IronWatcher’s review published on Letterboxd:
Schocktober 2021 #8
Watched on Blu-Ray
After the resounding success of "Scream" in 1996, it was only a question of time and money (this time already a budget of almost 30 million dollars) until director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson would bring a sequel onto the market and thus unleash Ghostface on mankind again. The fact that this happened after barely a year, and with all the actors from the predecessor, was certainly due on the one hand to the warm windfall that "Scream" had generated for the production team and on the other hand to the consistently surprisingly good reactions from audiences and the feuilleton - the motto was to milk the "cash cow" as quickly and effectively as possible. Whether this urgent initial situation was particularly conducive to the production of the sequel can already be doubted at this point, since within this one year neither the basic course of the story nor the cinematic tone has changed much. This is compounded by the fact that Wes Craven, by wanting to serve the audience with basically the same material that made the first film so successful, fell into the same trap that all the sequels to the 70s horror hits around "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Friday the 13th" had fallen into almost 10 years earlier.
"Scream" broke into new territory, surprised the fan community as well as the average cinema-goer and thus left behind a sort of scent mark in (horror) film history. "Scream 2" no longer has this element of surprise at its disposal; instead, the audience's heightened expectations have to be met. All Wes Craven's assurances that the "Scream" series was planned as a trilogy from the very beginning are of no help.
About two years after the events in the small town of Woodsboro, two cinema-goers are murdered at the premiere of the film Stab (a film-within-a-film adaptation of the plot of part one with Tori Spelling, Heather Graham and David Schwimmer in self-referential cameos). Both media and police are baffled by the crime. Again, questions arise about the perpetrator, motive and target of the violent acts. Is there a copycat offender or did the police even identify the wrong teenagers as responsible two years ago? Before the mystery of the killer's identity and motive is solved, Ghostface murders his way through half the Windsor College campus, outdoing himself in brutality and cruelty. So far so good...
Alongside Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courtney Cox, Liev Schreiber and Jamie Kennedy from part one, there are also Elise Neal, Sarah Michelle Gellaf, Jerry O'Connell and Timothy Olyphant in more or less major supporting roles.
"Scream 2" is not a bad representative of the slasher genre. Quite the contrary. The killer with his outlandish mask and his brutal but always clumsy manner, the imaginatively executed and surprisingly bloody murders, the unbelievably fitting soundtrack, the well-dosed build-up of tension and the motivated cast, already fused with their roles, The main cast around an outstanding Jamie Kennedy as a film freak who reworks the (horror film) rules of the first part in a sequel-specific way and sells it as reality - all this sets "Scream 2" apart from the bulk of similar productions of the 90s (and in the end also the 2000s).
Despite these positive points, however, the flick lacks the bite of its predecessor and the surprisingly new approach to the slasher theme, on the one hand, and a sensible resolution of the story, on the other. This last point weighs the heaviest. Which character Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson finally present as the killer is not only very quickly recognisable in the course of the film, but its resolution and explanation is bumbling and disappointing. The acting performance of the supporting actors is also, on honest consideration, much more modest than in the predecessor, where Skeet Ulrich, Rose McGowan and Matthew Lillard were consistently convincing.
In conclusion, the opening scene of the sequel, around the murders in the wake of the frenetically celebrated Stab premiere, certainly comes closest to matching the atmosphere of its predecessor. Both the first kill of the sequel and the film within a film subject (cue Heather Graham as Drew Barrymore) are brilliant proof that Wes Craven understands the genre like few other directors and can nuance and develop it at will as a result. After that, unfortunately, Craven relies too much on well-trodden paths and restricts himself only to an ever-present flash of cult, which, however, all too often immediately fades back into irrelevance.