Scream 2

Scream 2 ★★★★½

Attention! Attention! All you freaks and geeks for an important PSA, Scream 2 is the best movie in the series and it's about time we accepted it!

Scream 2 asserts its dominance right from the opening gate, crafting a cold-open nearly as effective as Drew Barrymore's gab 'n' skewering. A young black couple (Omar Epps and Jada Pinkett-Smith) are going to see a premier screening of the all-new exercise in sensational celluloid carnage, Stab! It's a fun scene, as we watch the lovers comically discuss black people's often disposable roles in slasher flicks. When they sit down among a rowdy crowd of teens wild with blood lust and the movie begins, Scream 2 serves up some meta-contextual fun. For a little while, Smith acts as an audience surrogate. Like her, we roll our eyes at the dim-witted actions of slasher victims and rant how we'd do the intelligent thing if that were us! But at the end of the day, we can't help but be invested. I love how tension is built during this scene as well. Smith goes to the concession stand to buy popcorn and a soda, on the way a couple of costumed dude bros whizz past her creating a disruption. It's like during this ritual of witnessing murder on screen, the line between killer and civilian is divided, creating an atmosphere of unease.

Then as she's getting her snacks, two girlfriends barrel behind her, one complaining about how in poor taste it is to base a movie off of real murders, of children no less. Holy shit, this is based on a true story?! The fear spreads across her face an expression that says, "Someone could be sneaking in her to kill me at this very moment." Information is communicated so cleanly through blocking and writing, something Craven/Williamson carried through all these movies.

Epps gets a knife through the skull while listening to a weirdo whistling in a bathroom stall. I'm not sure if the logistics of this kill are air-tight because that blade is the length of a pea stalk and stall walls are thicker than you think. It's not like sticking your fist through dry-wall but I digress. The scene works as a great jolt AND visual so I think it's fine.

Pinkett's death is what really makes this cold-open sing. The killer takes a seat next to her dressed in the clothes of her now very much dead partner. As Smith snuggles up to him, a knife is plunged into her stomach, She desperately tries to get away but the murder happening in Stab has thrown the whole theater into a frenzy of mass celebration while a defenseless woman is being butchered right in front of them. Is Smith's animalistc screeching a bit hammy? Sure, i'll give ya that. But it doesn't dilute the visceral thematic nature of the set-piece which the story proper never really capitalizes on, I'll admit.

The rest of the film progresses how you would expect: A copycat killer is on the loose in Woodsborrow! And it's up to the power pal trifecta of Sidney (Neve Campbell), Dewey (David Arquette), and Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) to solve the case. It transpires like one big "fuck you" to the MPAA, with a bigger body count and heavier emphasis on extremity to the kills. Craven regretted being part of the perceived misogyny that formed around the horror genre during the 1980s but there's no denying his enthusiasm for figuring out gory reversals and placing pieces on the chess board for maximum suspense. The sound booth sequence, theater climax, car scene, and Buffy chase rival and even EXCEED anything from the first movie.

Scream 2 is cleverly plotted and the character's sass and charming dopiness continue to be a source of endearment despite how cruel it can get. I still firmly believe that killing off Randy (Jamie Kennedy) was a mistake. He's the film geek! Randy's gotta be in all these movies to set the ground rules for the "real-life" movie they're experiencing! As a child, this was always the Scream movie I watched the least because Randy's death was so sudden, violent, and mean-spirited.

If there's one big source of disappointment with Scream 2 as a follow-up, it's the identity of the killers. Timothy Olyphant does a good job but Micky is just a rehash of Stu from the first movie. The dude is nuts and that's it for his character. His lack of motive registers more as creative bankruptcy than a way to make his character "scarier." Having Billy's Mom as a psycho Pamela Voorhees-esque murder matriarch was a nice touch and grants a strong connective tissue with the events of its predecessor.

Scream 2 ups the stakes, body-count, and dark humor for another smart bloodbath.

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