Scream undoubtedly revitalized the horror genre in 1996, transforming an industry that was thought to have no life left in it, into a legitimate source of entertainment once again. It provided legitimate scares, intriguing character interaction since everyone was a suspect, and the numerous laughs that evenly balance the film are never at the expense of bad filmmaking. No, Director Wes Craven and Writer Kevin Williamson truly owned us while we experienced the thrill ride known as Scream, and the receipts at the box office proved it. So, it was no surprise to anyone when a sequel was ready for the big screen only a year after the fact. Of course, there were many concerns that immediately flooded into my mind once I heard the news. I mean, the first film in the franchise was about acknowledging all the tired horror clichés and spinning them into something fresh. It sent a message to the rest of the horror hopefuls in Hollywood, saying, "These magnificent tools of our trade have turned into a laughable formulaic trend. They can still be just as frightening as they were 20 years ago, so let's stop churning out the same crap and put a little thought into it from now on, alright?" It was bloody brilliant. However, I felt Craven and Williamson were selling themselves out with Scream 2. After all, isn't the biggest horror cliché of all the inevitable sequel, no matter how good or bad the original may have been? More often than not, sequels are just a way for the studios to make a few bucks off the heightened interest of a specific property. However, Craven refused to work on a second Nightmare on Elm Street because he never intended that story to go on, so perhaps there was some credibility to a second Scream film after all... and history speaks for itself. Scream 2 was very well received, and much like its predecessor, made a killing at the box office. Now, 14 years later, the highly successful sequel makes its high-def debut just in time to celebrate the release of Scream 4 in theaters (another flick I'm skeptical about, to say the least). But, did Lionsgate positively slay this release with all that it deserved, or simply murder it?
It's been two years since the horror movie crazed Ghostface killer turned the town of Woodsboro inside out, and Sidney Prescott is finally moving on to live a normal life as a college girl. Well, as normal as humanly possible considering the circumstances. Due to the events that happened in Woodsboro, Cotton Weary, the man who was wrongfully charged for the murder of Sid's mother, has had all charges dropped against him. Nosy reporter Gale Weathers wrote a book about the Ghostface killer's rampage, and made it public knowledge that Mrs. Prescott was having an affair with Cotton, and even took credit for saving the life of a man who was on death row. Sid was always in denial about her mother being unfaithful, so to have that news blown up on a national scale is hard for her to deal with. Furthermore, Gale's book about the Woodsboro murders was just turned into a feature film, appropriately called 'Stab'. After a couple of people are murdered during a showing of 'Stab' in a local theater however, Sid and fellow Woodsboro survivor Randy Meeks realize that this isn't some isolated incident, rather the beginning of a slew of copycat killings. Eventually Deputy Dewey hits the college campus to keep Sid safe, and unsurprisingly, Gale Weathers shows up to get the scoop... and to make some headlines by staging an impromptu interview between Sid and Cotton. Despite their issues with one another, they come to the realization that if they hope to survive this time around, they're going to have to work together by staying one step ahead of the copycat killer at all times, and the only way to do that is to learn the rules of a slasher sequel. Unfortunately for them, the rules change for a sequel - which means even more people are going to die than in Woodsboro, and their deaths are going to be much more gruesome than before.
So, back to what I was saying before, about how sequels are usually little more than shameless cash grabs - That really doesn't seem to be the case with Scream 2. Kevin Williamson's writing is just as sharp this time around as it was in the original. His dissection of horror sequel clichés is spot on, the scenes that are supposed to be frightening still induce chills, the characters are still self aware, and yes, even humorously at times, and the kill scenes are more creative (and gruesome) than ever before. A bunch more genre and pop-culture nods are sprinkled throughout such as they were in the first film, but considering the success of Craven and Williamson's first outing together, they were actually able to make quite a few of those nods to Scream itself. For example, Sidney Prescott said in the first flick in the franchise that with her luck, Tori Spelling would end up playing her in a movie. In Scream 2's film within a film, who's playing Sid in Stab? Tori Spelling! We also learn that the role of Dewey was (fictionally) played by none other than Courtney Cox's real life Friends co-star, David Schwimmer. There are other subtle rewards if you really look for them, such as hidden cameos by Rose McGowan and Matthew Lillard. So, really, not only are the characters in Scream 2 self aware, but the sequel itself has become self aware. This is a tricky concept that could have ruined the experience that made the first film so successful, but Craven and Williamson made it work with what seems like ease.
Of course, that's not to say that Scream 2 is without some minor issues. Coincidentally, despite the fact that the 'self aware' shtick is still a concept that works really well, it does take away a little bit of that feeling of originality that the first film had. Scream did a great job at blending reality with mainstream horror, but Scream 2 really feels more like a movie than anything this time around. That oh so important aspect of reality has vanished in favor of making a lot of inside jokes that Scream fans are sure to enjoy. That's all well and good, but in the end, this makes the comical dialogue feel slightly forced. The jokes and winks-and-nods are so cleverly interwoven throughout the script however, that it's pretty forgivable, especially considering this film really ups the ante in the goose bumps department. And besides, I guess this is really just an inevitable side effect to the nature of a sequel. Anyway, there's only two aspects of the film that still leave a sour taste in my mouth after 14 years of repeated viewings - The fact that Craven and Williamson pointed out how black people are usually the first to die in horror flicks, as this really took me out of the realism the franchise had going for it at the start, and the finale. The final moments of Scream 2 just felt really sloppy to me - The person behind the second round of Ghostface killings, the typical Hollywood 'reveal everything I do before I kill you' speech... all of it. But again, the rest of the film is so strong, the journey is more than worth it even if the conclusion isn't.
After all is said and done, Scream 2 is no slouch. Not as a sequel, and not as a horror film. In fact, I'd go as far to say that it's one of the better sequels of the 90's. I know that doesn't say much considering the fact that sequels usually suck, but you're just going to have to take my word for it. I went in to Scream 2 highly skeptical 14 years ago, and came out of the theater with a huge grin on my face. Just like the first Scream, the sequel still holds up very well many years after the fact, and probably will as long as people are willing to watch it. Now, as far as how it fares in comparison to the original? I wouldn't say that Scream 2 is a better film by any means, but it does improve on certain things. The most notable of which being the creepy sequences with Ghostface, as they're even more intense than they were in Woodsboro. Anyway, as I said at the end of my Scream review, I'm sure you don't need me to tell you how to feel about this film at this stage of the game. You've already seen Scream 2 eons ago, right? So, let's get to what you're really here to read about - The technical presentation.
Scream 2 slices and dices its way to Blu-ray with a 1080p, AVC encoded presentation (2.35:1). Now, the first Scream film has been taking a lot of heat on the internet as of late, due to some screenshots being leaked that showed obvious signs of compression issues and edge enhancement. Thankfully, Scream looked a bit better in motion than the screenshots would lead you to believe, leading this reviewer to believe that once again, the 'screenshot scientists' of the world have made a mountain out of a molehill. In short, Scream was far from being top tier high-def material, or even impressive for that matter, but it was still good enough to warrant an upgrade. Well, at least in my opinion. Enough of the recapping though - How does Scream 2 stack up in terms of picture quality?
Yes, there's still some mini-macroblocking due to compression issues, and edge enhancement is still a reoccurring problem. Again, this leads me to believe that the transfer that was used for this release is the same transfer that was intended for the DVD that hit retail shelves over ten years ago. This is unacceptable by any means, and if that turns you off from buying this release, I certainly can't blame you. With that being said, I have to acknowledge that the mini-blocking isn't as big of a problem as it was on the original Scream's Blu-ray. The grain structure is far more subtle this time around, and looks far more natural than the digital noise that was seen throughout most of the first film. Although, the grain structure is so subtle, that I can't help but wonder if some DNR was used to clean things up a bit. But, even if it was, let me clarify what I'm seeing here - Grain is still intact, but it's pretty minimal. There doesn't appear to be any ugly smearing going on, and people don't look like wax figures. Now, I know it's widely believed that the Scream films were shot to be slightly softer to begin with, but I have a hard time buying that. They were shot with 35mm film stock, so there should be much more fine detail and clarity than what I'm able to see in this high-def release. DNR is an ugly term to use no matter how little it was utilized, but I've seen much, much worse. Same can be said about the amount of edge enhancement.
The highlights of this release, at least from a technical standpoint, are the contrast and black levels. These are pretty immaculate from beginning to end, but colors don't appear to be as well saturated as they were the first time around, and skin tones look rather drab.
Based on some of the other reviews that I've read online before having the opportunity to write my own, I was actually expecting a minimal upgrade to Scream 2 over its predecessor. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case. Sure, the mini-blocking isn't as apparent as it was during the first go round, and the picture retains a somewhat more natural film look as a result, but other areas of video performance (color saturation, clarity and detail) actually took a step backwards. After weighing the pros and cons that differ from the original Scream Blu-ray release, the result is pretty much the same, at least on the scoreboard. This is still a worthwhile enough upgrade from the ancient DVD, but videophiles are probably going to want to rent this before making a purchase.
If you decide the video transfer isn't worthy enough for an upgrade in your collection, than the audio most certainly is. Based on the fact that the video is seemingly taken from an old transfer, I was expecting the lossless track to sound like a top-tier DVD, rather than something that's actually worthy of utilizing a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix. This mix is slightly less underwhelming than the mix available on Scream, but the difference I'm speaking of is minimal. This is still a fairly immersive experience with well positioned sound effects and surprising amounts of LFE at all the right moments. The lossless track on this release was really handled with care, and is sure to make Scream 2 seem more chilling in your home theater than it has in years!
Audio Commentary by Director Wes Craven, Producer Marianne Maddalena, and Editor Patrick Lussier - Without Williamson accompanying Craven behind the mic, this commentary track focuses more on all of the nitty gritty details about filmmaking and anything else that goes on behind the scenes, as opposed to a fun, generalized overview of what it was like to culminate ideas and transform them into the final product. This isn't a boring commentary as a result, and it's certainly very informative, but it can get a little too technical for some people.
Deleted Scenes with Optional Audio Commentary by Director Wes Craven, Producer Marianne Maddalena, and Editor Patrick Lussier - The subject material at hand in these deleted scenes are interesting in and of themselves, but only would have served to slow the movie down if they were left on the final reels.
Featurette - Much like the featurette on the Scream Blu-ray, this is more of an advertising piece than anything. Cast and crew sit down to discuss what happened in the transition from Scream to Scream 2 in multiple respects, but these interviews really don't offer any real behind-the-scenes insight.
Outtakes - They almost could have called this the gag or blooper reel, because there's a lot of funny moments that show the cast and crew breaking down in gut-busting laughter as a result of filming some of the film's more intense scenes. Definitely recommended!
Also included are the Music Videos for Master P's "Scream", and the Kottonmouth Kings "Suburban Life", as well as the Theatrical Trailer and TV Spots. The Cast and Crew Bios have been excluded from this release, however.
Scream 2 may not be a better film than its predecessor, but it's still certainly one of the better sequels to come out of the 90's. Much like the characters themselves, Craven and Williamson have made the movie self aware, really allowing the creative minds behind the camera to really have fun with satirizing horror sequels. As an inevitable side effect to being a sequel however, Scream 2 takes us out of the fantasy of reality, if that makes any sense, but the script and acting are still solid enough to keep the film going without so much as a misstep. Finally available in high-def, the video presentation on this disc is far from being a top-tier catalogue title, but is still quite a bit better than the DVD that preceded it over a decade ago. The supplemental package is also rather disappointing, but the lossless audio track that's available is phenomenal. Due to the film itself, the minimal upgrade in video quality, and the huge leap forward in the audio department, Scream 2 only earns itself a recommended rating. However, videophiles out there that won't accept anything less than the best may want to rent this before deciding on a purchase.