Kurdt’s review published on Letterboxd:
Not too far off the brilliance of the first. It’s certainly got an opening that almost matches the original classic. The Stab premiere seems like Craven self-excoriating his own genre to an extent; fans dressed as Ghostface go mad over the movie killings on screen while a real-life murder happens in plain sight. Considering the on-screen murder is also based on a real-life case, what’s the difference? And where’s the line between adoring a movie boogeyman and adoring a real life killer? Also, Jada Pinkett Smith dies in front of the blown up image of movie Ghostface, further conflating the fictional with the real. This happens again at the end when the final confrontation happens on a theatre stage, with an air of unreality to it. It’s as if Craven, now post-his second iconic horror film, is pondering the impact of horror on society. Not in a “movies make people violent!” way—something which comes up later—but just as an interesting question without an answer. One of the escape plans of the killer is “I’m gonna blame the movies,” which was slightly prescient considering this was made in 1997. Although people blaming movie violence for real-life violence wasn’t anything new, it would heat up inexorably just two years later with the Columbine massacre. Craven obviously doesn’t believe that notion, but he does find it interesting to examine. This is a movie (and series) about the intertwining of the real and the fictional; in the first film, the fictional (the movies) influence the real. Then here, the real influences the fictional in the form of Stab, which itself influences more real life violence. It’s all one ouroboros circle.
This series also does one of the best jobs of developing the character of its protagonist. Sidney seems inherently drawn to the thrills of Ghostface’s hunt for her. It’s like ever since her mother’s murder she’s been linked with each incarnation of him. It’s apt that she’s now a theatre major, but there are also a couple of great little moments where she feels the need to play his game. Like where she’s about to leave the sorority house and the phone rings. She should just leave—she’s practically out the door—but she’s drawn to the ringing phone, like it’s in her blood to play the game with Ghostface. Later during the car accident, she has a free path to get away but insists to her friend that she has to go back, lift his mask, and see his face. Considering the meta nature of this series, it’s like Sidney knows she’s trapped within a horror franchise and has to adhere to her protagonist/final girl tropes. She can’t escape, and despite knowing the “rules” so to speak, she can’t help but be drawn back in each time. This could be read as tragic, in that she’s trapped and forever linked to these murders, or that it paints Sidney as the ultimate resistance to the horror, because she knows she has to go back and fight Ghostface every time to, at least temporarily, stop the killings. As her theatre teacher asks her to repeat at one point with increasing determination: “I’m a fighter.”
I can’t really fit this into the review but I also just want to say that the scene with Gale and Dewey in the sound booth is tremendous. Also, continuing from my review of the first film explaining that one of the reasons Ghostface is scary as hell is because he’s super fast (and achieving an impressive 8/10 for speed in my new, completely arcane ratings system), unfortunately Scream 2 doesn’t have much Ghostface running™. There’s only one scene where he chases someone and unfortunately Craven doesn’t shoot it the same as a similar scene from the first film, and Sarah Michelle Gellar turns out to be a pretty poor movie runner, as it looks like she’s barely jogging as she tries to escape a masked killer. Thus Ghostface’s running skills get a paltry 3/10 for this instalment. Tune in next time when I rate Scream 3 solely on how clean I think Ghostface’s cloak is.