Why Scream 2 is Nifty-Keen

Well, I enjoyed the crap out of this. It wasn't quite as good as Scream. In the first film, everything that happened followed logically. There was never a moment where you wondered a) how they did that or b) why they did that. (Well, there were a few a)'s, but they were answered by movie's end.)

There were two such moments in Scream 2. The first was the first killing, which depended on so many unpredictable factors to set it up that disbelief is seriously suspended. This is forgivable since it's the first murder and you're caught up in it. Where it goes wrong -- and it's the film's only serious misstep -- is in the climax.

Neve Campbell's character, the protagonist of both films, is on the run, and she goes -- not to the police, not to campus security (the film takes place on a college campus), not even to her dorm room -- but to the campus theatre. Not only that, the killer's there waiting for her and has set up an entire rig for her benefit. Her reasons for going to the theatre are never explained, nor how the killer could possibly guess that that was her next destination.

As with the first film, it is extremely sensitive to pop culture. A film class discussion on why sequels suck is especially amusing. Throughout the film, one of the new characters has a running argument with Randy in an attempt to find a sequel that didn't suck. (Randy is the video store clerk who survived Scream and who dissertated on the rules of horror films. He also has the best line in Scream 2, sadly used in the trailers and thus spoiling it in the film itself to an extent: in response to the trademark query as to his favorite scary movie, Randy replies, "Showgirls.") The other student throws several at him -- including Aliens and Terminator 2 -- but Randy has rejections for all of them. Later he tries Empire Strikes Back, but Randy's ready for him: it's the second part of a planned trilogy, so it doesn't count. (This is clever writing on Kevin Williamson's part, since Scream was also planned as a trilogy -- he wrote the script for the first and the outlines for the second and third simultaneously -- so this gives him an easy out, too.) Of course, nobody mentioned the best example of a sequel that was much better than the first film: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. (Of course, Randy could have an answer for that, as well -- technically, Star Trek: The Motion Picture wasn't a "first" film, it was a sequel to the TV show.)

One of the best clichés that Scream 2 plays around with is one that is often cited by black standup comics, particularly Eddie Murphy: white people in horror movies are stupid. A black guy would be out of there in a minute. There are four black characters in this film who embody that cliché to some degree or other, to wit, all of them take the, "screw this, people are dying, I'm outta here" approach. The best of these involves an argument between Neve Campbell and her roommate -- the roommate wants to run away, but Campbell has a chance to see who the killer is (he's unconscious in a car). The roommate (who's black) is the sensible one here. In the theatre where we saw it, someone cried out from the audience during this argument, "Get your white ass outta there, bitch!" which got the best laugh of the movie, actually.

There are brilliant touches throughout the movie. Dewey, David Arquette's character, was stabbed in the back in the first movie, but survived -- however, in Scream 2, he walks with a limp and his right arm doesn't really work. The stab gave him nerve damage; so nice to see a film where violence has long-term consequences. Usually in films or TV shows, violence results in either near-perfect recovery within an unrealistically short time or instant death.

Digs abound at Courteney Cox's fellow Friends -- apparently David Schwimmer played Dewey in Stab! the film of the events of the first movie (as predicted by Neve Campbell in the first movie, Tori Spelling plays her), and Cox's Gale Weathers character has taken up smoking, "ever since those nude pictures of her started showing up on the Internet," to which an angry Gale snaps, "That was just my head -- it was Jennifer Aniston's body."

For Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans, Sarah Michelle Gellar's role is small and not terribly critical. She's a Designated Victim, and there are moments when she's being attacked where you can't help but think that Buffy should be kicking this guy's ass. Still, it's fun seeing her in other roles. (I still need to see I Know What You Did Last Summer...)

This is a wonderful movie, a horror movie that makes fun of horror movies yet still works as one, a sequel predicated on the fact that sequels suck yet doesn't.

But don't see it without renting Scream first. So much of the plot hinges on the events of the first -- I especially like the way the survivors of the first film tend to huddle together in a sort of survivor's guilt thing throughout -- that you'll feel like you've missed something. You can follow Scream 2 without seeing the first, but the two make more sense together.

[First posted on the "Keith R.A. DeCandido [KEITH.D]" topic on Genie on 16 December 1997.]

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