Scream 2 (1997) Review – Not All Sequels Suck

Here’s another risky move and it’s a trap that a lot of film makers fall into. When there’s a successful instalment of a popular series, it might seem like a good idea to release a sequel as soon as possible. This sequel almost always ends up suffering a fate worse than an episode of ‘The Only Way Is Essex’. The reason for this is because the script is hastily written without a concept and often not finished before it’s rushed into production. Fortunately in this case, the circumstances were quite different even if something did go dramatically wrong which made the above suggestion a reality.

Let me explain.

At the end of Kevin Williamson’s original script for the first ‘Scream’, he’d added a 5 page synopsis on the direction that he’d wanted the story to take. Still, there was no script. In the early stages, Mr Williamson wrote a section of the script and sent it by email. The email was intercepted and all of the pages were posted online for all to see. So of course, panic set in and the crew were a lot more careful with the new portions of the script that were devised, even resorting to sending the script to the auditioning actors homes and sending messengers back an hour later to retrieve it.

Another unfortunate situation was that Mr Williamson couldn’t dedicate as much time to the rewrites as he was working on his own television show, ‘Dawson’s Creek’ therefore Wes Craven and other writers came together to fill in the parts that were missing. Such instances as the scene where Sydney is rehearsing a scene from a play was written by Wes Craven. Much of the script was written during production and the ending was withheld until absolutely necessary.

Let’s have a brief synopsis before we get into some close-up examination.

2 years after the events of the first film, Sydney (Neve Campbell) and Randy (Jamie Kennedy) are moving on with their lives and are attending Windsor College. Gail Weathers (Courtney Cox) has written a best selling book, ‘The Woodsboro Murders’ and has been made into a movie, ‘Stab’. Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber) has been exonerated for the murder of Maureen Prescott and has made the odd decision of seeking media exposure from his ordeal. However, when students of the college start being murdered, it quickly becomes apparent that a new person has donned the Ghost Face mask and sets about turning Sydney’s life upside down.

As far as Sydney’s life goes, she’s developed a lot of emotional strength since her boyfriend tried to murder her. She’s put the experience behind her and even got another boyfriend, the lovely Derek (Jerry O’Connell), her room-mate, Hallie (Elise Neal) is a non-stop source of support and there’s Mickey (Timothy Olyphant), a fellow student in Randy’s film class.

Once again, the film starts with a memorable opening sequence. At a sneak preview of ‘Stab’, two students, Maureen Evans (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Phil Stevens (Omar Epps) are murdered in a brutal fashion. Phil is stabbed through the ear in toilet cubicle and the killer steals his jacket. Since a large majority of the movie-goers are wearing a ‘Ghost Face’ mask (a mask given at the entrance to the theatre), Maureen doesn’t realise that the man sitting next to her in her boyfriend’s jacket and a ‘Ghost Face’ mask is not her boyfriend. As the crowd goes wild during the re-enactment of the murder of Casey Becker (Played in the Stab movie by Heather Graham), they don’t try to intervene when Maureen is brutally stabbed to death. In a moment that I found quite upsetting, she crawls up onto the stage beneath the screen and screams out in agony as the 300 people in front of her do nothing but watch in horror until she falls down, dead. Of course, the killer slips away.

For me, there is one problem with this movie that I just can’t get my head around. It’s been 2 years since the events of the last movie as we’ve already established. In that time, Gail Weathers has written ‘The Woodsboro Murders’, it’s become a best seller, a movie has been commissioned, written, casted, filmed and released all in the space of 2 years? That’s some pretty fucking quick work. It took me near enough 2 years (on and off) to write a 123 page book that’s now available on Amazon and I haven’t even been through a horrific and traumatic experience involving two psychotic serial killers.

But that’s just one problem. And there’s another problem that I’ll get to later but frankly, it’s a problem that everyone’s got with ‘Scream 2’. More on that later. For now, let’s go back to the stuff that I like.

There was a lot of drama going on in the last movie and not just the drama of a serial killer running around. Sydney’s dealing with the death of her mother and feeling unable to consummate her relationship with Billy which we all know turned out to be a bad idea.

The drama continues in this film and for Sydney it comes in the tall, handsome and ever so slightly shady form of Cotton Weary played once again by the lovely Liev Schreiber. Mr Schreiber had a surprisingly credited appearance in the first film which is surprising because he was on screen for a total of 10 seconds and I rounded that up. Mr Schreiber made this small cameo as a favour and as far as anyone else was concerned, that was the end of Cotton Weary. Until the sequel. In all the documentaries I’ve seen, it’s been mentioned that no-one expected to see the character again but if you want to stir up some drama for Sydney then bringing her face to face with the man who she wrongly accused of killing her mother and almost got him sentenced to death will do the trick.

Sydney and Cotton are re-united by Gail Weathers (Courtney Cox), assisted by her new cameraman, Joel (Duane Martin) in an impromptu interview which probably rightly earns Gale another punch in the face. Gale is then re-united with Dewey (David Arquette) who has his own beef with her over the unflattering way she portrayed him in her book. If he thought that was unflattering, wait until he sees ‘Scary Movie (2000)’.

Since this is a sequel then there are specific rules that come with a horror sequel and Randy gives us the rundown.

  1. The body count is always bigger.

Not counting the two killers, the body count in ‘Scream’ comes to five whereas in ‘Scream 2’, the number of deaths without counting the two killers comes to eight so ‘Scream 2’ definitely ticks that box.

  1. The death scenes are always much more elaborate.

I’m not sure that’s the case in ‘Scream 2’. Since Casey Becker and Steven Orth were eviscerated at the beginning of ‘Scream’, it doesn’t really get more elaborate than that. One of the cops protecting Sydney gets a pipe through the eye after a car crash but apart from that, the death scenes are just as gory as they were in ‘Scream’… Speaking academically, of course.

The third rule is cut off mid-sentence as it’s something to do with turning a sequel into a franchise although an extended version shows Randy saying that they should never assume the killer is dead but this line was only used for the trailer.

Whilst we’re talking about Randy, let’s talk about the other thing that I don’t like about ‘Scream 2’. Randy’s death. I don’t like watching Randy’s death scene and I don’t know anyone who does. It’s a shitty way to go for such a well liked character and I think it’s a touch inconceivable that a guy who’s spent most of his virginity obsessing over horror films and has built up rules to survive them ends up getting blind-sided, dragged into a broadcast van and stabbed to death. Like I said, a shitty way to go.

One aspect that did increase in ‘Scream 2’ was the number of cameos. By all accounts, the casting director, Lisa Beach got to choose from the very best of the young talent that were calling in. Sarah Michelle Gellar, well known for her role as Buffy the Vampire Slayer asked to be in this movie after the success of ‘Scream’. Heather Graham of course played Casey Becker in the Stab film. Other ‘Stab’ cast members included Luke Wilson as Billy and Tori Spelling as Sydney. Omar Epps and Jada Pinkett-Smith featured in the opening sequence. Joshua Jackson played a fellow student in Randy’s film class. Portia De Rossi and Rebecca Gayheart were members of another fraternity. Veteran actor, David Warner was Sydney’s theatre director. Lewis Arquette, David Arquette’s father, played the Police Chief. Nancy O’Dell played the reporter interviewing Tori Spelling and then returned for ‘Scream 4 (2011)’ as the reporter interviewing Sydney about her new book.

I’ve rambled on long enough now, lets hack away at the ending.

After Dewey is stabbed by the killer, Gail manages to escape sometime later and runs into Cotton who’s covered in Dewey’s blood. Before he can tell her that he was trying to help Dewey, Gale runs out of the building and into fellow reporter, Debbie Salt (Laurie Metcalf) and tries to call the police.

Meanwhile, Sydney and Hallie are being transported to a safe house after Randy’s death. Their transport is high-jacked by Ghost Face who kills the two officers protecting Sydney, Officer Andrews (Phillip Pavel) and Officer Richards (Christopher Doyle).

Sydney and Hallie escape the crashed car by crawling past an unconscious Ghost Face but when Sydney goes back to finally unmask the killer, she finds that he’s gone. Ghost Face appears behind Hallie and kills her, forcing Sydney to flee.

In an effort to keep any more scripts off the internet, fake endings were sent out with the genuine script in an effort to throw any thieves off track and as a result there were many different possibilities as to who the killer could be. One such fake ending had Dewey as the killer. The plot line of the original leaked script had Derek, Hallie, Cotton and Mrs Loomis all as killers. There are many different variations but the most definitive one that I’ve found hoes thus. Mrs Loomis plans on framing Cotton for the murders but Cotton kills her and Gale then turns on Sydney, planning to get his revenge for her false accusation that sent him to prison. He would emerge as the survivor and get his media attention. Cotton and Sydney fight until they are both mortally wounded and the shot fades to black, leaving their fate uncertain.

The real ending goes like this.

Sydney arrives at her own theatre where a special something and someone is waiting for her. Her boyfriend Derek has been tied to a cross by his fellow fraternity for singing a song to Sydney but before she can untie him, Ghost Face arrives and removes his mask. It’s Mickey. Once again, supreme casting and I’m not surprised that Timothy Olyphant has become the star that he is. His performance and portrayal of madness is pitch perfect. Those who read my review of the first season of ‘The Santa Clarita Diet’ will know that I only started watching that show because of him. I’ve only just realised that both he and his fellow co-star on that show, Drew Barrymore were both in a ‘Scream’ film. Isn’t that cute?

Still, Derek doesn’t last long and he’s shot in the heart by Mickey but not before he tries and almost succeeds in convincing Sydney that he and Derek were in it together. She has every reason to be sceptical given her past with boyfriends but she pays for this moment of hesitation.

Now we’re getting into the motives. Why would Mickey suddenly become a killer? He’s doing it for the fame, the celebrity and he’s going to blame the movies which is an interesting topic for that time and one that gets repeated in the media so to have it as a plot device in a film was quite interesting. The one major flaw in Mickey’s plan of committing all the murders, getting caught and then pleading innocent on the grounds of the multiplex is that at best it will lead to life-long imprisonment after another long stay in a mental hospital or worst case scenario, the death penalty.

Mickey must have a partner in all this and so entering stage-left with Gale as a hostage is Debbie Salt or Mrs Loomis as Sydney knows her as. Mrs Loomis wastes no time in shooting Mickey who in turn shoots Gale so it’s just Mrs Loomis and Sydney. Mrs Loomis reveals herself to be the person who killed Randy and is going after Sydney because she killed Billy. The two have a big scuffle and it ends up with Mrs Loomis trying to stab Sydney which is broken apart when Cotton intervenes.

With Mrs Loomis holding Sydney as a human shield, she tries to convince Cotton to let her kill Sydney. She promises him all the publicity he is craving and when she reminds him that Sydney sent him to prison for a year, Cotton seems to have made up his mind. Only when Sydney agrees to participate in the Diane Sawyer interview with him does Cotton finally shoot Mrs Loomis.

The next bit is interesting. Even though Cotton saved her life, albeit with an agenda and after he confirms that he would never do anything to hurt her, Sydney is still a little cold with him and only when I watched the film again did I realise something that I think a lot of people have forgotton and isn’t mentioned in ‘Scream 2’. Cotton shagged her mother. There’s various conjecture on the really hardcore fan-sites that suggest that Maureen got Cotton drunk and then seduced him but the fact still remains, Cotton nailed Sydney’s mother and if I were her in that exact situation, I probably would have acted the same way. Oh yeah and Gale’s alive who’s surprisingly upright despite having a bullet in her mid-section. Mickey and Mrs Loomis are dead, the nightmare’s over.

Outside, Joel returns after making the smart decision to leave all the murders behind and misses all the action. Dewey is found alive, gravely wounded but alive and Gale goes with him to the hospital. The last bit is the most heart-warming part for me. As reporters circle around Sydney to get the story, she redirects them to Cotton, telling them that he’s the hero. Now, she could have done this to turn the attention away from her or because it’s a gesture of thanks to Cotton for him saving her life. Or it could be both. Either way, the reporters gather around Cotton but he keeps his eyes on Sydney and gives her a little nod of gratitude before addressing the reporters. And he gets the final line, ‘It’d make a hell of a movie’. And it sure did.

‘Scream 2’ was released almost a year after ‘Scream’ on December 10th 1997. With a budget of $24 Million, ‘Scream 2’ took in $32 Million on it’s opening weekend and grossed $172.4 Million dollars, almost beating it’s predecessor but missing by about $700,000. That ain’t bad.

Also, the positive reviews for ‘Scream 2’ came pouring in. ‘Scream 2’ even holds a higher rating on Rotten Tomatoes with 81% as opposed to 79% for ‘Scream’.

Randy makes a comment early in the film. He says, ‘Stab 2? Who would want to do that? Sequels suck’. With all due respect, not all sequels suck.

Has anyone read my new book yet? It’s about a journalist who discovers a botched cold case and must discover what really happened. That’s got to be worth a look.

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