31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2017, Night #4 – Scream 2 (1997)

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Director: Wes Craven

Writer(s): Kevin Williamson

Studio/Distributor: Dimension Films

Budget: $24m

Box Office: $172.4m

Release Date: 12 December, 1997

IMDb Rating: 6.1/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Neve Campbell – Sidney Prescott

Elise Neal – Hallie

Timothy Olyphant – Mickey

Jamie Kennedy – Randy Meeks

Jerry O’Connell – Derek

Courtney Cox – Gale Weathers

David Arquette – Dewey Riley

Jada Pinkett Smith – Maureen

Omar Epps – Phil

Laurie Metcalf – Debbie Salt

Trailer

Plot According to IMDb

Two years after the first series of murders, a new psychopath dons the Ghostface costume and a new string of killings begins.

Inertia’s Insight

Holding a mirror to society and to the horror genre itself, Scream revitalised the slasher film and introduced a new masked anti-hero to an aging and emerging generation of horror fans. Subverting the rules of the slasher with characters that were all too familiar with them, Scream won the hearts and money of critics and audiences, guaranteeing itself a successful franchise.

A sequel was inevitable, and expectations were high. Everyone knows a horror sequel needs to be bigger – the body count higher, the gore stepped up a notch, the antagonist getting more screen time. And in the world of Scream, the characters know this too.

Part of the first film’s genius is how it comments on horror films and their effect on society. In the era of the video nasty, horror films were blamed for all manner of unspeakable acts, and Scream highlighted the absurd nature of these accusations by stating the obvious: movies don’t make psychos; they just make psychos more creative.

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And so, what would happen one year on as the surviving characters cope with the aftermath of a brutal spree killing in a quiet suburban American town? Well, they’d have a film made about it of course! Stab, the movie within the movie and the first sign of Williamson’s trademark postmodernist pen, opens to a screaming audience adorned in Ghostface masks. It’s not only Omar Epps’ commentary on horror films that sets the tone; it’s the way that the opening scene of Scream is recreated in Stab.

Scream rocked audiences in its opening five minutes by giving us a recognisable household name and immediately killing her, subverting all the usual horror norms. The scene is slick and stylish, Barrymore’s character distinctly normal. This opening scene is reimagined in Stab to be the typical slasher piece you’d imagine it to be – Barrymore’s character (played by Heather Graham in a nod to the original’s casting choice) is sexualised, made vulnerable by her nudity. The audience lap it up as only you’d expect them to, and in a room full of desensitised viewers, the first real kill of Scream 2 happens in front of their eyes, the masked killer escaping in a sea of Ghostface’s like some twisted version of Where’s Wally.

Sydney Prescott, our affable hero, appears to be enjoying college life and is finally overcoming the horrors of the last year. The Stab movie lingers around her like a bad smell, and with the murder of Maureen Evans broadcast as a copycat killing, it soon brings Gail Weathers and Sydney together for another explosive confrontation. As the body count increases and Sydney confronts an all too familiar face, they quickly realise they’re in sequel territory.

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Luckily, we’ve got Randy. If we weren’t already comfortable with his sound knowledge of horror films that guided most to safety in the first film, here we see Randy cracking wise about sequels in his film class before he even realises he’s in one. It’s an engaging and funny conversation about sequels, stating how they are normally inferior and don’t live up to the expectations of the original, “systematically destroying the horror genre”. And whilst it’s true that a fair few of the slasher genre’s most revered films have gone on to spawn some serious duds, fortunately for us Ghostface is saved this transition into a gimmick by way of smart storytelling.

Williamson and Craven invest time in the characters; we give a shit what happens to them, and though there are a few that are balcony fodder (an out of turn damsel-in-distress performance by Sarah Michelle Gellar, her role being a subversion of the audience’s prior expectations of her carried over from Buffy), a lot of them are returning favourites from the first film that have already shown a willingness to survive.

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Sure, the kills are a bit more extravagant and the film spreads itself out across the city, even going so far as to inject a bit of alternative dance that descends into a nightmare for Sydney, but she remains at the films heart. The new age Final Girl is not one to be defeated by the violence against her; she’s not helpless or reliant on others; instead she is defiant of the threat and determined to survive.

The tension of the sequel is certainty in that not everyone will survive, so we’re always anticipating a turn of events that sees a favourite character meet an unfavourable end. But the film is able to go one step further. We know the original killers are dead. Gone. So who is doing this? Is it a copycat? An attention seeker? A psycho inspired by the original killings?

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It’s this element, coupled with the question of who will survive, that keeps the momentum going until those final moments. Just like Syd, we don’t quite know who to trust, but the reveal is an acceptable pay-off for a worthy slasher sequel that has once again flipped the genre and left us wanting more.

Inertia’s Ideal Score ( out of 5)

★★★★

Trivia

  • Robert Rodriguez directed scenes of ‘Stab’, the movie within the movie
  • In Scream, when Sidney is asked who would play her in a movie, answers ‘With my luck, they’d cast Tori Spelling’. In ‘Stab’, Tori Spelling plays Sydney
  • A reference to Freddy Krueger’s iconic jumper can be seen in Hallie and Sidney’s dorm room at the beginning of the film
  • The tagline of ‘Stab’ is: “This is gonna hurt”

Quotes

RANDY: There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to create a successful sequel. Number one: the body count is always bigger. Number two: the death scenes are always much more elaborate – more blood, more gore – carnage candy* And number three: never, ever, under any circumstances, assume the killer is dead.

GHOSTFACE: Do you want to die tonight, CiCi?


Tomorrow: Night #5 – [•REC]²

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