murdered, leading to a police investigation of the murders and speculation that, maybe, a copycat has taken over where the original killers left off.
You know how the first movie pretty much depended on the characters all being horror film junkies that new what “rules” to follow to survive, but still ended up dead? This film depends on the fact that the characters know they have all gone through the same thing, yet still fall for it. This can lead to some very bizarre moments; if the characters are self aware, then why don’t they do more to avert their situation? For that matter, if they think the killer is a copycat, wouldn’t it be easier to just hide and hope the whole thing blows over?
Yes, but then again the first Scream had the same problem. What is fun is how the films subvert their genre. The first Scream may very well have been the set up; now, presumably, we get the punchline. Well, the punchline is that certain people still hold the view that films cause violence (at least that’s what the killer says his ultimate motivation is; to get that point). Obviously, Craven is taking aim at his critics who said his gory films caused violence. The argument was ridiculous.
The problem is that Craven forgot to make a horror film along the way. Some moments are certainly shocking. But they are not horrific; the film becomes so wrapped up in its own movie references that we are no longer watching a real murderer, but a film serial killer. What would have been funnier was a second re-do New Nightmare (which I think they actually did in Scream 3) and have the killer be a struggling actor trying so desperately to be cast in the film based upon the original murders and taking his audition piece way too far. That would have been a way to not merely rehash the original (which, I am sorry to say, this film does) and still have the point come across.
Oh well. Yes, the first Scream is still the best. This, despite a few lapses, is still a worthy sequel. It is funny, it features hilarious cameos (watch for one scream queen to supplant her own mystique by being killed in the first half hour) and retains that early Craven style. Even if it is not as good, well, when has a sequel been as good. Oh, and don’t say The Empire Strikes Back, for that was part of a “planned trilogy.”