I can honestly see the case that this improves, in some ways, on the original. It certainly does some interesting things that the original does not.
There’s a brilliant staging of a Greek tragedy play in which Sidney hallucinates her killer. That scene is an evocative trip, more dreamlike than anything in the original. The film also ramps up some charged symbolism: One victim descends from the heavens, fastened to a cross like Christ.
There’s some fascinating sound design, too: A tense chase takes place in a sound booth with noise-silencing but transparent walls, offering a bizarre and freaky juxtaposition of violence and silence.
The supporting cast is overqualified: While none of Liev Schreiber, Laurie Metcalf, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jada Pinkett Smith, Omar Epps, Timothy Olyphant, Heather Graham, or Portia de Rossi is anywhere near as delightful and unhinged as Matthew Lillard in the original, they’re all welcome additions that elevate the material.
Lastly, I think the movie does more interesting stuff with its “meta”/cultural commentary material than the original. Here, much of the focus is on the fallout of Sidney’s sudden fame (an obvious proxy for Scream’s success), and the way the media and her peers engage with that fame. It’s never too prickly or incisive, but it still provides a satirical backbone to the story.
All of that feeds into why I actually liked the oft-maligned identity of the killers, or at least half of them: When Laurie Metcalf’s local beat reporter ends up being a psychopath, it flows nicely with the film’s arc of the dangers of media sensationalism.
It’s not a perfect slasher. For one, it just doesn’t hold together as tightly as the memorable original, and no segments are as masterful as Scream’s harrowing opening. The film’s 2 hours drag more than a little bit — there’s an element of “get on with it” once you hit the hour mark or so, before an exciting ending.
But in all, it surpassed my hopes of what a Scream sequel would look like by broadening its scope and raising its game.
Very Good (6/8)
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.