Review Podcast Rating

Scream 2 (1997)

Everything about Scream 2 indicates a rush sequel job to the massive success of Scream, but it works, almost miraculously. I can honestly see the case that this improves, in some ways, on the original. It certainly takes some interesting stylistic and formal swings that the original does not.

Case in point: There’s a brilliant staging of a Greek tragedy play in which Sidney hallucinates her killer. That scene is a 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, heightening the sense of cruel fates tugging the strings of Sidney Prescott’s (Neve Campbell) life as much as a masked killer.

There’s some really fascinating sound design this time around, too: A tense chase takes place in a sound booth with noise-silencing but transparent walls, offering a freaky juxtaposition of violence and silence.

The supporting cast is overqualified and significantly better than the original: 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, as it’s much more naturally baked into the narrative.

The sequel’s story follows Sidney as she deals with a wave of sudden fame from her recent near-murder (her fame being an obvious proxy for Scream’s success). The killer reappears when Sidney moves to college, and the film is centrally concerned with the way the media and her peers engage with that fame. It’s never anything especially profound or reshaping of our understanding of the characters, but it still provides a nice satirical backbone to the film.

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, with a shabbier overarching narrative. Certainly no segments are as masterful as Scream’s harrowing opening. The film’s 2 hours drag significantly — there’s an element of “get on with it” once you hit the hour mark or so before an exciting final 25 minutes.

Even with those flaws, Scream 2 surpasses my expectations for what a Scream sequel could achieve by broadening its scope, sharpening its satire, and making a few well-considered formal gambits.

Is It Good?

Very Good (6/8)

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