Before we get into the meat of the piece, part of what I need to discuss is my feelings about the killers in the different movies, so I will be spoiling that. If you haven’t seen the movies, the big reveal of who the killers are is important in each of the Scream movies. That part will be marked for those of you that want to skip it.
So as you may or may not be aware (depending on how long you’ve followed the blog), I am a pretty big fan of Wes Craven, and the Scream franchise holds some of the top contenders for favorite films of his. For some quick background information, the Scream franchise began with the first movie in 1996. It follows Sidney Prescott, who starts as our final girl and remains throughout the series. In the first movie, she and her friends are attacked while they are high school students. The movie went with the idea of being meta/satirical about the slasher genre, which was at what many people considered an all-time low. It played with the standard tropes while also pointing them out to the audience in a tongue-in-cheek way. Scream was never a spoof though, and while pointing at the flaws of the genre, it also managed to embrace what makes slashers, slasher and went a long way to revive the subgenre.
In Scream 2, Sidney is in college and still being haunted by the memories and fame due to the events of the first movie. She finds out that at an early screening of a movie based on what happened in the first, two college students are killed. From there, the familiar starts to unfold. Sidney is unsure at first if there is something bigger happening until enough killings force her to face that reality. She starts to distrust the people around her, especially her boyfriend and suspected but innocent killer from the first movie, Cotton.
While Sidney is dealing with her trauma and the emotional toll that these happenings have on her, Gale, Dewey, and Randy (from the first movie) are trying to sort out who is after Sidney and what the new killers are trying to gain. Randy drops his movie knowledge of sequels (bringing back the meta-theme), all driving us towards a climax much like the original. Sidney is alone, confronted by the killers, and must face off with them.
Scream 2 very much follows a familiar formula because it’s meant to. Randy points out they are trying to “franchise” the series, and so we expect certain things, and one of those things is familiarity from the first. A lot of similar moments happen, but the order is shaken up, as are some of the surprises to keep it fresh. It still very much feels like it is following the first, though. However, Randy also says that the sequel has to be bigger and more intense, and I sort of feel that this movie misses that mark.
This will sound like a knock, and I don’t mean it to be, but a lot of this movie falls flat when compared to the others in the franchise, which it’s kind of impossible not to. Most of the scenes are not nearly as intense or scary. The cold opening with Casey from the first was much scarier than that of Maureen and Phil. Many of the chase scenes feel a little flat in comparison to the ones from Scream. There isn’t as much tension or suspense in most of the movie, so it is much easier to be taken out of than the first and doesn’t land the scares as well. That is not to say there is no tension or suspense, and in comparison to other slashers, it outranks them. It just does not live up to the first and honestly feels watered down.
I think it becomes even starker for me with the climax. The climax of Scream really grabbed me and held me in. In Scream 2, it feels a bit disjointed and almost nonsensical at times, including but not limited to the killers.
Mickey’s motivation is kind of annoying, but it works for the part he is supposed to play, but the “surprise it’s Billy Loomis’ mother” is sort of… off? I mean, it makes a certain amount of sense other than it being hammered that her abandonment is what set Billy off in the first movie, so her need for revenge now doesn’t exactly land. Also, bringing in an adult killer doesn’t flow as well with the rest of what is happening. Billy, Stu, Mickey, and future killers being off their rocker because they are impetuous violent teens/young adults sort of checks. Billy’s mom doesn’t exactly fit into the mold that well.
Scream 2 is definitely a worthwhile sequel, and a lot of people even argue that it might be better than the first. For me, though, I never felt like it had as much heart as the rest of the franchise. In fact, in a lot of ways, I felt it was almost a perfect sequel from the standpoint of being “meta” about the slasher genre. A good enough follow-up but doesn’t feel distinct enough from or as good as the first, which sort of fits for a lot of part 2s in these long-running franchises. Scream 2 almost at times feels intentionally not as good as Scream, which slots it right in. People might find that unfair, and that’s fine. At the end of the day, I am really not knocking the movie all that much. I like Scream 2 and would recommend it to genre fans; I just prefer the original.
I think, really, though, the Screams are difficult movies to take as individual pieces. More than any other franchise with Scream looking where each one fits in the overall progression sort of matters as the whole thing is meant to hold a mirror up to what we expect from slasher franchises. Scream 2 on its own is a decent slasher flick. It does not scare or thrill me as much as others, but it is sold from start to finish and does have its moments, especially the car scene.
Scream 2, when you look at it in the franchise, whole makes sense. It is close to the first but a little watered down in many ways. It is not as scary but is far from going the dumb but fun route that a lot of franchises eventually go down. The story is decent but not as solid. It is in every way a good sequel for me that just can’t reach its predecessor, but that’s what a lot of sequels are? I can’t say for sure if it was intended this way or if my read of the movie is just more harsh than some others, but it’s where I land.
So bottom line? I recommend the Scream franchise as a whole to all genre fans and to people who are curious about horror. Each one kind of tells a good story in how these sort of movie franchises unfold, and Scream 2 holds its place in that. However, when I go back for repeat views of any of the four, this one is not going to be my first pick, and I really do think it failed to live up to some of what it needed to do. I wish it was a bit scarier and more cohesive, but it’s a solid flick.