As a character in “Scream 2” explains, the sequel is always bigger, bloodier, and has a bigger bodycount to satisfy the real fans. Such is the case with “Scream 2”, made one year after the original “Scream” and re-teams director Wes Craven with writer Kevin Williamson and brings back stars Neve Campbell, David Arquette, and Courteney Cox. Randy (Jamie Kennedy), the video store clerk and horror film aficionado, also returns, but not for long.
“Scream 2” takes place 2 years after the events of the original, with Sidney (Campbell) and Randy now in college. In the background, Hollywood has released a movie based on the events of the original, which was itself based on a book by spunky reporter Gale Weathers (Cox). The movie opens at the sneak preview showing of the film, where two black college students about a page of dialogue short of officially becoming Sassy Black characters, get killed off by a new Ghostface killer. Suddenly Sidney finds herself at the center of another round of murders, as the new Ghostface killer seems determined to make a real-life sequel.
If you were wondering if “Scream 2” offers up the same irreverent winks and nods that made the original such a, well, original, then the answer is Yes, if only slightly. There’s a scene where horror movie buff Randy explains to Dewey (Arquette) the finer points of a horror movie sequel, but other than that the film is a more traditional Teen Slasher than its predecessor. But like the original, there’s plenty of fun to be had with background characters and scenarios, such as the casting of Tori Spelling playing herself playing the Sidney character in the movie within the movie. (If you’ve seen the original, you will know why this is funny.)
There’s a group of new soon-to-be-dead friends for Sidney to hang around with before their unfortunate ends, including Elise Neal as Sidney’s dorm roommate, Jerry O’Connell (“Buying the Cow”) as Sidney’s new boyfriend, and “Roseanne’s” Laurie Metcalf as a reporter trying to out-scoop Gale Weathers. Not everyone gets a chance to shine, and some cameos by known names bear out that the “Scream” franchise has become popular enough that even known stars are willing to show up for just a few seconds of screentime. One of them is Sarah Michelle Gellar (“Cruel Intentions”) and another is Jada Pinkett Smith (“Ali”), both of whom show up just long enough to get killed.
With the new settings come new problems; not for the characters, but for us as viewers. The biggest problem is that the movie is now working on a wider scope, which means the “house in the boondocks” scenarios that were used so ingeniously in the original no longer works here. As a result, when you see Sidney racing across an empty college campus, you wonder where everyone is. Or when a police car crashes into a construction site in the street you wonder if people in this town stop driving after dark, especially since the scene goes on for at least 15 minutes. And here’s a hint to Sidney for the next installment: when the masked killer is lying unconscious, you should pick up a metal rod and bash his face in, not run away.
“Scream 2” does offer up a bigger bodycount as promised, but the film’s best moments involve Liev Schreiber, who plays Cotton, a man Sidney helped to wrongly convict years ago, and who now comes back seeking the spotlight. Schreiber and a whole host of other characters look just insane enough to offer themselves up as effective red herring. Okay, I’ll admit it; I had no idea who the killer was, although as the movie wore on, it started to become obvious. But still, the film gets points for keeping me in the dark for so long. Also, Duane Martin plays the obligatory Sassy Black character that, because he’s sassy enough, increases his chances of survival.
With “Scream 2”, the trilogy has now set up 3 main characters instead of just Sidney. The part of Gale Weathers and Dewey has grown by leaps, and both characters are now essential to the movie. While Neve Campbell’s Sidney is still our Fair Hair Lead, she now has company, which is a good thing because seeing the same person running from a masked killer over and over can get a bit tiresome.
Wes Craven (director) / Kevin Williamson (screenplay)
CAST: David Arquette …. Dewey
Neve Campbell …. Sid
Courteney Cox …. Gale Weathers
Sarah Michelle Gellar …. Cici
Jamie Kennedy …. Randy Meeks