Darke Reviews | Scream 2 (1997)

Ok, so yesterday I talked about a new classic, Scream. I advise you now do not read this review if you have not watched the first, by the nature of being a sequel in a slasher franchise, this does contain some spoilers. Consider yourself warned, I will keep them to a minimum, but it’s unavoidable. The 90’s were starting to turn around for horror after the year prior. We got The Craft, From Dusk til Dawn, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Wishmaster, and Mimic.  Sure there was still some crap, but we were getting some decent things now. We also have a quickly rushed to production Scream 2.  Scream was made on a budget of $14 million and made just over $100 million; seven times profit is nothing to sneeze at. Let’s try it again with more money right? How does $24 million sound. Not a bad start. People were still talking about the first, this is good. Did the trailer intrigue us though?

Actually, yeah it does. It takes the trend, that also started in the 90s, to rapidly exploit true stories into film and yet again puts a lampshade on it. The movie even starts with a movie in a movie, about the movie. It talks about books made just to profit from these stories, but more importantly talks about how the victims deal with it. Can they move on. What happens to them and those around them. On top of all this beautiful satire and storytelling the movie also brings back the rules of horror movies. It tells us the rules of the sequels to the films and reminds us of all the sequels to our franchises we’ve endured. Let’s face it , the word here is endured in so many respects. At this point we have had 7 Nightmares, 5 Halloweens , and 8 Friday the 13th’s.  We have had…Leprechaun in Space.

headdesk

What next Hellraiser in space? Oh…wait…

So, even though we are but a calendar year away from film to film, within the story it is a little bit longer. We’ve moved from high school to college and the survivors of the first have largely gone their separate ways, but they are pulled together when a new serial killer starts the real life killings over. You actually feel as if these were real people and that many are still friends; and the survivors of the Dixie Boy are still survivors. Sidney (Neve) remains our protagonist and has evolved as much as the movie has. It keeps aware of modern technology and how it can change the old tropes, you know like caller ID?  It still makes fun of stereotypes in interesting and brilliant ways. It adds additional intelligent and aware characters, especially of film industry, and lets that awareness help inform the movie. We have both Craven and Williamson behind this, working together again.

Of course, again the right actors help. Returning, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Liev Schreiber, and Jamie Kennedy. We also have yet more career starters with Timothy Olyphant (Justified, Hitman),  Joshua Jackson (Dawson’s Creek), and (a pre Buffy) Sarah Michelle Gellar. Jerry O’ Connell tries to keep his career alive after My Secret Identity and being fresh off of Jerry Maguire. The interactions between the characters work, some telegraphed more than others, but they do work. The movie tries to write some elements like the first and it’s up to you to decide if they are real or imagined.  They even have good call back jokes to the original, with Tori Spelling playing Sidney.

Again the technicals on this work out. It’s a slasher film, which are surprisingly easy in many respects. If you can get good blood and a good blade you are in decent shape. I also had a realization watching this one as well. It plays equally well on the trope of the unstoppable killer. Here, and in the first, the killer isn’t perfect. They get hit. They fall. They trip. This adds to the human realism and makes it work. The fight scenes and escapes are well planned. The biggest problem this one has over the first is there are some deaths that rely on too much coincidence to make work. That leads me to the…

TL;DR

The movie is good. It isn’t quite as good as the first. The first film has some levels of coincidence to be executed properly within the story. This one relies on it too much. Timing of some events are too reliant on chance to be real and to be functional for a decent plot.

I still feel comfortable recommending this one to watch as part of a marathon. Just don’t expect the same level of play as the first, and thus this one is not quite a classic, but not nearly as bad as so many sequels to horror movies. I should note, that among the things this one pokes at is how bad sequels are typically. There are very very few sequels that are as good or better than the original. This one almost hits the bell, but missed it by that much.

 

Darke Reviews | Scream (1996)

The early 90’s were fairly horrible when it came to horror movies. With only a handful of minor exceptions, the films were little more than retreads or sequels of better works from the 80’s. They also gave us the start of many a horrific franchise (Leprechaun) and the death of others (Alien 3). I mean sure we were getting Stephen King movies as mini series on TV, we got Flatliners,  Tremors, Bram Stokers Dracula, and Prophecy. We also got things like Graveyard Shift, Gremlins 2 (it classifies as horror..not sure why), Nightbreed, and Tales from the Hood. There are a few gems, but the reality is horror was generally horrible during this time. So 1996 comes around and we get a trailer for a new slasher film with a name that we associate to real horror.

The trailer puts a lampshade on all the films we have watched for the past two decades. Rules around sex, what you can say and can’t say, what to do and where to go. All the things that we shouted our TV’s when we watched these films on VHS time and time again. It showed us Drew Barrymore who had nearly vanished into a career of obscurity. It showed us Party of 5’s Julia – Neve Campbell talking to us with a certain self awareness of horror movie tropes. We had no idea what precisely we were getting, but it intrigued us.

That name I mentioned earlier – Wes Craven. The genius behind Nightmare on Elm Street, who had not been having a good decade, that had also given us Shocker, The People Under the Stairs, New Nightmare, and Vampire in Brooklyn. He somewhere along the way was given a script by new comer Kevin Williamson. Between the two of them they put together a movie that is both satire and a love letter of what horror had become since the beginning of the slasher flick. It is beautifully self aware of what it means to be a horror movie and what it means to be a character in a horror movie. It mocks and flaunts the rules and even calls attention to them. We had not had a film that does this ( to my knowledge) before this and to our benefit and our detriment have had dozens since then. This also probably single handedly relaunched the teen slasher film. Williamson, would go on to write I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Faculty, and The Vampire Diaries. While he sticks to some tropes, he does actually know how to write teens. This is more rare than you would think.

Craven himself being the master of horror knew what buttons to push, how to craft this, and what to draw out of his actors. He, being one of the forerunners of teen slashers and having seen what it had become was the prime person to do this. Giving him a decent cast also helps. Neve Campbell is our heroine and protagonist of the film and unlike so many others prior – starts strong. She may be virginal, but she is also damaged in her own way and because of that damage is stronger than the typical victims in films prior. The movie also launched the careers of Rose McGowan (Charmed), Jamie Kennedy, and Matthew Lillard (Hackers),  and Liev Schreiber (Wolverine, Salt). Skeet Ulrich, previously seen in The Craft, plays a similar role where its hard not to see him as scummy.  We also have the movie that introduced Courtney Cox and David Arquette, that lead to a marriage in 1999 until 2013. All of these actors combined actually turned a good performance together and made this film work as well as it did.

Even from a technical perspective and execution of the work the movie holds up. We’re almost twenty years out from this one and the plot holds. Even on repeated viewings it holds. That’s not something that you see often. Even the minor bits of gore in the film look good with decent attention to detail. The combat sequences, yes I call them that, are just as inventive and show a growing perception of using the environment to your benefit.

TL;DR

Scream is the rebirth of the teen slasher.

It is a well made, well planned, and well executed film that delivers on all counts and deserves recognition. I happily put this as a modern day classic and worth watching. The sequels…well I will cover them later.