SCREAMtober: ‘Scream 2’ (1997)

Sequential Cinema is a look at film series throughout cinema history from blockbuster franchises to smaller and international fare.

Dimension Films and Wes Craven wasted no time getting Scream 2 off the ground. Released on December 12, 1997 (357 days after the first), the film was out in time for the holiday season. Unfortunately, Ghostface does not battle Santa Claus. The main battle was behind the scenes. Constant rewrites to the script due to leaks appearing online added to the frustration of an already rushed production of the film.

[Sidenote: This review is also rushed adding an extra layer to this. The next review will not have three years in-between.]

Scream 2 jumps two years in the future. Gale Weathers’ (Courtney Cox) book The Woodsboro Murders is now the film Stab. A sneak preview near Windsor College sees the murder of two seniors. Jada Pinkett (Pre-Smith) and Omar Epps play the respective victims, Maureen Evans and Phil Stevens. 

Ghostface (voiced by Roger Jackson) holds a bloody knife after murdering Phil Stevens (Omar Epps) in a movie theatre bathroom. Source: Paramount Pictures

Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), now a student at Windsor, gets hounded by the media due to the new murders. This comes as the man accused of killing Sidney’s mother Cotton (Liev Schreiber) comes out of prison. Weathers returns with Dewey Riley (David Arquette) to find who is causing the new murders. Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy) returns as well. 

There are also newcomers Elise Neal as Hallie and Jerry O’Connell as Sydney’s beau Derek. Laurie Metcalf also appears as nagging local journo Debbie Salt. Timothy Olyphant plays Mickey Alteri as the jock version of Randy. Oh, and Sarah Michelle Gellar is here too as Cici Cooper for extra ‘90s cred. 

[Sidenote: If you were popular on TV in the 90s, Scream was the perfect time to go mainstream in film.]

Ghostface this time around is following in Billy Loomis’ steps for the beginning of a sequel of their own. Their sight’s focused on names associated with the victims of the last murders. Their kills are much more furious, creative, and unexpected as ever (even if the furniture seems to be their enemy). 

Scream 2 is the best of the series. Like the sequels mentioned in the film, it outdoes its predecessor in all its ways. It takes what works in the first film and ups the ante while also embracing the silliness of slashers.

Neve Campbell adds weight to Sidney’s role with her combating the trauma of the past. Not once does this trauma makes her a weaker character as a lesser sequel would do. Rather, Sidney is aware of the stakes. She has a Caller ID to catch prank callers. She uses her past to elevate her future to move past it. She is doing her best to live a normal life and is successful at it. She does lose it at the sight of Ghostface, but that is not her fault. By the end of the third act, Sidney is strong-willed, giving double taps (or in the case of Mickey’s demise, decuple taps). 

Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is ready for the new Ghostface despite the trauma and pain of the Woodboros Murders. Source: Paramount Pictures

The meta nature of the film is clear and present, but not overbearing. It’s not a while a minute trope-dump. There is the call out of sequels being inferior to their predecessors. There’s also the calling out of how sequels must one-up everything. This film wants to have its cake and eat it too. Scream 2 manages to do that by killing off our horror trope guy near the third act of the film.

Randy’s death is a controversial choice to some as he is a likable character. Yet, I argue it’s needed as it plays to the sequel trope of having a former character come back only to be killed off. Randy falls prey to a trope even he didn’t see coming. It also shows that other returning cast members are up for grabs. If you haven’t seen the other movies or the trailer for Scream (2022), it’ll surprise you to see who lives on for the next film.

[Sidenote: Studios need to stop giving horror sequels the same title as the first film. 2021’s Candyman is a sequel. 2018’s Halloween is a sequel to 1978’s Halloween.  Don’t even get me started on video games that do this because it sucks there too.]

The true culprit of Debbie Salt aka Mrs. Loomis is fun as Metcalf gets to play a killer. Aunt Jackie from Roseanne has a gun and she isn’t fucking about either. It’s shocking as it is fun. Metcalf’s transition from annoying journo to batshit mother is great. As good as Metcalf’s performance is Olyphant’s Mickey. Mickey is a total psychopathic monster. Olyphant plays it to the letter with a crazed look venturing out into the deep end. Their characters’ psychotic nature adds to them going to town as Ghostface.

As James A. Janisse of Dead Meat would say, “Let’s get to the kills!” Ghostface did not waste a moment. The murders in the theatre are in perfect contrast to one another. From a quiet bathroom stabbing to a loud crowd not noticing Maureen’s death, it’s impactful. That opener of Jada covered in blood on the stage overlooking an amped crowd is by far the best scene of the series. It outdoes the original by a large margin.

Maureen Evans (Jada Pinkett-Smith) sets the stage for her final moments at the Stab sneak peek. Source: Paramount Pictures.

Cici’s death shows how deranged this Ghostface is as they work their way through the house and stalking her. They also throw her off the balcony in a brutal effort of overkill. It’s completely over-the-top encapsulating the deranged minds of Mrs. Loomis and Mickey. 

Haille also gets murdered in front of Sidney in brutal quick stabs. The “beat cop” Secret Service agents also meet their ends, one of which gets a pipe through their head. It is by far one of the most creative deaths Ghostface delivers next to Tatum’s garage door death. Randy’s demise happens off-screen and Derek’s demise is a quick gunshot to the chest out of costume.

[Sidenote: I didn’t focus on the deaths last time due to wanting to focus on only three things. I felt the need to make it up here. Also, Dead Meat on YouTube does a great rundown of the series death that is worth a watch.]

Craven directs a sequel that is a clinic in how to do a horror sequel. It’s not his masterpiece as that honor goes to A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Yet, one can argue the meta-horror storytelling set up in New Nightmare is in its perfect form in this film. Even if you’ve seen it before, Scream 2 is a definite horror must that’s due for a rewatch. 

Final Verdict: 4.5 out of 5
SCREAMtober: 2/4 Complete

Next time, it’s three years later and Ghostface has gone Hollywood. We go to the movies in Scream 3. Till the next sequence.

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