Well even with the days messed up, this is still the final post of the 12 Days of Halloween…though it probably should be called 15 days now that I think about it. The reason why this is a mystery pool day is because this is essentially a bunch of material I have either been extremely excited to watch or have really wanted to talk about. Last year for Halloween I did a slight look into the original Scream on a blog called popculturemecha, and while I do want to clean it up and potentially do another that will probably be after I do the rest of the franchise.
Wes Craven as a director has been one of my inspirations for wanting to be in cinema in the first place, primarily with the Scream films. Now after the hit that was Scream, he had something much harder to do…create a sequel that could stand apart from its predecessor while also satirizing something in the process like its predecessor. Kind of weird I know, but for that we got the horror sequel satirizing Scream 2. We all know the long string of horror sequels Hollywood had a problem with in the past, I mean there is still the umpteen Friday the 13th sequels. So could Wes Craven recreate the same reinvigoration to the horror genre that the original was in its sequel without falling prey to the very things he was attempting to satirize?
Now if you haven’t seen the first Scream, this review most likely will review some of its more important reveals. Ever since it is ultimately a whodunit, Scream 2 does make multiple references to the characters in the original as well as to discuss its main killer in reference to the events taking place in the film. Yes this will spoil the main twist of the original film so you have been warned.
Now Scream 2 already sets itself up on one of the best moments in the franchise as a whole. It selfishly and unabashedly self-satirizes itself by making the original film an actual film in this sequel. The whole “Stab” film itself is a play-off of what it did previously and I can’t help but love how it manages to add on some interesting criticisms on the whole “not being able to tell reality apart from fiction”. The first two deaths in Scream 2, is to me, arguably more intriguing for its execution than perhaps the original films opening sequence with Drew Barrymore.
The tragedy of the first film has been commercialized to the point of becoming a joke, and it plays off of this beautifully by having the very studio handing out the killers costume and a glow in the dark knife at the premiere night of Stab. This already gives you a sense of dread as you know the killer could easily be anyone in that theatre and you know it’s coming, but what is truly scary about this scene is in its reaction by the audience. The audience buys into the death, in such a disgusting fashion as to make a dark satire about taking the joke too far. They believe the death is merely just another promotion for the film, until they start to realize that it may actually be real. This runs into the Scream films primary theme of discerning fact from fiction, thinking about these so called rules in real life and believing in them as a sort of code.
Neve Campbell returns as the final girl Sidney Prescott to be hunted down again by yet another Ghostface killer. This time we have a person who doesn’t want to just recreate the original events, but to stand out and create a true to life horror sequel. In essence the film becomes exploitative by the very premise of having a serial killer wanting to re-enact, but also execute better than, the events prior. Rather than just copy the original’s execution, this killer wants to prove to everyone that they are saavy and not just as common as the original. That means there is more spectacle to the deaths in this film as showcased with its opening sequence of the premiere. All of the survivors return from the original film as well as introducing a new cast of unsuspecting individuals into this new nightmare.
There is almost no performance in the film that I would consider bad by any standards. This is Jerry O’Connell’s last critically praised film in a long time for his career, and he is a lot more dorky and loveable as Derek than Sidney’s previous boyfriend played by Skeet Ulrich. Neve Campbell, Jamie Kennedy, and David Arquette reprise their previous roles with the same execution as the original even if I would argue that the only stand out of the three is in Kennedy who is just a joy to watch on screen with his shotgun responses and quick-witted banter. Arquette is the same dopey but loveable Dewey and Campbell is the same strong but perplexed survivor in the first, and to be honest this is the film where it started getting quite old with the killer monologues toying with her feelings. Liev Schreiber, Timothy Olyphant, Elise Neal all play their roles the way they are supposed to without any real attraction to any of them except for Schreiber as the man previously convicted for murder of Sidney’s mother by Sidney’s account.
Courtney Cox’s Gale Weathers on the other hand was a tired character in the original, and in this one she is even more tired especially as a love interest to Dewey that is so off again, on again that it was too cheesy to take seriously. Her character is taken on a bit of a redemption arc for something we as a viewer NEVER TRULY SEE. She wrote a book and helped the release of Schreiber’s Cotton Weary, yet she also destroys the growth we saw in the original. This was all done off screen and I could never shake the feeling that this was just to give her yet another rushed character arc putting her with Dewey yet again in the end. It is the same person and journey we saw in the original. Essentially she is just about as pointless as the reference to the play of a greek tragedy in the middle of the story which probably was trying to add something symbolic yet in the end was entirely meaningless. Yes this film has some meaningless elements that do weigh it down.
Scream 2 tries it’s hardest to subvert expectation, and for the most part it does so in a spectacle. The house sequence was done in the beginning and nothing really came from it, and the whole ending confrontation against the killer was interesting as to how personal it is and how it tries to make both fun of the original films killer, but also validate the original. It makes fun of its own themes of technology in the original using things like caller ID, to show how it adapted since then. Then of course there is the use of the cellphones in a scene that is one of the best scenes of the film where one of the characters calls out the new Ghostface and has ultimately one of the best verbal jousts with a villain in the franchise. As much as Scream 2 tries to stand out from the original though I will say that the formula is far too apparent in this one. The original death scene as good as it was, kind of replicates the understanding from the first film with Drew Barrymore. The boyfriend is used again in a suspicious way where Sydney has to make a decision of trust. Yet it also adds in something that I was just never a fan of…the teleporting cliché. Sometimes you can clearly see it being used, whereas the original was quite clever in what it was doing with its killer’s teleporting abilities. I just couldn’t buy into this one.
While it does reuse a lot of the original’s core elements, I never found myself completely hating it because the dialogue is quite charming. The cast, again for the most part, hit the exact clichés it needed to be both charming and at times perplexing even if I would say the ending is telegraphed a mile away. The execution of some scenes is as predictable as they could be like checking up on the killer only for them to teleport somewhere else. I know misdirection could allow for some finagling with the audience’s attention and allow the killer to disappear, but still it attempts to stretch that on multiple occasions (primarily in the cop car scene).
Scream 2, more than the previous, tries to really set itself apart by stating what it is in the beginning by setting itself up by what it considers “sequel rules”. While Scream satirizes the genre, Scream 2 tried its hardest to not only satirize the common tropes or even discussion topics, it also tries to satirize the original. It has a bigger death count, larger spectacle and more inventive with some of its scenes, yet it still feels like the same Scream that was seen in 1996. That doesn’t make it bad, but certainly lessens the interest primarily with how it feels woven like a quilt with its Ghostface in comparison to starting from scratch in the original. At times it is loveably dorky, then at times it brings in the social commentary yet I felt less of an impact or noticed it less since there was never a big purpose for it. It tries to make fun of the original, yet never feels as clever as the original and that is where I believe it ultimately fumbles. It harkens back far too much to the original, and never reinvents itself in the way it desired by standing out as a stellar sequel making fun of other sequel tropes.
I had to use far too much of the words, original, sequel, satire in this post and that is kind of my problem with Scream 2. This is where one could say the series was trying far too hard to be satirical and making it the primary focus which at times gets in the way of it ultimately being a fun film to watch. The original had a smoother integration of its satire that never felt too overbearing, yet Scream 2 forces us as a viewer to stare face deep into what its trying to do and to see how clever it is. Yes it does work for a lot of its moments and has some darn good scenes to boot that are both interesting to watch and at times thoughtful in its execution. Scream 2 focuses too much on being a satire and loses itself in its attempts at being clever, yet through all those smoke and mirrors it still manages to be an entertaining film with some good characters and well executed sequences.
Tucker & Dale vs Evil (2010) – This is easily one of the better satires on elements in the slasher genre, and easily lives up to the fun campy kind of feel Scream has. Tucker and Dale vs Evil is a unique take on hillbillys as a trope in horror films, and is such a treat to watch the creative ways they spin all of this film around on its head. The two titular characters themselves are quite lovable and it has a great deal of heart that makes it such a pleasure to watch.
The Final Girls (2015) – There is something interesting in this comedic take on the Friday the 13th structure, the depth of its central theme. As much as Tucker and Dale is heartfelt and warm, Final Girls does in fact tackle a subject I never thought a horror film of its nature would go down. Not to mention that it is a nice nod to inner workings of the classic script writing, as well as some fun scenes playing with visual effects.
Of course this would be my longest post in the marathon and the latest one. Scream is a franchise near and dear to my heart, and it is hard sometimes when you just tear into one of your favourite franchises for not holding up as much as you remember. I originally remember deeply enjoying this sequel, and while a part of me still does under closer inspection I just couldn’t condone some of its attempts.
So when all is said and done I have absolutely loved doing this horror marathon and trying so many different films and topics. Some fell flat, others were great, but all in all watching movies is just a relaxing exercise in escapism. I enjoy film and this marathon was just a celebration of my love for the craft. So if you guys enjoyed this please tell me if you did and I shall do more marathons and attempt to be punctual. Also leave me suggestions for other marathons to do, should be fun! Like always leave your thoughts down below and never forget to have yourselves a great day!