Saturday, 9 April 2011

Scream 2

The first feature length sequel was a flop. The Fall of a Nation 1916 followed the notoriously racist The Birth of a Nation 1915. The studio involved (with the former) went bust five years later having made the one film1. The first American horror sequel is Bride of Frankenstein 1935. It was a commercial success. Blogger Ricky Sprague says it’s better than the original. He’s not the only one2.

Business is synonym for profit and sequels are good business. In horror’s golden 30s two of Universal’s monsters – Frankenstein and Dracula – headlined five movies. In the renaissance 80s Freddy, Jason and Michael Myers headlined 17. In this 21st century boom there have been 7 Saw movies.

Sequels are not good for creativity.
These films suck
There are sequels on a creative par with their originals (The Godfather Part 2 1974, Aliens 1986, Terminator 2 1991) but the exception is not the rule. Likewise while there are examples that outperform their predecessors3 the projected gross of a sequel is 75% of the original. Its simple arithmetic: Scream 1996 amassed a worldwide box office of $173million4 ($243m adjusted for inflation). The business demanded a sequel.

The Star Wars trilogies are a perfect example of sequels. There’s a three year interval between each film and there’s a reason for this: screenwriting guru Syd Fields5 suggests a spec script be written over a 12-18 month period. The average Hollywood movie has a 13 week shoot6. Post production including editing can take up to a year for soft deadlines. Thus from first draft to final cut the incubation of a motion picture is about 2½ -3 years. A shorter length is to the detriment of the film. The audience pays for it.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge 1985 hit theatres 357 days after the original. Despite its betrayal of the mythology created by Wes Craven in his 1984 landmark I have sympathy for both writer and director for attempting to further the story in a new direction. However the mistakes and missteps are glaring. I believe given time to develop the script they would have made a great movie. Nevertheless it is hated by the Elm Street fan base.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 box office receipts equated to 113%7 (adjusted for inflation) to that of the original.

Scream 2 1997 was released 357 days after Scream.
The Drew Barrymore curtain raiser is the most famous sequence in Scream (and subsequently the franchise). In their attempt to duplicate it Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven were establishing a tradition – much like the James Bond openings and to a lesser extent the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.

The Barrymore sequence is a carbon copy of the opening scenes of When a Stranger Calls 1979. In Scream 2 the Stab curtain raiser is lifted from the dénouement of Popcorn 1991. In 1996 the Scream audience – myself included – weren’t aware of When a Stranger Calls but neither were the critics8.  In 1997 the Scream 2 audience weren’t – and still aren’t – aware of Popcorn. A pilfered opening can be defended as an in-joke. It can’t be defended twice.

The opening does not work. Where Scream had Drew Barrymore Scream 2 had Jada Pinkett. She is not a star now and she wasn’t a star then. Like Kate Capshaw she is best known as a wife. Her acting was stiff and she had zero chemistry with her co-star. Omar Epps is a proven talent but neither he nor Wes Craven could coax an appropriate performance from Jada. Pinkett is a worthy actress9 but in this role she was miscast. Vulnerable is not her forte.
Black Power
Jada was not the only cast member rendered awkward. Neve Campbell was only 24 when Scream 2 was made yet she looked older than her similarly aged co-stars. Perhaps it was that ill judged hair-do. College freshmen don’t go for the politician’s wife look. As for Jerry O’Connell he beggars belief as Sidney’s boyfriend. The Topgun 1986 ‘parody’ could only be written by a gay man or a Hindi. It’s still cringe inducing 14 years after.

Sarah Michelle Gellar is horror royalty and a Final Girl10 but her casting looks like star padding. The Drew Barrymore scenes signalled anyone could die in Scream. Sarah Michelle’s extended cameo is Barrymore redux. This was the signal the franchise had run out of invention. Gellar and Jada should have switched roles.

The cumulative effect is a cast that do not display the chemistry and familiarity that the originals did. It’s only when the Scream survivors interact that the film comes alive. When Jamie Kennedy’s character dies the emotional investment dies with him.
money in the blood bank: Scream 2 queens (l-r) Heather Graham, Neve Campbell, Jada Pinkett, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Tori Spelling
The plot for Scream 2 is ghostface stalks Sidney Prescott and will kill everyone including her friends who get in the way of his slashing her. It’s the same plot as the original. The difference is in Scream the convoluted execution is forgiven due to the wit of the script. It’s a movie where the horror/action set pieces are a vehicle to connect the dramatic scenes of genre deconstruction amidst comedy. No one cares who the killer is.

Scream 2 makes a brave attempt under constrained circumstances. The film class scene is amongst the best written in the franchise. The Laurie Metcalf character is a good addition. The subplot of fame seeking is astute if underdeveloped. Therein lies the problem; not enough time to develop the script; not enough time in casting; not enough time for a sequel.

Scream 2 grossed a North American $101million11 ($138m adjusted); 96% of the originals domestic tally.

Sequels are not good for creativity but the business demanded another one.

Read more Thrill Fiction: Scream 3
1 The Fall of a Nation Wikipedia
2 Bride of Frankenstein Rotten Tomatoes
3 Sequels outperform originals Wikipedia
4 Scream box office The Numbers
6 13 week shoot EHow
7 A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 Box Office Mojo
8 Scream 2 Metacritic
9 Jada Pinkett-Smith Wikipedia
11 Scream 2 Box OfficeMojo
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