“There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to create a successful sequel,” instructs Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy), self-proclaimed horror movie expert who aids in helping “Scream 2” narrate itself. “Number one: the body count is always bigger. Number two: the death scenes are always much more elaborate. And number three: never, ever–under any circumstances–assume the killer is dead.”
The marvelously meta 1997 sequel, directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson (the same duo behind the Scream that started it all) debuted one year after the extremely successful original, and with even more critical acclaim.
The satirical second installment of the monumental franchise comes with a whole new set of rules, trend-specific commentary, and a slew of familiar faces. Picking up two years after the events of the first film, the story continues to follow Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), now a college student with new friends, a charming new frat-pledge boyfriend, and a spot as the lead in the university’s latest theatrical production.
Sidney’s “pseudo-quasi happy existence” comes to an abrupt end, though, when two students are murdered at a premiere of Stab, the series’ film-within-a-film that depicts the murderous events Sidney endured in Scream. With a Ghostfaced murderer on the loose who begins to gruesomely slash co-eds one by one, Sidney reunites with goofy deputy Dewey Riley (David Arquette) and narcissistic reporter Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) to track down the killer while attempting to survive.
Craven and Williamson bring back a handful of fan-appreciated tropes in “Scream 2,” making even bolder moves and solidifying the sequel as the highest-rated installment in the four-film series. Scream was notable for its casting of popular young actors, not common in the slasher genre prior to the film’s release, and “Scream 2” corrals a larger group of fresh-faced big names that include Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jada Pinkett Smith, Joshua Jackson, Jerry O’Connell, and the return of Jamie Kennedy as Randy.
Randy’s role as rule-master intensifies in “Scream 2,” as the now film student immediately sets forth a brand new set of rules that apply specifically to slasher sequels. “The way I see it, someone’s out to make a sequel,” he says to Sidney after the murders resume, catapulting the pair back into the deadly dilemmas they endured as high school students. “You know, cash in on all the movie murder hoopla.”
His commentary is the most blatantly (and delightfully) meta of any character’s in Williamson’s self-referential universe, and this time, his conversations about finding survival formulas in the horror genre take place on a larger scale. While in “Scream,” a teenage Randy rifles through his wealth of genre knowledge, scanning his brain for any tropes or signifiers that might hold answers while sitting with friends on a living room couch, this time around he sits in a film theory classroom, pondering the newest murders while his classmates converse about “life imitating art imitating life.”
The campus itself allows “Scream 2” to take Ghostface’s unfinished business to a larger scale, and it’s no coincidence that much of the film’s climax takes place in the university’s film building and on the very stage on which Sidney in slated to perform. As Sidney’s past catches up with her, the normalcy that was her new life quickly fades away, and viewers watch as once again she finds herself in the dead center of a gruesome vendetta. As she is tested and pushed even farther, will she survive and once again prove her final-girl status?
With bolder rules, more brutal killings, and a slew of brand new genre commentary that is too delicious to ignore, Scream 2 not only stands as a prime example of what a slasher sequel can amount to, but also proves to surpass the flair of the first Scream. “Sequels suck! By definition alone they’re inferior films,” Randy insists. Go home, Randy. You’re drunk.
The five-film Scream collection is available on DVD and blu ray here. Be sure to check out the other entries in the Horror Sequel Marathon right here on My Vinyl Muse!