Scream 2 (1997)
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Kevin Williamson
Starring: Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Heather Graham, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jamie Kennedy, Liev Schreiber, Neve Campbell, Omar Epps
Ross Hughes continues his SCREAM special in preparation for April 15th’s release date of the Fourth chapter of the Woodsboro slashathon, this time taking the readers back to 1997, for the first sequel, where Sydney Prescott comes to face to face with her nemeses once again, in the bigger, bloodier, bolder, SCREAM 2….
HCF REWIND SPECIAL: A SCREAM LOOK BACK: By Ross Hughes PART 2
“There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to create a successful sequel. Number one: the body count is always bigger. Number two: the death scenes are always much more elaborate – more blood, more gore – *carnage candy*. And number three: never, ever, under any circumstances, assume the killer is dead”
RANDY- Scream 2
“My heart will go on!” ah yes! Celine Dion on that ship, singing that song. Women crying after leaving the cinema, having watched the said film for the fifteenth time! Its hard not to think of 1997 and recall the hysteria of Titanic. Where boyfriends could not compete with a guy named Leo, where every single man was asked “Would you do that for me?” while his wife or girlfriend left tear stains on his shoulder. 1997 was the year that saw the action trend reach its pinnacle. Face/Off and Con Air were without question the films to end all films in the recent action stakes boom, while all movie goers were asking “Do You Fancy a Shag Now, or Shag later!” thanks to the birth of Mr Powers and his Bond spoof. Fans were even getting ready for the trip back to that park and get all Jurassic again in The Lost World, Spielberg’s highly anticipated Dinosaur sequel. Looking back, its safe to say the competition for Box Office gold was more than fearsome, if it was not the big hitters gaining a stride, it was also unknowns, films like the excellent Grosse Point Blank were gaining rave reviews alongside Boogie Nights with both films showing that originality was still out there.
Of course there was disasters like Batman and Robin, a sequel so notoriously bad that it is still talked about today, and who can forget the damp squid that was Speed 2, a sequel that replaced the high concept of a bomb on a bus, to that of a boat! A slow pace vehicle that insulted all fan eagerly looking forward to another trip of high jinks. The year is well known for its awful sequels, An American Werewolf In Paris was another that mocked the name of the original it tried to honour, while Free Willy 3 just wanted you to grab a bullet and put that poor whale out of his misery! Thankfully though we had one sequel that we could cherish, a film that made horror fans realise that a cool concept could be repeated for the second time, a horror that saw queues at the cinema, an exciting moment that was talked about for months before release…..yes it was time for a return to Woodsboro, and meet up with our old friend Ghostface……..
It always seems a bad sign when a new horror does so well and is critically well received that a sequel automatically follows. Scream 2 was released nearly a year after the original, an amazing speed that usually means a rushed follow up with no thought to the fans who loved the original style! This could be a dig at such films like the Blair Witch 2, but the horror genre is littered with many sequels who followed this formula. Lucky Scream 2 despite its apparent haste, does not suffer from this development. The main reason is that the returning duo of writer Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven had the sensible idea of coming up with a second story while writing the first. This shows with the character of Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber), a man who was accused of the murder of Maureen Prescott in the original and just appears briefly on TV, but gets a much bigger role here! Its little touches like this that shows the care that has gone into making the Scream franchise different to what was before! Scream 2 was never intended to just be a rehash! Halloween 2 suffers from this kind of blue-print, but like the quote above from Randy (Jamie Kennedy) a surviour of the original massacre, a sequel needs to be bolder and bigger for it to work, and in the true spoken word, Scream 2 succedds on many levels!
Before I get into that, can I just say that writing this is hard! For me to write a review for Scream 3 will be easy for reasons I go into in part three of this look back, but Scream 2 is difficult because its so complex! It spilts fans right down the middle, there are those who hated the first one who like this one more, while there are those who loved Scream, but do not share the same love for part 2, and of course then there is a group who adore the first and lavish the second and still argue to this day which one is the best! Confused? Well it is easy to explain, but first lets get down to the plot for those who can not remember!
Time has passed since the original event, and News Reporter Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) has written a book called “The Woodsboro Murders!”, which has been developed into a film called STAB!. Its at the screening of the movie premiere that we start, continuing the link of watching a film within a film vibe that we had at the climax of Scream with Halloween playing in the background. Here we meet a young loved up couple Phil Stevens (Omar Epps) and Maureen Evans (Jade Pinkett) who are awaiting to watch this movie. Maureen is not to be happy because all she wants to do is watch a Sandra Bullock film which is showing up the road and not pay to see a film that in her words is “some dumb-ass white movie about some dumb-ass white girls getting their white asses cut the fuck up,”. Its a sparkling scene that shows the deft touch of both Williamson and Craven and suggests for me that one of the reasons the sequel was made is that they were still on a roll with the idea! The energy from the first carried on straight from the off, and watching both films back to back is a joy because it does not lose the difference in style that many sequels suffer from!
When Maureen and Phil enter the cinema, its packed with many people dressed in the now iconic figure of Ghostface, again a spin of how pop culture can affect real life. There is a nice line later on in this picture that sums up this scene, ” It’s a perfect example of life imitating art imitating life”, with the cinema crazy of fans watching a movie of a crazed killer while wearing his suit! The two sit down and the film starts, we then get a recap of the original movie being played on the big screen with Casey (Heather Graham in the Drew Barrymore role), and we see a great gag by the makers of making the scene all Hollywoodish! Gone is the tension that originally happened, with this Casey stripping of for a shower (this never happened) in a Psycho homage and then being chased by Ghostface in all its overhyped typical film glossy style. Many fans do not realise the intent in this scene. Its to show the mockery of how easy film can over glorify a tragic event, and the beginning of Scream 2 while not nowhere near as scary has its original, is more cleverer for what it portrays. When poor Phil gets murdered in the toilet cubicle as the “real” Ghostface turns up, we then witness a surreal set-piece that sees Maureen slaughtered in front of a baying crowd who all think its part of the act! While she dies on the top of the stage, the same time as Casey on screen, it bridges the gap between original and sequel that for me, its one of Cinema’s greatest horror moments, a splendid opener that has sadly seemed to have been forgotten over the past years.
By now you hooked, Scream 2 flashes on the screen and then the song “You Lucky Day In Hell!” by the Eels is played, a perfect tone to which for the first time we see our heroine Sydney (Neve Campbell) .From the off we see her have the famous phone call, but this time, there is a suggestion that this new hard woman is more experienced and she deals with it by having a phone caller ID which shows that its just a prank call! Now at University, when news of the killings at the cinema spread, Sydney refuses to believe that Ghostface could be back, and meets up with fellow survivors Randy, Dewey (David Arguette) and Gale!
Randy attends the same Uni as Sydney and when we first meet him, he is attending Film Class where as you can guess the topic is “Film Sequels!”, a wry in joke that continues the self parody that makes Scream work so well! This class is filtered will well known faces, Sarah Michelle Geller and Joshua Jackson and they all come up with the same answer that there is only one sequel that surpassed its original and it was a certain Gangster film-can you guess what it is?
Before the next killing, Scream bends the rules, continuing to play with the audience, there is a great gag about “the seven degrees of Kevin Bacon!“ which states that the seven people in that very scene are all linked to the Footloose actor, and we get more scenes from STAB, including a wonderful carry over franchise line from the original with when Sydney being asked who would play her in a movie in which she replied “With my luck they cast Tori Spelling!” and guess what, we see Spelling playing her! Again a joke that you can only marvel at with a script so witty that it sparkles with delight! The second killing shows the darker tone that Scream 2 offers. There is some playful vibes but this Ghostface is efficient and more ruthless, a stab in the back and a throw over a top floor, makes this version seem brutal in their intent! When news of the second killing reaches the ears of Sydney and then she comes face to face with her nemesis for a brief moment, its here that the sequel seperates from the original and comes into its own! I love this moment, because while Sydney survives the first attack, the camera pans every so slowly towards her face, the tune of Scream is playing and there is a realisation on her face that sums up how she is feeling! The game she never wanted to play again is back on, and for a small scene in a big film, its one of my favourite moments in the entire franchise!
Its from here on in, Scream 2 becomes more serious in tone! A reason why many horror fans who disliked the original concept for its tongue in cheek approach, enjoy this one more! Yes there are a few jokes and some references of films of old, but here they are not bombarding you scene after scene. The lavish love letter that Williamson was writing ends on that exact moment Sydney comes face to face for the first time with Ghostface! By playing it straighter, Scream 2 is more serious, which would put off many who wanted more of the same, but it saves itself with two set-pieces that are one of the best any horrror films have ever produced!
The “climb over” in the Police Car is a sensational set-piece! They could make 10 more of these films and never produce a moment like that! Witnessing it for the first time back in the packed cinema was a moment that I will never forget! Every viewer in that room was on the edge of their seat, some were shouting “quick!” or “come on!” as these two people tried to climb over the unconscious body of the man in the mask! Before that we had to witness a chase through a sound-proof room that again is brilliantly staged because of its simplicity!
The whodunit angle is still the main thrust, the fun is still there and again it hoodwinks you enough to keep you off the scent! This time though the sequel suffers from it because the original surprise at this guessing game has gone and you be guessing everyone from the first frame! The jokes are much sharper though, when Randy is asked what is his favourite scary movie, he replies “Showgirls!” and its his character that you will be talking about long after the credits roll! Why? Well not to spoil the film for those who are reading this flashback but never seen the films, its still the much talked about controversial plot thread that this series has produced and showed that Williamson and Craven were not afraid to play with the emotions of the watching fans!
To get back to my original point of why this was so hard to write, its because Scream 2 at times for me, betters what its original had to offer! The script is one of the best ever written, even little touches of Sydney playing Cassandra in the school play of Oedipus, offers more for those of a knowledge of that classic character, and Williamson plays on the traditions of “family Values” to a point that you realise that looking back that all the three films is about the actions of our parents, something that Craven himself explored in A Nightmare On Elm Street!
Fans who did not like the original, love the more straight approach of the second, those who wanted more jokes and references were alarmed by the not many and so prefer Scream, while there are a few who disagree with the assessment that a certain gangster film was the best sequel of all time and believe Scream 2 is the number one!
For me, a year after the release of a film that shook the horror genre to its core, we had a sequel that can only be marvelled for being so damn good! Its not better or worse, just a continuation of story that thrills your horror bone, to have created such a great horror film once was great, to do it twice was unbelievable, to try a third time would smack of high ambition way out of your control…the fact they did is another Scream story for another time!!!!!!!
To Be Concluded!!!!
MORE OF SCREAM’S MOVIE REFERENCES!
* The line “Its only a Movie!” in whcih Phil utters in the cinema is the tagline of Wes Craven’s first film Last House On The Left
* The GhostFace that files over the head of Maureen at the Cinema is a reference to the old House On Haunted Hill film in which Cinema’s back then done the same trick!
* While Cici is on the phone talking to her friend, she is talking about the TV show Party of Five, which starred, Neve (Sydney) Campbell
* When Hallie is searching in her wardrobe, you can see a Freddy Kruger top hanging on a rail
* Friday 13th is referenced a lot during the film, especially the original, for reasons if you have seen the film, will now know why!
* Again when Cici is on the phone, she is skipping through the TV channels and comes across the film Nosferatu- a wry gag because Cici is played by Sarah Michelle Geller of Buffy The Vampire fame!
* Officer Richards and Officer Andrews are assigned as Sidney’s bodyguards. The names of the detectives are in reference to Kyle Richards and Brian Andrews who portrayed the two young kids in the original Halloween
* When the subject of the naked pictures of Gale Weathers in the Internet comes up, she replies, “It was just my head on Jennifer Aniston’s body.” Aniston also starred with Courtney in of “Friends“
* The “7 degrees of Kevin Bacon” line is because those seven actors on screen are somewhat linked to Kevin Bacon, its a fun game that may take you ages to work out