How do you make a sequel to a horror film whose whole plot was made of in-jokes and film references? Easy: make the follow-up even more in-jokey and self-referential than its predecessor. This formula actually seems to work for Scream 2, at least in the first two acts.
The prologue is arguably a masterclass in self-irony: an African-American couple (Omar Epps and Jada Pinkett Smith) go to a movie theater where a new horror film, called Stab, is screening. This flick is based on Gale Weathers’ (Courtney Cox) book The Woodsboro Murders, which recounts the events of the first Scream. As the movie begins, Smith’s character complains about Stab being a film “with no black people in it” (just like Scream was), and, predictably, this leads to the two African-Americans being brutally murdered as the film-within-a-film’s prologue (with Heather Graham replacing Drew Barrymore) is shown on the screen, so that the fictional and real deaths occur almost simultaneously. From there on, things take the usual turn: the media go crazy about the killings and once again Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is in the spotlight, as she and her friend Randy (Jamie Kennedy) must protect themselves from the new foe, who is apparently mimicking what happened in the past (an obvious reference to the first film’s “Movies don’t create psychos” line).
The main charm of the original Scream was its ability to almost seamlessly combine clever in-jokes and a believable plot. This time around, the in-jokes are the best thing in the movie, while the story, particularly in the overblown conclusion, suffers from merely repeating key scenes from the first film. Now, this might be a satire on the lack of originality in most horror sequels, and it would work if the characters were developed correctly. Sadly, such a thing doesn’t happen, with Sidney being reduced to the usual girl who keeps running and screaming (fitting, huh?) and everyone else (including Liev Schreiber, who gets more screen-time in the sequel) playing stereotypes, with the exception of David Arquette, very likable as the nice cop again trying to solve the case, and Kennedy, who has a great time stating the rules to follow in a sequel.
Ironically, the movie’s funniest scene has a bunch of film students discussing follow-ups that are better than the originals. And while few could have anything bad to say about Aliens, Terminator 2 or The Godfather: Part II, it must be said that Scream 2, while fun and watchable, most certainly doesn’t have the same sharpness that made its predecessor an above-average horror film.