Scream 2 - * * 1/2*

There’s a scene in Scream 2 in which several film students are debating the merits of sequels. They claim that it is the rare sequel which surpasses its original. Scream 2 certainly does.

The action again focuses on Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), now in college, but still haunted by the events of the first film. To make matters worse, not only did reporter Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) write a bestselling book on the Woodsboro Murders, but it has just been adapted into a hit movie: Stab (starring none other than Tori Spelling). However, all these things pale next to the fact that someone is trying to recreate the murders, and again Sidney is in the center of things.

Most of the surviving cast of the original Scream has returned. In addition to Sidney and Gale, there’s Dewey (David Arquette), the earnest deputy who flies out from Woodsboro to protect Sidney. There’s Randy (Jamie Kennedy), the movie geek, always willing to point out the finer points of horror film sequels. And Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber) has returned, after only a bit part in the original as the man who was falsely accused of the murder of Sidney’s mother.

The film also as a slew of new characters, though none are well defined at all. The only newcomer with any trace of personality is Derek (Jerry O’Connell), Sidney’s new pre-med boyfriend: the film’s obvious first suspect. Other new characters, including bit turns from Jada Pinkett and Sarah Michelle Gellar are more like stunt cameos.

The film gets off to a slow start. Its opening scenes lack the tension that haunted Drew Barrymore’s bit in the original. However, whereas the original Scream started out well, but got worse as it went along, this sequel is at its best during its gripping final half hour. And, wonderfully, there’s nothing as pathetic as the original’s “garage door of doom”.

One of the reasons for the film’s slow start is obviously the characters. Until about halfway through, the victims are so featureless and bland that no matter how gruesome a death they suffer, it’s barely enough to pique the interest. However, that’s not all that’s at play here. There are simply some rather entertaining sequences during the film’s climax (two involving a recording studio and a car are worthy of particular mention). Director Wes Craven still knows how to scare an audience.

The intelligence level of Scream 2 is about on par with that of Scream, which is to say not much, but smarter than your typical slasher flick. If you were to compare the smarts level of the typical slasher film to, lets say, a vegetable, then Scream and it’s sequel would rate somewhere in the vicinity of a small child. Not particularly impressive, but considering its origins, a giant leap of evolution. The film is able to state the obvious, but never makes an effort to put that knowledge to any use.

It’s already apparent that this film will receive as much overhyping as its predecessor. However, though it is nowhere near a perfect film, at least it entertains, and is both more thrilling and more satisfying than the original.

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