With 13 Days of Sequels I’ll be reviewing horror sequels every weekday for the last two weeks of October. You can view all entries HERE.
“There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to create a successful sequel.”
This is what Scream 2‘s resident horror nerd (and proxy survival-anecdotalist), Randy (Jamie Kennedy), utters when it comes to light that a copycat Ghostface killer is murdering the residents of Woodsboro once again. And with the utterance of this line, the already-meta Scream franchise instantly protects its sequel from any trope or pitfall sequels usually fall victim to. In fact, it’s so smart and savvy of a movie, that it’s almost more fun to watch for the playful, self-referential material than it is the murder mystery at the core of the picture.
I wrote last week that Halloween II had ridiculously high standards to adhere to for a sequel – after all, this was a follow up to one of the most famous and successful horror movies, ever. But coming in at a close second is Wes Craven’s Scream 2. Not only did Scream rejuvenate Craven’s career (which was wavering by the mid ’90s), but it rejuvenated the entire slasher genre which, in 1996, was barely breathing. Scream was fun, funny, and clever. It was scary, it was original, and it gave us a killer memorable enough to instantly rank among the greats like Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger. Most importantly: it was wildly successful. So the pressure to create a follow up that was just as good as, if not better than, the original was on.
One of the fun aspects of Scream 2 are the constant callbacks to the original – and not merely referencing an event or a character, mind you, but referencing specific throwaway lines uttered in jest. Like how in the original Scream, when Sidney (Neve Campbell) jokes if they ever made a movie about the murders that, with her luck, they’d get Tori Spelling to play her – and how in Scream 2, a movie has been made about the murders, and sure enough, Tori Spelling is playing the part of Sidney. There are also tons of references to the real lives of the actual actors in the movie, like Courtney Cox’s character Gale talking about her Friends co-star Jennifer Aniston. It’s clever stuff like that that elevates Scream 2 to a new level of sequeldom.
There is a lot to love about Scream 2 – the ways it plays with the genre and how it treats its fictional universe as if it were a real one. But my favorite thing about Scream 2 is Sidney – how the character was written and how Neve Campbell portrays her. I’ve seen a lot of “damaged” characters in horror movies before and since Scream 2, but Sidney is the toughest and most real of them all. When she starts receiving calls from that familiar spooky voice, she doesn’t scream or burst into tears or cower – she checks her caller ID and immediately shuts down the prankster trying to give her a jolt. Her defense mechanism for handling the stress may be shutting those closest to her out, but at least she doesn’t act like some sniffling ninny.
Scream 2 is an amazing sequel in an amazing franchise, one whose trademarks can still be seen in the horror genre today. It made trying to figure out which characters were going to die a major talking point among horror fans long before shows like The Walking Dead did it. And the Scream franchise is also notable for pretty much ushering in the “Age of the Spoiler”, as it were. Never before had the utter secrecy of a film – before, during, and after production – been so important.
“The entire horror genre was destroyed by sequels”, Randy proclaims during a scene early in the film. Clearly, he wasn’t talking about Scream 2.