Scream 2 (1997)
Rated R for slasher violence, gore, and a decent amount of language. I always associated this one with one of the more brutal murders of the series. I don't know why this particular murder stood out over the other ones, but it always made me wince, no matter how many times I saw the movie. It deserves the R.
DIRECTOR: Wes Craven
The thing that annoys me the most right now is that I really want to write about this one, but I also have the least amount of time to write today. I'll be lucky to get anything saved before I have to work on other things. Perhaps I'm in that writers' sweet spot because I only have a limited time to work on this and writing will act as a cathartic release from the mind-numbing work I have to get through over the next couple of days.
When I was writing about how the OG Scream might have been one of the perfect movies out there, one of my students confessed that Scream 2 was perhaps her favorite in the franchise. I was slightly aghast at the movie. It's not that I don't like Scream 2. If anything, I can post on social media that my relationship with Scream 2 is "Complicated", at best. I enjoy the film, but I also know that it isn't a good movie. I mean, if my memory of Scream 3 holds up, Scream 2 becomes the last watchable movie in the franchise until the most recent reboot, which is --due to lack of healthy competition --the second best in the series. I'm going to give this student some points. Scream 2 might be the most prestige horror movie that I've ever seen. Its cast is next level insane. Because of the success of the first Scream movie (I'm assuming), every single casting was top shelf casting, with the exception of the two cops who guard Sidney Prescott. (Sorry those guys. If you are famous, maybe you just in my circles.) It's gorgeously shot. Everything about the movie just feels brighter and more expensive. But the same thing can be said for the newer episodes of Doctor Who (the Chris Chibnall era) and those don't hold up very well for me.
I think a lot of the problems come from the fact that this is a film that was made a year apart from the first film. The first Scream movie came out in 1996. This movie came out in 1997. When I rambled on about the genius behind Scream, a lot of those points came from nuanced storytelling. There was this deep rich mystery behind the story. It encouraged eagle-eyed detectives to pay attention to what was going out in the calmer moments of the story. But Scream 2? It's a full on action horror movie. It's embracing the scares that made the first movie fun and ignored a lot of the mythos that made the first movie so good. Yeah, there's a tie to the first movie: Mrs. Loomis. But Billy and Stu planned this long-term plot that culminated in Stu's house. While the story takes place years later, the only real planning we get is that Mrs. Loomis gets in shape and meets Mickey. Instead of building on the world of Sidney Prescott, the movie doubles down on the commentary on horror movies instead.
I have no problem with the metanarrative of Scream. Honestly, it's kind of a saving grace for this film. If it didn't have anything to say about the role of a sequel, well, then this would just be a dumb popcorn film. But Scream 2 really puts a lot of weight on that premise. It's almost like Kevin Williamson was starting to believe his own press when it came to this movie. Yeah, Scream is a commentary on horror and fans of the horror genre. But it was far more than that. Because there was a lot of craft going into the first movie, those beats revealed some interesting things. I mentioned in my Scream blog that Williamson predicted the rise of incel culture and the overwhelming presence of toxic fandom. Scream 2 doesn't necessarily negate that, but it does soften that edge a little bit. The film studies kids look super cool in this one. Because we have Sarah Michelle Gellar (whom I'm always happy to see in things) playing a sorority film studies major, it develops an oddly healthy relationship with the idea of obsession. I can see why Williamson had the film studies kids, by the way. It allows him to say his themes outright without constantly having Randy show up to fix the problem, especially considering that he was dispatched in this one.
Again, killing Randy is the death of the franchise. I'm sure Jamie Kennedy is pretty thrilled with me saying this. I'm also confident that I'm not the only person saying this. Randy is this nice touchstone. I'm going to give Williamson and Craven props for having the courage for killing off Randy. It's a gutsy movie. He's one of the original characters. He's pretty funny. He's also the least likely to die in the bunch, beyond Sidney. But Randy also grounds the whole thing for the movie. He's the one who gives the rules in an organic manner. I know. It's the '90s and nerds are taking over the world. But Randy both had an excuse for being around and represents the normal amount of otakus in an area: 1. I'll keep dying on this hill, but Randy absolutely should have been the mastermind behind all of the Scream movies. I'm not going to go into that here, but you might start noticing a trend in my Scream blogs.
But even as a slasher movie, divorced from the quality of the predecessor, it doesn't always really work. There's an expectation that the killer would have absolutely fantastic luck at being a killer. That's part of the agreement that audiences have with a film, especially a horror film, is suspension of disbelief. But there's only so far that can be carried. I'm going to gripe about my top three moments that bothered me. This is as petty as my writing gets, so please forgive me for indulging myself. The first scene is Dewey and Gale in the media studies department. Gale has a pretty good idea: examine the tapes. The killer has to consistently be on every tape. So they have to find a VCR. Now, VCRs are pretty standard equipment. Heck, the hotel might even have a VCR. But there's only one room open in the media studies lab and that's kind of weird. Did the killer go around ensuring every lab was closed except for one? Also, how did the killer know that Dewey and Gale were going to go find a VCR at that exact time? Maybe they got lucky and ran across them? Fine. But then how does the killer have an edited video of all the killings prepped for this exact moment? Also, switching over to live feed seems like it would take some technical prowess. (The explanation for this one point alone would be that it's Mickey, but moving on.) But Dewey hobbles up to the booth only for the killer to appear behind the table with Gale. The other killer is across campus, harassing someone else. How did that killer get there? Okay. If you really squint, maybe it all works out.
But then there's Syd and the third act. There's a really fun scene where the detectives are dispatched. Sure, the killer is taking on four people, two of whom are armed police officers. It's an odd choice to take on this group alone. But whatever. (We know this scene doesn't have two killers because Mrs. Loomis is with Gale right now.) Somehow, Mickey murders two cops, both of whom have the most restraint when it comes to discharging weapons in police history. The cop is literally on the hood of the car after being hit and he's giving the killer fair warning. But those guys are killed. Sidney and Halle have to escape the backseat of the cop car by climbing over him. Sidney makes the decision, feet away from where she had escaped, to look at who the killer is. I agree with this decision by the way, despite the fact that it gets Halle killed. Despite only being feet away, the killer has disappeared because doors don't make noise anymore. Then he appears behind Halle? How? What? There's suspension of disbelief and absolute absurdity.
AND THEN--ANNNNNNDDDD THENNN! --Sidney, who is literally in the center of town, can go anywhere. Anywhere! She could go to the police station. Heck, she should go to the police station. Instead, she runs...to the theater? I get that Williamson and Craven want to have a bombastic ending, but why would she go there? On top of that, Mickey is waiting there for her with Derek crucified above. Now, I can forgive that the fraternity left him up there. But the spotlights and the lights are set up for the big finale. When did Mickey have any time for that or the foreknowledge that Sidney would go here? It's cool, but stupid, which is kind of how I'm leaving this movie.
Finally, there's the really weird characterization of Cotton Weary. I never understood the Cotton Weary stuff in my OG viewing of these movies. I get that his name was dropped in the first movie, but I didn't know what role he played. Given some distance and a critical eye, Cotton Weary is set up to be this sympathetic character. He's Hester Prynne with a murder charge. The story starts with him needing screen time to distance himself from his false accusation. His life has been a living hell considering that he is one of the people who had an affair with Maureen Prescott. But because Williamson needs him to be a suspect, they give him this unlikable trait of being fame obsessed. I don't see that. I don't see how he could really be a suspect considering that Billy and Stu originally send him to death row. Sure, we could shut off our brains and say that Cotton wanted revenge for a year in prison. But Sidney is Cotton's way out of a life of misery. Her good word would let him return to a normal life. That Diane Sawyer stuff can still exist in the movie, but it needs to be for the right reason. By him hesitating on Mrs. Loomis with the gun, it paints him as devoid of empathy.
Sure, there's other stuff not to like. Mrs. Loomis is absurd as a character, completely lacking nuance. But I can't write anything more beyond that. The insane thing, despite the fact that I have all these complaints, I kind of like the movie. I know that I'll probably watch this movie again before I die and I'll probably dig it, like I kind of dug it this time. I don't know if I'll have the same magnanimous attitude for Scream 3 and 4, but I know that 2 somehow is still appealing to me. I can't explain it. It's pretty to watch.
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Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.