Published In The Long Island Voice
FILED: Monday, December 08, 1998
Poor Sidney Prescott. It seems a girl just can't get a decent post-secondary education these days without the threat of a murderous, knife-wielding psycho shadowing her every move and threatening his own form of downsizing.
That is the nutshell premise of Scream 2, the sequel to the smart 'n sassy slasher flick that reintroduced the elements of surprise and suspense to the horror movie, and did so in an incredibly entertaining fashion.
Fans of the original Scream will be happy to note that most of the original crew is back, from the on-camera survivors through off-camera director Wes Craven (Nightmare On Elm Street) to screenwriter Kevin Williamson (I Know What You Did Last Summer), not only repeating their successful formula but improving on it.
Party Of Five's Neve Campbell returns as the level-headed Sidney, remarkably well-adjusted despite the brutal murder of her promiscuous mother, the loss of her virginity to the psychotic boyfriend who unknowingly terrorized her the first time around, and the stack of close, personal friends pushing up the daisies back home in Woodsboro.
Scream 2 picks up the action a year to the day after the initial bloodbath. These days, Sidney's a freshman theatre major in smalltown Ohio preparing for her first starring role in a Greek tragedy. Jamie Kennedy is back as the geeky Randy, the omniscient video clerk hoping for a celluloid future through film school.
Elsewhere in town, it's the premiere of Stab! the cinematic adaptation of irrepressible reporter Gale Weathers' (Courteney Cox) book on the Woodsboro murders, and the local cinema is handing out free promotional "Father Death" costumes to moviegoers.
The opening scene features African-American dating couple Jada Pinkett and Omar Epps entering the theatre to see "a dumb-ass white movie" while complaining about the shortage of African-American actors in slasher films, and then follows the screen action where Heather Graham echoes the Drew Barrymore role in the original Scream and later, Tori Spelling apes Sidney.
Suffice to say without giving anything away, things don't go to well at the premiere, and soon local officials discover a copycat murderer is on the loose. With the words "Hello Sidney," received shortly thereafter by phone, our heroine is plunged once more into despair by her stalking nemesis.
The initial murders become a lightning rod for a cast reunion, complemented by Sidney's new pals. Officer Dewey (David Arquette) flies in to offer assistance, sporting a new limp due to neural damage caused by the last attack. Gale Weathers launches a new investigation, and finds the tables turned as a celebrity interview subject dogged by a determined local reporter (Laurie Metcalf). Even wrongly convicted felon Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber) is back in an expanded role, seeking some sort of compensation from Sidney after he spent a year in the slammer for murder due to her damning testimony.
Soon thereafter, "Father Death" begins a new reign of terror, and suspects pile up as quickly as the bodies. Director Craven keeps things moving at an entertaining pace, lingering just enough in certain places to nail the full intensity of the suspense. Although knives and guns spill the blood, Craven's deadliest weapon is the ringing phone, a jolting harbinger of ruthless death. Craven's expertise is enhanced by Marco Beltrami's insidious score: in one unforgettable scene a sorority sister (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is almost frightened to death by a fellow student appearing in a doorway. Craven's timing is impeccable, as he builds anticipation with creepy enthusiasm.
As well as boasting strong performances from all characters -- a twitchy Schreiber, an over-zealous Metcalf and a vulnerable Arquette are standouts -- Kevin Williamson's screenplay is taut and terrific: there's plenty of nail-biting and oodles of suspense, and he gleefully spreads around enough suspicion that even when the hints insinuate the true identity of the killer -- or killers -- they're shrouded in doubt.
Williamson's sense of humor is equally as priceless. When Randy and Dewey run through a list of suspects, Dewey wonders aloud if the killer is staging "his own sequel."
"No way," Randy retorts. "Sequels suck."
Not Scream 2 buddy.
Not by a longshot. It's a scream.
A Dimension Films release. Directed by Wes Craven. Opens December 12.
THANKS: Beth Rimmels
© 1998, 1999 Nick Krewen
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