Directed by Wes Craven. Starring Lewis Arquette, Liev Schreiber, Jada Pinkett, Jerry O'Connell, Elise Neal, Laurie Metcalf, Jamie Kennedy, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Neve Campbell. (1997, R, 120 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Dec. 19, 1997
Has it only been one year since director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson reintroduced the joys of the slasher film to the American moviegoing public? It has, but it may feel like longer, thanks to this fall's tide-me-over Williamson-directed shocker I Know What You Did Last Summer. In Williamson's Scream 2 script, the concept of the sequel takes a beating -- as in the original his characters and their dialogue are witty and almost overly hip to the conventions of the slasher genre. Here's Pinkett speechifying on the role of minorities in horror films (there aren't any), here's Kennedy listing The Rules that sequels must abide by (more gore, more bodies), here's- you get the picture. This gleeful willingness to play with the obvious conventions is what gave the original its wild pop-culture kick, and both Craven and Williamson wisely stick to the tried-and-true formula in the sequel, the only hitch being that since this is a sequel it's bound to fall prey to some of the snags the characters are so earnestly discussing, and it does. Despite Williamson's knowing turnabout on the whole sequel issue, Scream 2 lacks the visceral, punchy feeling of realization the first film engendered in its audience. No longer are these wisecracks as fresh as they once were; once again, there's more than enough material in here for several film-school theses on self-reflexive, cutting-edge filmmaking. The joke is the joke, only this time out it's a tad more obvious. Scream 2 reunites the surviving cast members of the first film, places them in a collegiate situation, and then lets a copycat serial killer loose in their midst. It's one of the film's strong points that once again, there's absolutely no telling who the killer might be until the final, bloody scene. Williamson is one of the best scenarists in the business, and he keeps his dialogue crisp and rolling (one of his favorite tricks here -- and one of the funniest -- is his penchant for having one character's comments blur over into “our” reality; for example, Gellar's character is at one point overheard discussing the latest episode of Party of Five, which, of course, stars her Scream 2 co-star Campbell). Likewise, Craven's take-no-prisoners direction; it's tightly edited, riveting, and giddily showy. A scene during which two characters are depicted on opposite sides of a soundproofed, glassed-in engineer's booth is ecstatically disturbing, and Scream 2's film-within-a-film (the aptly-titled Stab, featuring Heather Graham and Tori Spelling) is sublimely ridiculous. It's one of the better sequels to come out in years, and although it doesn't pack the emotional wallop of the first film, it's still head and shoulders (and punctured eyeballs) above most of what's out there.