Scream 2

Scream 2 ★★★

"Who would want to do that? Sequels suck!"

Pushing boundaries in genre self-awareness—putting horror-movie character types in a horror-movie theater in which a horror movie is taking place both on and off the screen; the audience identifying directly with the violence on screen and recreating it themselves in real life—until those boundaries collapse in on themselves (literally by the end), the fourth wall broken so thoroughly that its foundation begins to shake and crumple like a stage whose set falls apart around the actors as they cry desperately at the audience for help.

These movies are fun, and they're certainly meant to be, but they're fun as movies, as art or entertainment, which is precisely why they're so wrapped up in their own tropes and conventions. Scream 2 is so self-consciously a movie (and a surprisingly innovative sequel) because Wes Craven knows that we're not psychotics desperate to witness the demise of humanity (well, most of us anyway). In the rules for horror movies, the most important one to play by is that they're not to blame for humanity's violence unless you let them be, and then still it's your own fault (a question directly confronted in the film's labyrinthine climax).

"I've got my whole defense planned out. I'm gonna blame it on the movies!"

Horror movie violence doesn't create real life violence (again, unless you let it), its purpose is rather to function as a metaphorical representation of social violence lying unseen beneath the surface of the world. One of the rules of horror movie sequels may be that they go bigger with their kills, but Craven smartly keeps the main action of these kills (the murders themselves) largely off screen, not only because this gives them greater impact when we finally see the resulting gore, but also because it more directly reflects its unseen symbolic referent (repressed social violence).

Where Scream looked at the ways in which telephones assaulted our social space, Scream 2 focuses in on the intrusion of media into every facet of our lives. Sidney can't find anything on TV that isn't an attack on her character and her history, and the news reporter Gale Weathers hounds her like a wolf ("That's what reporters do, they stage the news."). What makes Scream and Ghostface and the social violence they represent so real is not only this concrete referent but also the humanity of Ghostface himself. He runs after his victims with a psychotic drive, but he trips over chairs on the way. He's not a magical or spiritual entity haunting the world from the afterlife, he's a human being. Crazy, but nonetheless human.

Hoop-tober | Sequels | Metacinema
Wes Craven | Peter Deming

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