by Rob Gonsalves
A sequel to a well-loved movie like 'Scream' has a lot of good will going for it -- and a lot of high expectations going against it. How to recapture the freshness and surprise of the original -- the feeling that you were seeing an entire subgenre both trashed and rejuvenated? The experience of seeing an original movie for the first time can't be duplicated in a sequel, which, by definition, is the same only different.The Scream franchise, though, has one other thing in its favor: This stuff wasn't original the first time, either. Scream, as I noted in my review of it, was a clever and effective satire of the then-moribund slasher subgenre. I liked it well enough, and subsequent video viewings have endeared it to me more; it's a postmodern, endlessly quotable cult phenomenon. With Scream 2, you don't necessarily want a radical departure. You want familiar elements with a spin -- everything you liked about Scream, only different. On that level, it triumphs.
"The concept was pretty good the second time."
Director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson resume their Scream duties, atoning for their earlier misfires -- Craven executive-produced the inept Wishmaster, while Williamson wrote the popular but lame I Know What You Did Last Summer. They're working near the top of their form here. Scream 2 isn't quite as witty as I'd hoped -- it should've had more fun with the idea of sequels -- but it's twistier, gorier, and, at times, more shocking. Anyone could be the killer (the cast is full of red herrings), and anyone can die at any time.
Except Neve Campbell. She is, after all, the pole holding up this franchise. Her Sidney Prescott, now in college and pledging a sorority, wants to put the horror behind her and move on. Three reasons why she can't: Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), the ice-blooded reporter who wrote a book about the Scream killings, which has been made into the movie Stab, starring, of course, Tori Spelling; Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber), who spent the first Scream in jail for killing Sidney's mom (he was innocent) and now demands media absolution; and, yep, the killer in the Munch mask. He's back. Or she's back. Or they're back. More than this I cannot disclose.
I can say that I enjoyed seeing Neve and Courteney again, as well as geeky horror addict Randy (Jamie Kennedy) and doofus deputy Dewey (David Arquette). The sequel also serves up such new-to-Scream faces as Jada Pinkett (who shines in the virtuoso opening sequence, set in a theater showing Stab), Sarah Michelle Gellar (not very Buffy-like here, but still much better than she was in Last Summer), Laurie Metcalf as a reporter stalking Gale (for a change), and Duane Martin, who's funny as Gale's apprehensive new cameraman ("Brothers don't last long in situations like this," he accurately points out).
Had Scream 2 been left in other, lesser hands, it would surely have sucked, as most sequels do (as the movie itself acknowledges in its best film-nerd scene). That it escapes suckage is due to Craven and Williamson, who operate under a productive philosophy: "There's gonna be a sequel anyway, so we might as well come back and do it up right." They do.'Scream 2' is as clever and nerve-wracking as the original; on its own self-referential, crowd-pleasing terms, it's a success. Yet I will end this review as I ended my review of the first movie: How about a truly original horror film -- some new blood in the genre? Where is the next Wes Craven? See, I can do same-only-different, too.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=150&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/14/07 12:27:46