Lionsgate // 1997 // 120 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Erich Asperschlager // April 4th, 2011
"Nice twist, huh? Didn't see it coming, did ya?"
When Wes Craven released Scream in 1996, it didn't just give us the lame Scary Movie franchise, it also ushered in a slasher movie revival. Chilling and clever, it combined '80s horror tropes with '90s self awareness to create something new. Craven followed up the megahit a year later with Scream 2. It was just as self aware, though not nearly as fresh. With the fourth Scream movie about to hit theaters, Lionsgate has released the first three films in hi-def. The blood's still red, but how's the Blu?
It's been two years since the Woodsboro killings from the first Scream. Since then, Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox, Cougar Town) released a book about the murders that's been turned into a movie called Stab, and survivors Sidney (Neve Campbell, Party of Five) and Randy (Jamie Kennedy, Son of the Mask) have gone off to college. But when a new Ghostface begins offing students at the school; Randy, Gale, a returning Dewey (David Arquette, Pushing Daisies), Sidney, and her new boyfriend (Jerry O'Connell, Jerry Maguire) are forced into a deadly race to get the killer before he gets them.
Scream 2 opens with a pair of scenes that establish the film's "thesis" (as much as a movie about a guy in a Halloween mask who stabs people can have a thesis). The killer begins his spree at a preview screening for the new Stab movie, in a theater filled with frenzied horror fans wearing Ghostface masks and brandishing plastic knives. They're so into the fictional violence onscreen that they fail to react when a member of the audience is actually killed right in front of them. Later, in a film studies class, Randy and his classmates (a group that includes Sarah Michelle Gellar, Joshua Jackson, and a young Timothy Olyphant) argue about whether scary movies cause people to act violently in the real world. Both are fairly on the nose, especially for such a self aware film franchise, but they speak to a time before Columbine and 9/11, when the movie world was a simpler place.
Mostly, Scream 2 is a sequel about being a sequel. Characters talk about the relative quality of sequels compared to the originals, leading to a running gag about how few of them are as good as the first. It also repeats Randy's list of "rules" -- this time for horror sequels. On the one hand, the meta commentary is clever, showing that Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson know full well what the viewer expects. On the other hand, it builds in a pretty convenient excuse in case the audience hates the movie. "What did you expect?" it asks, "We told you sequels aren't as good as the originals."
Fortunately, Scream 2 is one of the better horror sequels in recent memory. Although it covers a lot of the same ground as the first movie, Craven's skill at building and maintaining tension (not to mention staging some killer death scenes) more than makes up for any shortcomings in the plot. The killer's identity is a mystery right up until the end. Just about everyone seems guilty at one point or another. I wasn't thrilled by the reveal of the real killer, but I have to give credit where it is due. Scream 2 is a tightly plotted slasher flick that looks bad only in comparison to the original. It's certainly better than the spate of horror movies that came out in Scream's wake. Plus, it's got an impressive cast that includes not only '90s mainstays Campbell, Cox, Arquette, and Gellar, but also Liev Schreiber, Jada Pinkett (before she was Smith), Laurie Metcalf, Portia de Rossi, Rebecca Gayheart, and Justified's Timothy Olyphant.
Unfortunately, the Blu-ray isn't as good. The transfer is vivid and sharper than its DVD counterpart, but it comes at the price of some of the worst edge enhancement I've seen on the format. When it comes to Scream, the only ghosting I want to see is the guy running around with a knife. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is a minor step up, but is too front-heavy to hold up with most modern releases.
The extras are all from the "Ultimate" trilogy collection, beginning with an audio commentary recorded by Craven, producer Marianne Maddalena, and Editor Patrick Lussier. It's surprisingly low-key for a horror movie. Next up, a couple of deleted scenes (able to be played with and without commentary by Craven and crew), nine minutes of outtakes, a seven-minute making-of featurette, music videos for Master P's "Scream" and Kottonmouth Kings' "Suburban Life," and six minutes of TV spots. Not only are all of the extras in standard def, they're really really crummy standard def -- like streaming web video blown up on an HDTV bad.
Scream 2 is better than it ought to be. Ghostface as a villain hasn't aged well, but Wes Craven packs in enough twists and chills to make it a worthy entry in the slasher genre. The Blu-ray, on the other hand, is a disappointment. From the over-sharpened video to the terrible-looking extras, it's little more than a cash-in on the impending release of Scream 4. If you're dying to catch up on the first three movies, go ahead and give it a stab. Everyone else should run away screaming.
We've got a bleeder! Guilty.
Review content copyright © 2011 Erich Asperschlager; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Music Videos
* TV Spots