Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Scream 2

Scream was great.  It mocked horror cliches, but also paid tribute to them; the script was sassy and clever; the villain had a fairly unique gimmick, but was still anonymous enough --- with an easily removed costume and small weapon --- for there to be a legitimate whodunnit mystery.  All in all, it is a fun watch.  Inevitably, a sequel was greenlit and filmed as soon as possible.  Scream 2 came out less than a year after the original film, and expectations were high.  How high?  The female cast were featured in a Rolling Stone cover article:
With these choices, it is obvious that Tori Spelling should be on the magazine cover.  Whaaaa...?!?
I don't really follow what exactly is supposed to be going on in that picture --- are they happily cleaning up after a triple homicide? --- but it does help prove one thing: when it comes to sequels, dumb things happen.

In an unusual bit of theatrical time-keeping, the events of Scream 2 takes place two years after Scream, even though the actual films were released less than a year apart.  Sidney () is now in college and has a group of friends that have not tried to murder her (yet), just a reminder that college is way more fun than high school.  Unfortunately for Sidney, heartless bitch/reporter Gail Weathers () wrote a book about the murders that took place in Scream and the book was turned into a movie called Stab that is just premiering.  That means Sidney gets a lot of prank phone calls from people mimicking the killers.  Thankfully, Sidney learned from her mistakes in the last film and nips that annoying subplot in the bud.
At the premiere of Stab --- the clips of which are pretty amusing --- the theater gives away promotional Ghostface costumes.  That seems like a pretty good idea for about ten minutes, until one of the many people dressed as Ghostface commits a double homicide in the theater.
Worst.  Glory hole.  Ever.
Of course, since this is a horror sequel, that is only the beginning.  Apparently, the killer is obsessed with the murders in Scream, which in turn makes the killing of Sidney a top priority.  That also puts targets on the backs of all her friends, too. 
Two out of three expendables characters in this scene realize it
With all that in mind, it occurs to Sidney and her friends that it is very likely that the killer has infiltrated their clique.  But which one of them is the killer question mark/exclamation mark/question mark.

The acting in Scream 2 is all things to all people, if that means that it's a crap shoot.  I actually thought improved slightly in her return to the role of Sidney.  It is difficult being a likable horror protagonist, but Campbell was able to portray a fairly intelligent and tough woman convincingly.  Again.  Of the returning characters, saw the most positive change.  This time, she actually shows human emotions and I wasn't necessarily hoping she would die.  She also had the biggest character makeover of the group, so she didn't look quite as trashy in this film.  reprised his role as the movie-obsessed nerdling and shocked me again by being decently entertaining.  If you cut the scene where he does mediocre impressions, I would even say that I liked him in this movie.  was okay, too, although I don't quite understand why the filmmakers chose to give him an exaggerated limp and Bob Dole hand.  I guess it was a red herring, and they did give a line of dialogue to explain it, but Arquette isn't a good enough acgor to play disabled and not have it be hilarious.
"Everybody knows you never go full retard"
Of the newbies, and had the most screen time.  O'Connell was a little vacant, but it fit his character.  Olyphant does not play a lawman of any sort, and if you know his filmography at all, you know that is not a good sign.  He gets to overact, which is fun enough to watch, but it wasn't anything special.  didn't have any lines in Scream, so his character felt new in the sequel.  Schreiber wasn't great.  His character is tough to like, and Schreiber was charmless in a complex part.  was inoffensive, but her character was extremely bland.  and were both okay as dual screaming victims.  Gellar's character was a little stupid, but not too annoying.  Pinkett Smith was extremely obnoxious, combining knowitallism with being a person who talks throughout the movie in the theater.
I'm offended by stereotypes, too, Jada
didn't come off much better, with his main characteristics being insensitivity and cheapness, but he did have a hilariously stupid death scene, and that counts for something.  was annoying as the suspiciously high-profile actor playing a relatively minor character, in grand Scooby-Doo tradition.  and were stereotypical sorority girls, although de Rossi's eyebrows did provide some of the film's biggest scares.  In fact, all of the sorority girls were horrifically dull, with only Sarah Michelle Gellar achieving anything beyond "generically bitchy."
My favorites are "judging bitch" (back, right) and "smarmy bitch" (far right)
There are also some entertaining cameos.  Pre-Dawson's Creek had a few solid lines in film class, and casting in a minor role was a nice nod to classic horror movies.  But the most entertaining cameos belonged to the movie-within-a-movie, Stab stretched her skills by playing a brainless blonde bimbo, and (following up on a gag in the first film) played the movie version of Sidney.  Both were chuckle-worthy, but was hilarious in the two lines he had, doing a surprisingly good job mocking Skeet Ulrich in Scream.

Wes Craven returned to Scream 2 as director and writer Kevin Williamson also returned.  With the creative forces behind the original film, as well as the surviving cast, all the pieces were in place to make Scream 2 a great sequel.  That didn't quite happen, though.  Craven did a solid job juggling a gigantic cast, and I thought the returning cast all acted better in this sequel...ignoring Arquette's limping.  Thanks to the advent of Caller ID, though, the best part of Ghostface's routine --- the phone calls --- largely lost its effect.  That meant that we had a silent killer that was missing his calling card. 
Yes, that was bad.  I'm sorry.  You may resume.
Sure, there were a few phone calls, but most of them were blatant I-want-you-to-know-I'm-watching-you ploys, with only Gellar's scene actually involving tension or scares.  Williamson's script, which was the driving force of Scream definitely feels less impressive in Scream 2.  I realize that the script had to be written quickly, but this just feels lazy.  There is less wittiness this time, and what smarts it has are largely recycled.  Did you like the characters asking each other who the killer is, using traditional horror movie logic?  Did you like the sassy female explaining how stupid horror movies are?  Did you like the killer with an incredibly flimsy motive?  Good, because Scream 2 gives you an extra helping of them.
Oh, you liked the phone scenes?  Well...sorry about that.
The kills aren't very much fun, either.  The sheer idiocy of Omar Epps' death --- the combination of stabbing through a stall and Omar having his face pressed right up to it AND doing the stabbing blind --- doesn't even compare to the boombox-toting hip hop dance troupe inadvertently covering up a murder on the quad.  That was jaw-droppingly stupid.  The script has all sorts of holes and terrible plot devices that stick out, scene after scene.  My least favorite scene was the car scene.  Craven does what he can to milk it of every ounce of suspense, but it's so horribly contrived that I just got mad and started rooting for the killer.  Almost as bad is the "everyone with a cell phone must be tackled" scene, where the potential murder victims conveniently forget that the person they're looking for should have some sort of voice-altering device, along with a phone, in their hands.  Ugh.  And then there's the "subtle" clue that tips you off as to the identity of one of the killers.  Oh!  And the second killer?  Yeah, I get the motivation, but if killer #2 is supposed to have killed more than one person in this movie, I'm calling bullshit.  There are a few moments of amusing self-awareness, like the Stab clips and some of Randy's scenes, that feel smart and clever, but they are sadly rare.  This script and plot, as a whole, kind of suck.  They're not godawful, because horror fans know you can do much much much worse, but this was extremely disappointing, coming from the team that made the original so much fun.

The original Scream had some violence and gore, but the light tone kept it from feeling too explicit.  Scream 2 doesn't really amp either up much.  I would say there is a similar amount of gore (with the quad murder being the most gruesome) and only a few more kills.  The set pieces for these scenes weren't that great, with the stage being the best of the bunch; I guess that makes the soundproofed room the worst, because they treated it like a maze instead of an auditory game of cat and mouse.
Look at Ghostface, Courteney.  He's as afraid of you as you are of him.
I suppose that there is enough violence to keep audiences interested, with ten kills overall, but something is missing.  Part of the problem is that some of the kills --- specifically the policemen --- seemed far too easy.  Another is that some of the showcased kills feel a little cheap.  I get it, serial killers don't have to be gentlemen, but at least three characters died while not looking at their killer.  I probably wouldn't care about that if the kills were more memorable or if the script kept things funny, but that's what happens to horror movies when the plot leaves you bored: you start thinking.  And that is rarely good for horror films.
"You know that thing where I frequently show off a movie camera?  You probably shouldn't think too hard about that."

I don't know.  I feel like I'm being too harsh on Scream 2.  I didn't hate the movie.  I was just expecting it to be a lot better.  That was frustrating, because there are a few genuinely good moments in this movie, and I'm glad that the more obvious suspects weren't the killers.  This is a mostly competent horror movie, I have to admit.  I just didn't enjoy it much.

2 comments:

  1. Sounds like this one held about about as well as I figured. I saw it a bunch when it came out, owing more to do with my free time on a 2 week Christmas break than the quality of the film. As a youth I enjoyed it, but was very aware that it wasn't as good as the previous film. As for the 3rd one, the wheels really come off the trolley.

    I quite enjoyed the 4th one though, and I believe it's still on Netflix streaming.

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  2. Yeah...it's a sequel. Like I said, it's not BAD, it's just nowhere near as good as the first one. My initial plans for this month were to watch all of the Scream movies because they were on Netflix, but now I'm not sure I'll be able to fit them in before Halloween. Sometimes, as an adult, you've got to make sacrifices.

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