One of the best horror sequels of all time turns 20 years old this week
"There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to create a successful sequel. Number one: the body count is always bigger. Number two: the death scenes are always much more elaborate. And number three: never, ever, under any circumstances, assume the killer is dead."
Scream is consistently mentioned as one of the best, most iconic horror movies not just of recent years, but of all time.
Released just eight days short of a year later, premiering in Hollywood on 10 December 1997, Scream 2 doesn't get the justice it deserves: not just as one of the greatest sequels ever made, but in some ways surpassing the original.
There will be spoiler talk for BOTH of the Scream movies from here on in, so let us use this trailer as the point of no return if you haven't seen either or both of them yet...
Clip via hellosidneycom
Still here? Great.
Okay, full disclosure: one of the ways in which the original is better than the sequel is the complete shock that arrives with finding out that there isn't a killer... but there are actually two of them. It was a simple stroke (slash?) of genius that really pushed the already very smart, very fun scary movie over the edge into "classic" territory.
So, for the sequel, the audience was already playing detective, watching everyone for clues that might point towards their eventual Ghostface reveal, and when the audience assumes anyone is the killer, then the eventual reveal is relieved of most of the shock.
Additionally, try as Scream 2 might with the cinema-based, Stab-screening opening attack on Jada Pinkett Smith and Omar Epps, the original movie's scene with Drew Barrymore is pretty much one of the greatest scenes in horror movie history, and there is very little to be done in competing with that.
All of that being said, the sequel does have a lot more fun with the world of horror movie savvy teenagers caught in a horror movie themselves, having set up the Joss Whedon-y smartalec humour against the genuinely scary set-pieces, and in the sequel, those set-pieces take it up a notch.
The attack on Cici (Sarah Michelle Gellar) as she stays home alone, the daylight stalk-and-slay of series favourite Randy, Gale trying to sneak away while trapped in the college campus' radio station, and of course the brilliant car crash sequence where Sidney and her besto have to literally climb over the killer in order to escape the wrecked police vehicle.
Added to the already impressive cast list of Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette and Jamie Kennedy are the aforementioned Pinkett-Smith, Epps and Gellar, as well as the impressive at the time Jerry O'Connell, Portia di Rossi and Laurie Metcalf, and the still impressive today Timothy Olyphant, Liev Schreiber and David Warner.
At the box office, the movies were pretty much neck and neck (Scream: $173 million, Scream 2: $172 million), despite even the critics agreeing that the sequel was an improvement (Scream: 78% on Rotten Tomatoes, Scream 2: 81%).
So, yes, Scream starts off better and ends better, but Scream 2 is much smarter, funnier ("Showgirls! Absolutely frightening!") and scarier for every part in between.