Rated R - Running time: 2:00 - Released 12/12/97

Remember when I mentioned that sequels are usually not as good as the original? Well, here's one that breaks that rule to bits. Director Wes Craven's wildly successful Scream (1996) has been heralded as a thinking person's slasher movie, a horror flick with '90s sensibilities. Well, in my opinion, although it was a little more clever than your run-of-the-mill gore film, it really wasn't that much different from all the others. But Scream 2 is. It's not just bloody; it's actually interesting.

Continuing with Scream's ongoing references to slasher movies, this film actually begins in a movie theater during a showing of Scream. It has been renamed Stab, but is clearly the same plot as the original. The movie theater is handing out "killer costumes" (cloak, mask, and toy dagger) as a publicity stunt, so most of the people in the theater are dressed as the Scream villain. Can you guess what happens? Right: that one guy really is a killer, and that thing he's holding really is a knife. This opening sequence is arguably the cleverest in Kevin Williamson's script. It is full of surprises, and even pokes considerable fun at Scream and horror movies in general, as does the whole film.

All of our favorite characters (who were left alive at the end of Scream) are back, all played by the same actors. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is in college now, trying to get her life back in order after all that has happened. She has a new boyfriend named Derek (Jerry O'Connell), and her old friend and fellow victim Randy (Jamie Kennedy) is also there with her. Gail Weathers (Courteney Cox) is still the rabid newswoman, basking in the success of her book, an account of her previous experience. A surprising new face, that of Laurie Metcalf (Roseanne), is introduced in this movie. She plays Debby Salt, a writer from the local paper and fan of Gail's, who follows her around asking questions and fawning. And deputy Dewey (David Arquette) comes by to check on Sid after what happened at the showing of Stab.

So now there's a new killer on the loose, and we have the same setup as before: Sid is being stalked, Gail is on the story (followed closely by Debby), and Dewey is on the case. The plot is not really unpredictable until the end, which really does offer a surprising and literally theatrical twist, but the characterization and writing is leagues better in this film. It is a lot smarter, a lot more believeable, a lot funnier. Connection between the characters is increased tenfold, and consequently we tend to care about them more. Cox is just as terrible as before, but Campbell and Arquette both seem to have grown a bit, in their acting, since Scream.

Some slasher fans may actually be a little disappointed because there is not as much gore in this one, but there is more story. I would recommend this to grown-ups who want something new: tired of traditional Christmas cookies? Try some blood. ***½

Copyright 1997 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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