Scream 1996 really did inject a ton of energy into what was a flailing horror genre, creating a new slasher villain that, if not quite on par with Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers, is damn close. Director Wes Craven’s feature was equal parts of honoring what came before it, along with deconstructing what audiences generally love and hate about scary movies. How to follow up such a well-received film? Make it again, just with a higher body count and more elaborate kills. Still haven’t watched? Here’s 5 reasons why it’s time to do so:
It’s right there, and Craven along with his returning screenwriter Kevin Williamson are unabashed in hiding that this, essentially, is a direct rip from what preceded it in Scream. With that said, their “whodunit again” story throws enough wrenches and misdirects to cast just enough doubt as to who’s donning the Ghostface mask this go ‘round. It’s fitting that a large chunk of the movie takes place on an auditorium showcasing the backdrop for a school play that resembles something Shakesperian in nature as the plot goes on and the culprit reveals themselves and their motive comes to light. Truth be told, it’s rather impressive that Williamson was able to cobble together something that’s pretty satisfying after the original version of the plot was reportedly leaked (though Williamson claims this was a dummy script in case this were to happen) mere months before the movie’s release.
You’d think that with barely a year between release (December 20th, 1996 for Scream, December 12th, 1997 for Scream 2), Scream 2 would…well, scream a rushed feeling in many components of its production. But it was beneficial that many contributors to the success of the original came back to give cohesion. Whether that be Craven and Williamson, or cast members Neve Campbell, Jamie Kennedy, Courteney Cox, Liev Schreiber, and David Arquette, there are no “competing visions” or “disparate styles.” The Master of Horror stages quite a few sequences that chill to the bone, complete with visceral violence. Scream 2 is very much a companion piece to Scream; a great double feature to watch back-to-back.
Before The Cabin in the Woods, Scream 1 and 2 (and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, a spiritual successor in ways to the Scream franchise) were the first time horror movies truly looked inward at themselves and analyzed their existence, structures, rules, and the like. Scream 1 (by way of the amazing character Randy) examined the typical traits that promised or suggested character eradication, why the killer could be X, Y, or Z (and even openly admitting he would be a strong suspect if the events of Scream were a movie…), and what type of motivation the killer would have—if any.
Scream 2 incorporates the exact same plot but subverting it at the same time, having Randy once again deliver an impassioned speech about what changes during a sequel, that being a focus on more blood and gore and elaborate kills paired with a higher body count. All of this happens in Scream 2, tongue-in-cheek of course. Even a small-ish detail of Scream 2 having black characters (the original Scream was absent of anyone resembling color) in the form of Jada Pinkett Smith, Omar Epps, Elise Neal, and Duane Martin who are aware of their ethnicity and generally what that portends to in situations like the ones they find themselves is in a clever touch. The most impressive thing about this all? Scream 2 doesn’t sacrifice funny self-awareness for scares.
2. Still Relevant Social Commentary
Any movie that examines the age-old question of violent media possibly correlating to violent crimes is always going to be relevant to an extent and Scream 2 asks this question early on during its sequel talk in film class. But there are two other themes that were touched upon in 1997 that arguably resonate more now than before.
One is the talk of media coverage for morally reprehensible actions. As we’ve been seeing lately whenever the latest mass tragedy happens, many outlets have stopped referring to the perpetrators by name, believing that constant identification gives credit and acclaim to those who commit crimes, making them almost seem like a demi-god in the wrong minds. For one character in Scream 2, all he wants is to be immortalized with the Mansons, Bundys, and OJ’s of the world, with a fitting trial to boot.
The other isn’t explicitly stated but felt, arguably exceeding the extraordinary opener in Scream. Scream 2’s opening scene sees Maureen (Pinkett Smith) and Phil (Epps) fall victim to Ghostface in the theater while watching the events on screen that happened in the first Scream in a meta moment. Pinkett’s death is disturbing, as it occurs not only in sync with what’s on the silver screen, but amongst a theater of hundreds of people donning the same mask and cloak “acting out” the act of killing. It’s mass hysteria at its purest, reminiscent to the news a few weeks ago that urged all moviegoers to not come dressed up as Joker during that movie’s opening weekend. It’s honestly hard to watch this scene and still think “Yeah, people should totally be able to dress up for movie premieres, no problem!” Exaggerated? Sure, but Scream 2 is the crystal-clear reason as to why it’s probably for the best that everyone leaves the costumes and face paint at home.
- Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox
It’s not often that horror movies, especially back in the day where slashers ruled the lot, put forth interesting characters to get behind and/or be intrigued with. The Scream franchise had a slew of them, whether it was the awkward-but-truthful Cotton Weary (Schreiber), the audience cipher Randy Meeks (Kennedy), the super cool heartthrob Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) or the semi-bumbling Dewey Riley (Arquette). But the franchise has always been rooted around Sidney Prescott (Campbell) and Gale Weathers (Cox), two individuals who couldn’t be more different with Sidney just wanting to be a normal person that doesn’t have danger following her everywhere, and Gale looking at almost every opportunity to become the next Diane Sawyer and Barbara Walters.
They start off as adversaries but eventually become tolerable to each other, and each gets the other out of deadly situations. While Campbell’s character easily has more meat and subtlety (Campbell is the perfect mix of frightened and fearless), Cox gives her Gale significant energy, seemingly knowing when to dial it up a tad and when to be serious. Both are committed to their roles, and both are people audiences care about enough to see survive, not necessarily an easy sentiment to put across in horror flicks. They are ultimate reason to finally give this a watch.
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