Movies & Videos
Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar

    Related Item
'Scream 2': Join the Crowd

By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 12, 1997

  Movie Critic

Scream 2
Neve Campbell returns for more "Screams." (Dimension Films)

Wes Craven
David Arquette;
Neve Campbell;
Courteney Cox;
Sarah Michelle Gellar;
Jamie Kennedy;
Jerry O'Connell;
Jada Pinkett;
Liev Schreiber;
Laurie Metcalf
Running Time:
2 hours
For violence and graphic gore effects
"Scream 2" is less a film than a text for performance by an audience. And it's the audience that's the real show.

I happened to see it in the midst of 200 teenagers and quickly came to feel like Oliver Wendell Holmes in Haight-Ashbury. Such was the intensity of tribal bonding in the dark, such was the flood of hormones, adrenaline and the juice of other obscure glands, such was the pitch
of sheer Dionysian ecstasy that the movie itself finally seemed inconsequential to the ceremony it unleashed. And at the end, the kids fortunately did not decide to sacrifice a codger to the demon-gods of youth, beauty and simple thinking.

All this is not accidental. Wes Craven, the auteur of the "Scream" films and before that several in the high-end slasher market (like the original "Nightmare on Elm Street"), understands the nature of his audience. You can't fool them, you can only pander to them genuinely. His stroke of genius is to offer the horror movie in an ironic mode. He's winking at viewers and inviting them to share a clever conspiracy that we on the cholesterol-clogged side of 30 cannot begin to understand.

He knows, for example, that the horror genre is exhausted and bankrupt and has entered its creaky last stage, the stage of self-parody. So he offers a film that's more commentary on story than story itself: He sends up the cliches with the boldness of a "Saturday Night Live" parodist, inviting his young fans to share in his contempt for the formulaic. When a girl who's escaped from a slasher-haunted sorority house decides against all sense but in obedience to the ritual of the form to go back inside, it lights the audience up like a rock concert: "Don't you go, girl, don't you go!" they scream, knowing that she will go, she will experience slaughter in its most extreme manifestation, and knowing, all the while, that it's not real, that she will rise when the director yells cut, go off with her friends and laugh at it all tonight.

Craven somewhat ups the stakes by making "Scream 2" a parody not of a horror movie but a parody of a horror movie sequel, that lesser form where the expectations are so much lower. (Danger: Adult sentence approaching, requiring knowledge of the dark ages before 1982.) It's the first of his many postmodern tricks, games with the form of narrative and literary devices within literary devices that give the movie its sense of play despite the ample bloodshed; think of a "Friday the 13th" as written by Eugene Ionesco and Luigi Pirandello and you'll get the picture. (End of adult sentence.)

It's now two years after the events of the first film; survivor Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell, as before) is a college student. A book about the first events has been turned into a movie called "Stab," which is just opening. Its author is none other than TV correspondent Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox, also back, still so perfect you hate her on sight). When two kids are slashed to death at the premiere, Weathers reappears and the whole fandango of sadistic play, stupid cops, stalking and gutting begins again.

I spare you synopsis because synopsis is impossible as well as pointless: A lot of people die merrily. The killer, once again, wears a death's robe and a mask that looks like the world's grief melted into a single image, a slither of plastic woe and angst that calls up sources as diverse as Edvard Munch, Euripedes and Jason Voorhees. The knives are sharp and by the end, even our friend Mr. Glock makes an appearance, when the busting of slashers requires mega-firepower.

"Scream 2" is a hoot from Hell.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

Back to the top
Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar