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#24: Scream 2

#24: Scream 2

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In less than a year, Wes Craven was back directing the second installment of the hit horror film of the decade. A sequel about sequels, Scream 2 is, well, the same thing all over again.

Scream 2

The entire horror genre was destroyed by sequels.

One look at the cast and you know everybody's agent was trying to get them in on this one. Timothy Olyphant, Rebecca Gayheart, Portia de Rossi, Jerry O'Connell, Joshua Jackson, Luke Wilson, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Liev Schreiber, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Omar Epps - everyone about to be famous makes an appearance. It's fun. No need to complicate it because the film addresses it in its own script: sequels can ruin a film or take it up a notch. Either way, it better be fun.

So in the spirit of fun, let's hone in on the one kind of serious element Scream 2 has to offer: Neve Campbell as Sydney Prescott, playing Cassandra in the drama department's dramatization of the classic Greek myth, simply titled Troy.

Sydney Scream 2 Watercolor Illustration

I know, I'm the kid that wants silent reading instead of recess. Sue me.

Maybe it's the historical depth in contrast to the constant pop culture references, maybe it's that I think of Wes as a college professor in filmmaker's clothing, but including Troy and Cassandra as a contextual metaphor feels like a directorial signature. It's smart, it's a little deep (just enough), and it comes complete with a wise-sage theater director who just wants Sydney to be strong. This is Wes in disguise. (I not-so-secretly wish this dude ended up being the new Ghostface - metaphorically and ACTUALLY directing Sydney in the stage drama of her life. How Vincent Price in Theatre of Blood is that? Alas, my fantasy is not even entertained for a second. Nerd can dream, though, right?)

The story of Cassandra in Greek mythology is Sydney's in both Scream and Scream 2. Cassandra, Princess of Troy, attracts the attention of Apollo, who gives her the gift of foresight. Ultimately, she rejects him. In response, the jilted God lets her keep the prophecies but curses her, so that no one she speaks to will believe her. Way harsh. Curse of a contemporary college girl labelled a tease.

Sydney knows how the sequel will go - she's lived the first film. Yet her thoughts are still dismissed with doubt, especially by men. Her new boyfriend (I'm really impressed she's gotten over the Billy-trying-to-emotionally-torture-and-murder-her thing, already) just cannot understand her need for space in light of the murders - both to keep him safe, and to keep herself safe from the copycat killer. Why doesn't she trust him? Because every asshole on campus has been calling her dorm for the last semester pretending to be Ghostface? Because, well, history? Sydney is, for all intents and purposes, doomed. Because Scream is as much about archetypes as it is about these particular characters, we can surmise that Craven and writer Williamson think the horror female is doomed by the set-up, too.

Do they change it? I'm going to say with this one, no. Scream 2 is, like it claims sequels to be, pretty unnecessary. It manages to advance characters by inches, not yards, and generally repeats, to greater or bloodier effect, what was achieved in the first film. But then, it's hard to make a judgment when you're satirizing the whole concept of your existence to begin with. This is a fluffy movie. It can also be a think piece. Take your pick, and have fun.

Best Scene:

I picked the Troy element not just because it's a concise little analogy, but because Wes directs one of the best articulated scenes in the film during the dress rehearsal. It's a little artsy-fartsy, but it's a bit of visual relief, with bright Suspiria-red and a different bunch of masked-ghouls. Sydney's sudden flash of Ghostface in the Greek chorus provides a genuine startle and begins a chase sequence more artful and twisting than any other in the film (except maybe Courtney Cox in the sound studio, moving between sound-proofed walls). It is again an example of the kind of camera movement and shot composition that makes Wes a master of the craft, and of a genre that is dependent on angles, lines, and cuts to make suspense and scares work.

Other Things to Notice:

Scream was a very, very white movie. The opener with Jada Pinkett and Omar Epps is in direct response, and I still find it witty and in good spirits. But I wonder if it really works to put that idea to rest. There are two African-American characters added to the general cast, and they are not much more than the usual "token" ethnic variety Hollywood invests in. Again, it's hard to decide at this point whether Scream 2 is satirizing sequels, or is one, but in either context, this is an important element and one that deserves your attention and analysis.

*SPOILER* The Debbie Loomis as Jason's Mother gag is just straight-up funny, and Laurie Metcalfe plays her with the same wide-eyes and terrible hair cut. It makes me chuckle.

*Scream 2 is now streaming on Amazon Prime and Netflix, until Oct. 31st.

If You Like It, Watch:

They: Wes produced this 2002 psychological horror/thriller, and I think it's often overlooked. I'd be curious if anyone besides me has seen it. This, like Scream 2, is about college-aged students, and specifically, about the night terrors they experienced as children. *Streaming on Amazon Prime and Netflix 

Jeepers Creepers (1 & 2): Francis Ford Coppola produced these B-style monster movies, and word is he'll be financing a third. I think that's great news, because the moth-monster is pretty damn cool, and both of these were solid films in their own right. Creepy, gross, and hilarious.

Up Next:

Wes Craven Weekend continues with...

The Serpent and The Rainbow

#25: The Serpent and The Rainbow

#25: The Serpent and The Rainbow

#23: Scream

#23: Scream