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Dustin Putman

Dustin's Review

Scream 2  (1997)
3 Stars
Directed by Wes Craven.
Cast: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Kennedy, Jerry O'Connell, Elise Neal, Laurie Metcalf, Timothy Olyphant, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jada Pinkett Smith, Omar Epps, Duane Martin, Lewis Arquette, Rebecca Gayheart, Portia de Rossi, Joshua Jackson, Marisol Nichols, Heather Graham, Tori Spelling, Luke Wilson, Nancy O'Dell.
1997 – 120 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for strong bloody violence and language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, October 2008; Updated September 11, 2013.

Maureen Evans:
Bitch, hang up the phone and star-69 his ass!

Rushed into production after "Scream" hit blockbuster status at the box office, "Scream 2" is a better follow-up than it has any right to be, especially considering that Kevin Williamson's script wasn't even finished when filming got underway. Arriving in theaters one week shy of a full year after its predecessor—a word-of-mouth sensation that resurrected the slasher genre from a long-dormant slumber—this sharp-tongued sequel has a lot of ground to cover as it catches up with the surviving characters, introduces a new roster of supporting players, and must devise a plot that stays true to the first while building upon the increasingly elaborate chain-events mythos sparking from the affair and subsequent murder of Sidney Prescott's (Neve Campbell) mother. While the picture sometimes lacks the sense of freshness that the original displayed, it more than makes up for it with director Wes Craven's undaunted weaving of suspense and terror with innately human moments.

Two years after the events of "Scream," survivors Sidney Prescott and Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy) are now students at Windsor College, happy to have the tragedies from their pasts behind them. When two classmates, Maureen (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Phil (Omar Epps), are murdered at an advance screening of "Stab," based on Gale Weathers' best-selling book "The Woodsboro Murders," Deputy Dewey Riley (David Arquette) wastes no time in coming to check on Sidney's safety. Detecting a good news story when she sees it, Gale also promptly arrives on campus to report on what she suspects may be a copycat slayer. What none of them yet realize is that a whole new killing spree is about to begin, with Sidney once again the prime target.

"Scream 2" is wit-filled and a whole lot of fun, building panicky apprehension more so than leave-the-light-on-at-night scares. It's also sometimes breathlessly intense, as when Sidney and friend Hallie (Elise Neal) must climb over the knocked-out Ghostface psychopath in order to escape from the back of a crashed police car, or a slam-bang setpiece where Gale is stalked through the maze-like corridors of the university's visual arts building. One thing the "Scream" series has always done expertly is the juggling of self-aware satire and knowledge of cinema tropes while treating the central protagonists with the sympathetic respect they deserve. Jokes are made in the spry interactions between diverse personalities (and it was a stroke of genius to cast Tori Spelling as Sidney in film-within-a-film "Stab," the very actor she jokingly said would play her in the first "Scream"). However, when lives are in danger, it is tackled with the gravitas that would come from these events occurring in the real world.

The cast is punchy and look to be having a ball. By the nature of what she is going through, Neve Campbell's Sidney doesn't have as much time to be light and cheery. At the start, she has moved on and has even managed to have a sense of humor about her lot in life—when she receives a prank call from the supposed killer, she wastes no time in checking her Caller ID and responding with the guy's full name and number. Campbell plays the part with all the qualities someone would want in their horror heroine, and her new pals, from roommate Hallie to supportive boyfriend Derek (Jerry O'Connell), are colorful but grounded. Laurie Metcalf deliciously goes against-type as awkward news reporter Debbie Salt, unable to live up to what Gale's vision of an intrepid journalist should be, while Courteney Cox is at her facetious best playing a cutthroat career woman who has simultaneously gotten an even bigger head even as she cannot stop herself from caring about the people she has shared a previous life-or-death experience with. Also making an impression, Liev Schreiber goes from cameo to lead as Cotton Weary, falsely convicted murderer of Sidney's mom who has been released from prison and is looking to take advantage of his part in the sensationalistic media hype; Timothy Olyphant, as film major Mickey, a camera always in his hand before YouTube and the concept of reality shows had even been born yet, and Sarah Michelle Gellar, whose sorority sister Cici is menaced as a parallel scene from F.W. Murnau's "Nosferatu" plays on the television screen.

The high body count of "Scream 2" threatens to leave one a bit jaded by the end, but then comes a showdown where the culprit(s) are revealed and Sidney, trapped on the school's auditorium stage, must live out the role she has been preparing to portray, as Cassandra in "Agamemnon." It is a savvy, unmistakable detail that the college production is a Greek tragedy. If not tragedy, what kind of life has Sidney's become? "Scream 2" is the weakest entry in the franchise, running a little long and ungainly, but it is still smarter than the majority of studio horrors that get released each year. For a film where death runs rampant, its creative and financial success proved that there were plenty of avenues yet to explore with these now well-loved characters and their fight to make it in a world where anyone, at any time, can be the unwelcome recipient of a very sharp knife.
© 2008 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman