It's like life imitating art imitating life.
"Scream 2", scribed by original "Scream" writer Kevin Williamson, takes the rules of sequels very seriously in an entertaining whodunit that rises above the mediocrity of the prototypical slasher movie (unlike the other Williamson pic out right now, "I Know What You Did Last Summer"). And like its predecessor, it has a nudge-nudge-wink-wink irreverent pop-culture sensibility that knows exactly what kind of movie it is, and milks it for all it is worth.
"Scream 2" takes place two years after the horrific events of "Scream". Sidney Prescott (Canuck actress Neve Campbell) is now a student at Windsor College in Ohio, along with fellow survivor Randy (Jamie Kennedy, who spouted the rules of the scary movie in the original). Tabloid journalist Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), who covered the original slayings, has written a best-selling book about the killings that has been made into a movie, "Stab". Sidney is a little tired of the hoopla surrounding her life, and is indifferent to the crank calls that she gets, turning the tables on the would-be pranksters by reading them back their own names and phone numbers off her call display.
However, during a sneak preview of "Stab" at a local theater, two college kids (Omar Epps and Jada Pinkett) are gutted before hundreds of desensitized witnesses, who think of it as part of the "Rocky Horror Picture Show"-esque publicity stunt. Sidney finds herself taking the crank calls very seriously as concerns are raised over a copycat killer. Once again, Sidney is just one of many being terrorized by the killer or killers. Derek (Jerry O'Connell, last seen in "Jerry Maguire" and the now-defunct "Sliders") is Sidney's new boyfriend, and fortunately has not shown any psychotic tendencies. Deputy Dewey Riley (David Arquette) from Sidney's hometown has flown in to protect her and catch the killer. Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber), the man that Sidney falsely accused of murder, is seeking an opportunity for a live interview on national television to restore his tarnished name. Cici Cooper (Sarah Michelle Gellar, who also appears in "I Know What You Did Last Summer") is a fellow drama student of Sidney's. But somewhere among these friends and acquaintances is a psychotic killer... and everyone's a suspect.
Only dumb people go back... smart people get the fuck out of here!
Is Gale Weathers gathering material for another book by 'creating' the news instead of just reporting it? Is Dewey Riley really crippled from the injuries in the first movie, or is he just pulling a 'Keyzer Sozer'? And what about the boyfriend-- is he hanging around Sidney out of affection, or are there other reasons? Cotton Weary seems awfully determined to get his fifteen minutes of fame, at any price. And then there's fellow survivor Randy Meeks-- he seems to know an awful lot about sequels that outdo the original. Or how about that nosy local news reporter (Laurie Metcalf) who wants to get the scoop on these latest murders, just like Gale Weathers? Over the span of two hours, every single character will look guilty at some point, and by the process of elimination (both intellectual and physical), the real killer is revealed.
Bitch, hang up the phone and *69 his ass!
The most standout aspect of "Scream 2" is the blurring of reality and the movies. The opening scene of the movie-within-a-movie "Stab" is a recreation of the chilling opening scene of "Scream", where Drew Barrymore was being terrorized by the killer over the phone. Of course, being the Hollywood interpretation, "Stab" plays it up as a slasher movie, cheesy dialogue and all. And in a display of metaphysical pondering, two characters discuss the rules of the movie sequel and attempt to identify the killer as though the situation they were in was a movie! This is not the first time horror director Wes Craven has done this-- "New Nightmare" was based on the premise that Freddy Krueger was a real person that was stalking the cast of the "Nightmare on Elm Street" film franchise (and while we're on this topic, watch out for the Freddy Krueger sweater in Sidney's closet).
What's your favorite scary movie?
Showgirls... absolutely frightening.
Along this line, Williamson also takes potshots at Hollywood and the media. The merchandising frenzy surrounding the "Stab" sneak-preview includes audience giveaways that include a 'phantom mask' and a plastic knife. A television show clip has Tori Spelling being interviewed about playing Sidney in "Stab" which is followed by a cheesy film clip. And the campus becomes a media circus with reporters roaming the school in search of material for their broadcasts, even sinking to the low of interviewing other reporters (which happened during a sensational murder trial in Los Angeles a couple of years ago).
However, "Scream 2" is not as strong as its predecessor in certain respects. For one, "Scream 2" assumes that you have seen the first movie, given all the jokey references to the first movie and the continuation of many plot points-- you are best to view "Scream" beforehand to fully appreciate "Scream 2". And like "Scream", the final act, when the killer is revealed, is a bit of a disappointment, only this time, it goes on far too long in a series of false endings and artificial plot twists. And though the murders are more elaborate this time around, the sheer complexity of the killer's antics pushes the limits of believability.
But despite the weaknesses, this sequel is a fun popcorn movie and is sure to do well over the holidays. Just keep aware of who you're sitting next to in the theater...