Time has been kind to Craven and Williamson’s deliriously fun sequel.
Scream 2 is one of my most cherished moviegoing experiences. My best friend’s dad took us, my friend’s little brother, and one of his friends; we went after school, so I had to get home quickly and ask my dad for permission. I was only 12, mere weeks away from turning 13, so in my mind there was no question that I’d be allowed to go. My mom rented Scream for me and my siblings earlier that year—of course I was going to see Scream 2. So asking my dad was a formality, but then he said something I hadn’t planned for: “Why don’t you go see Flubber instead?”
I was flabbergasted. I hadn’t begun sneaking into movies yet, so a parent willing to take us to an R-rated movie was more valuable to me than one of Wonka’s golden tickets.
Scrambling to recover from the Flubber body blow, my mind raced. I had to say something so clever and inarguable that my dad had no choice but to capitulate.
“That’s the movie they picked.”
I felt like the smartest kid alive.
We got to the theater and walked down the hallway to our auditorium, passing by screenings of I Know What You Did Last Summer, Alien: Resurrection, and, of course, Flubber. We took our seats and the movie started. I credit my best friend for making it through the playful and brutal opening sequence before bailing (he’s never been big on horror movies) to go watch something less terrifying (not Flubber, but that would’ve been rich). He went to Alien: Resurrection while I was left alone in the row behind the rest of our group.
I sat enthralled and scared out of my mind for the next two hours. It was great. Being dropped off at home on that chilly, dark December 12th, 1997 evening, I practically sprinted to the door to be sure Ghostface wasn’t lurking in the shadows. Silly, I know, but I’d just watched a movie where people watching a movie were killed, so I think my fear was justified.
I’ve thought back on that day fondly ever since, and with the film making its 4K UHD debut in time for its 25th anniversary (and Halloween), I’m thinking about it again. Like its predecessor, Scream 2 is so much fun. It’s not quite as clever as it strives to be, but it’s clever enough. And when it’s on point, it’s really on point.
The opening scene, set at a raucous screening of Stab, the movie based on the book The Woodsboro Murders by Gale Weathers, is every bit as playful and chilling as Scream’s. It’s a shame that Omar Epps and Jada Pinkett Smith only get the one scene because they give two of the best performances in the movie.
Aside from delivering killer set pieces that play like gangbusters (the Sarah Michelle Gellar sequence, Dewey and Gale in the sound booth, Randy’s last phone call), Kevin Williamson’s script doubles down on its exploration of trauma and grief. In Scream, it’s largely about Sidney (Neve Campbell) reckoning with her mother’s murder. In Scream 2, there’s more to go around. Sidney, Gale (Courtney Cox), Dewey (David Arquette), and Randy (Jamie Kennedy) have the shared trauma of the Woodsboro killings in addition to the new madness. Look at the ice cream shop conversation between Randy and Dewey as they go over the rules of sequels: Underneath the meta quips are two permanently damaged people trading stories about life-altering pain. For all of Gale’s bravado and strength, when she responds to the umpteenth quip about her being cold-hearted by yelling out “I just want to find this fucker,” there’s a desperation in Cox’s voice that pierces right through Gale’s façade.
Credit, as per usual, goes to series architects Williamson and Wes Craven for consistently finding the right balance between the weightier themes lurking under the film’s more overt, visceral delights. I’d argue that the series loses its handle on that balance as it goes on, but it’s still clicking in Scream 2 and supercharges the film right through to its climax. In lesser hands, the movie might fall apart under the combined weight of the exposition dump and Timothy Olyphant’s scenery-gnashing performance (the way he says “Billy’s mu-ther!” has made me laugh for decades now).
From that opening day in theaters, to VHS replays while I laid in bed sick, and every other viewing of Scream 2 in between, I doubt I’ll ever not be in the mood to watch Scream 2—and that’s a level of comfort that goes beyond nostalgia to something deeper. The recently released 4K UHD steelbook isn’t the fanciest upgrade you’ll ever make (the bonus features are all recycled from earlier releases), but it’s another chance to catch up with an old friend, and you can’t put a value on that.