Scream 2

Scream 2 ★★★★½

Scream 2 is an operatic sequel, which at times feels less like the jokey Scream 1 and more like a grim exploration of trauma.

The film begins a year after the original, with the surviving characters now attending college in Woodsboro and trying to put the events of the Ghostface killings behind them. A double murder at a movie theatre serves as a warning that another masked stalker has appeared, and is attempting to top the killing spree of their predecessor. Sidney and her friends must try to discover the motives and identity of the new killer, while avoiding meeting a sticky end on his blades.

A decade before Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2, Scream 2 was innovative in exploring the realistic consequences of being caught up in a horror story. Sidney’s experience with Billy and Stu has left her unable to trust any of the people in her life, since she has learned that psychopaths like to toy with their victims by getting close to them.

This ultimately has tragic consequences, as her inability to overcome her issues leads to the death of people she knows once again. Neve Campbell cements herself as the backbone of the franchise here, with a wounded but tough performance which really makes you feel for the character. Courtney Cox is also increasingly compelling as a hard-nosed journalist, who is surprisingly sweet off the job, but ruthless while on it.

Despite the darker tone, Scream 2 is also very funny. One of the best jokes is that the events of the first movie has been made into the low budget slasher film ‘Stab,’ which is a running gag in the background as a much tackier version of the original. There is also a weirdly dissonant moment of humour involving a boom box during a brutal murder scene, which both deflates and enhances the horror of what is happening.

The villains are as compelling as the first Ghostface, despite having very different motives. The whodunnit mystery works very well; the identity of the lead killer in particular is a twist which is obvious in retrospect but almost impossible to guess in advance.

While the complicity of the audience in violence isn’t as strong a theme as in the first movie, the opening scene with its hordes of Ghost-masked teenagers does help hammer the point home. The theatrical scene with Sidney playing the role of Cassandra also points to the fact that these themes have been present in fiction for a long, long, time.

There are only a few horror sequels which hold up in the slasher genre, but Scream 2 goes one better by arguably topping the original. It is deeper and has more interesting characters, whilst still being as sharp-edged and clever as before.