Scream 2: Collector's Edition Review
A couple of years have passed since the events of the original Scream. Sidney (Neve Campbell), trying to forget the horrors of the Woodsboro murders, is now a student at a prestigious university. Fellow survivor Randy (Jamie Kennedy), who still idolizes her, has gone to the same establishment in an attempt to maintain his friendship with her. However, when a young couple (Omar Epps and Jada Pinkett) are murdered at the premiere or "Stab", a movie inspired by the Woodsboro events, the nightmare begins again. News of the killings attracts a number of curiosity-seekers, among them scheming tabloid reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), whose eyewitness book was the basis for "Stab", and Deputy Dewey (David Arquette), who shows up to try and protect Sidney. Sidney is menaced by good old Ghostface and, as the murders continue and it becomes clear that the killer has an intimate knowledge both of her and of the Woodsboro murders, she must face up to the possibility that the evil-doer is in fact one of her fellow survivors...
Scream 2 followed extremely hot on the heels of the phenomenal box office success of its predecessor, released less than a year later. Throughout its production, those involved, including director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson, the same duo responsible for the original, were keen to stress that, unlike most Hollywood horror sequels, this one was going to be a very lovingly-created product rather one that was simply cooked up to make a profit. It would be nice to think that Scream 2 was genuinely made with the intention of expanding and improving on the original, but sadly the results suggest otherwise. Williamson attempts to conceal this by throwing in all sorts of wry nods to the fact that sequels are rarely as good as their predecessors, but unfortunately this simply doesn't cut it any more than saying "this film's bad because we're satirizing bad films" would.
It wouldn't have been so bad if the script had at least been structured coherently. Indeed, the movie starts promisingly with an extended prologue featuring the carnage that ensues at the "Stab" premiere - an obvious attempt to capitalize on the success of the Drew Barrymore prologue in the original, but an effective one nonetheless. However, the structure quickly falls apart as numerous badly-drawn characters are introduced and both the pace and the tension become extremely uneven. Our heroes have a habit of simply wandering about languishing in their own personal problems until another body turns up or they have an encounter with Ghostface, who alternates between showing up in person in his usual rather clumsy manner, and contacting them by phone. It certainly doesn't help that the whole atmosphere of the film is very much akin to that of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show, and the presence of Sarah Michelle Gellar in a bit part does little to alleviate this. I have nothing against Buffy - indeed, it's one of my favourite TV series - but it seems out of place here and gives the proceedings a rather jokey, irrelevant atmosphere that destroys much of the tension.
Some of the stalk-and-slash sequences are very successful - for example, a scene involving Ghostface menacing our hapless friends in broad daylight, which culminates in the gruesome death of a major character, and an exciting extended sequence in which Sidney finds herself trapped in a police car with her unconscious assailant - but the moments in between are by and large extremely uninvolving. The majority of the new characters are bland one-note stereotypes, and not very much is done to further develop those returning from the original film. The cast is, by and large, very good, although Jerry O'Connell quickly becomes grating as Sidney's new boyfriend, a rather dopey fellow with an embarrassing taste in clothing. (A truly cringe-inducing segment has him wooing her by singing "I Think I Love You" to her in a busy lunch hall.) Neve Campbell is in fine form, as always, allowing the audience to connect with Sidney, and Jamie Kennedy gets to have fun with his role as video geek Randy, but both David Arquette and Courteney Cox are fast becoming redundant, as are their characters. By the way, look out for a cameo from David Warner as a drama teacher.
Scream 2 is glossy, very glossy, with high production values and striking anamorphic photography courtesy of Peter Deming. Craven knows how to structure and pace his murders, frequently fabricating very lengthy and convoluted stalk sequences that I suspect are more his contribution than Williamson's (in the audio commentary, it is noted that a number of sequences in the script simply read "Wes will make it scary"). The film also has a nice splattering of gore (and this time round, the movie mercifully made it through the MPAA unmolested), and on the music front makes good use of Hans Zimmer's theme to Broken Arrow, which very much becomes the "Dewey theme" in this movie. It's just a shame that the screenplay is not up to spec, selling the original short with its lax structure and irrelevant villain(s). The word of mouth is that the original intended identity of Ghostface was leaked on the internet before the film was completed, and was completely altered at the last minute. While the original identity of the killer does not, to me, seem any more satisfying than what we are given in the final product, I can't help thinking that the overall effect would have been more successful if Craven and co had stuck to their original plan.
The movie actually manages to be quite enjoyable, when all said and done, but it has none of the depth or intellect of the original. Many have criticized Scream for inspiring a whole slew of weak copycats, and while I would argue that such accusations are unfair (the original can hardly be blamed for being good enough for so many people to want to create their own replications of it!), this sequel is very much in the same sort of league as those imitators. In all likelihood the victim of a very rushed schedule, this film could probably have been much better had it had more time to develop, but even this isn't a given, considering that Kevin Williamson is quickly looking more and more like a one-trick pony. Enjoy Scream 2 - it is, after all, only light entertainment - but don't expect a masterpiece.
Scream 2 was originally released as a bare-bones package with a non-anamorphic transfer. This more lavish affair, with a "Collector's Edition" tag, was originally only available in the 4-disc Scream Trilogy box set (Region 1), but has since surfaced separately at a number of online stores.
Presented anamorphically in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1, the film looks very good here - significantly better than the non-anamorphic UK disc and streets ahead of the original non-anamorphic US release. The level of detail is very good, although tracking shots seem a little hazy, and the colour and contrast levels are wonderfully maintained throughout. The compression seems a little tight at times, with occasional blocking, and one of the suits that Courteney Cox wears for a significant portion of the film leads to some mild moiré effects. Overall, though, the results are very eye-pleasing.
As with the other two films in the trilogy, Scream 2's Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix is fairly loud with a great deal of bass. The rear speakers are only really used to augment the score, ambient noise and some sound effects, but this is no bad thing because the overall effect is quite pleasing. There does appear to be a slight problem with the synchronization, but it is so minor that it hardly seems worth mentioning.
Wes Craven, producer Marianne Maddalena and editor Patrick Lussier team up to provide a feature-length Commentary. Originally, the participants for this track were announced as Craven and Kevin Williamson, but it would seem that, with Williamson's decreased involvement in the third film (this special edition was put together at the same time as Scream 3's DVD release), he could not be sourced. Given that four years have passed since Scream 2 was made, the commentators at times find themselves struggling to remember any worthwhile anecdotes, and Lussier seems to have taken on the role of unofficial trivia expert, frequently correcting Craven and Maddalena when they provide inaccurate information. This is a relatively enjoyable commentary, but it has nothing on the Craven/Williamson track for the original Scream.
Up next is a collection of Outtakes. Presented in very poor quality, they are not particularly interesting at all. Some are mildly humorous, and show material that never made it into the final cut, but others are just annoying. Forgive me, but I don't find shots of actors forgetting their lines particularly amusing or novel.
Two Deleted scenes follow... although in fact only one is a bona fide deleted scene, a rather uninteresting affair featuring some of the characters eating donuts and discussing police interrogations. The other presents an alternate version of the Film Theory classroom sequence that exists in the finished film, with a different location, a different lecturer and radically different dialogue. I actually think it's much better than the one included in the final film, although it makes one of the killers' identities a lot more obvious. It also goes further in its proof that films are not responsible for real life violence, and gives a far more convincing argument than Sarah Michelle Gellar's version in the final film.
A Featurette has also been included, but it turns out to be little more than PR marketing fluff. Comprised mainly of clips from the finished product, it features some brief interviews with Craven, Williamson and some of the cast members, with them basically telling you to go and see the movie.
The package is rounded off by Cast and crew bios, the Theatrical trailer, various TV spots and two Music videos.
Scream 2 is a relatively watchable film provided you overlook the massive regression it is when compared to the original. Presented here on a disc with fine audio-visual quality, the extras are too lightweight to justify the "Collector's Edition" tag, but they are adequate when you consider that the film they are supporting is not particularly substantial to begin with.