'Scream 2' opens with a very well-done and understated commentary on movie violence — the ways in which it seems glorified and celebrated to the amusement of a desensitized audience. Despite knowing a movie is based on true events, people flock to theaters with hungry eyes, craving to see how it all happened in gruesome detail. There's something about fictionalizing real-life horrors that somehow distances us for the actual loss of human life, and to a deeper extent, the certainty of death. When faced with a tangible murder, our shock comes not from it happening before our eyes, but from the difficulty in distinguishing reality from a staged prank or a movie.
The entire sequence really shows Wes Craven's skill behind the camera when offered some meaty material, something with a bigger bite than a standard horror flick or a vampire in Brooklyn. But immediately following that scene, the popular director, working from another script by Kevin Williamson, reveals other concerns when discussing the issues of movie violence. A college film class, which features the faces of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Joshua Jackson, Timothy Olyphant as Mickey and Jamie Kennedy returning as the movie geek, argues over a possible correlation between real-life violence and the stuff we only see in the movies. The bigger theme in this follow-up to 1996's slasher hit is whether or not society is influenced by the brutalities depicted on the silver screen.
Ask me, and the answer is an unequivocal NO! Unless directly urged or pressured to commit a wrong, people are solely responsible for their individual actions. But try explaining the reasoning behind that logic to the students of Windsor College as they're being offed by another "Ghostface" maniac, who appears to be a mere copy-cat killer. Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courtney Cox reprise their roles as targets of the lunatic. We see them in several talks on the "art imitating life" or "life imitating art" debate. Almost like a pseudo-Scooby gang, they're first to realize the masked killer is using Gale Weathers' book and the movie "Stab" as his/her guide for the murder spree. (Speaking of Scooby-Doo, the ending is a near unintentional rip-off of the cartoon.)
Much like its predecessor, 'Scream 2' isn't shy about throwing several jabs at the genre — even hurling itself into the mix — and churns out a surprisingly entertaining exercise of horror conventions. The movie starts off with another homage to Hitchcock's 'Psycho,' upping the ante with two popular actresses in Jada Pinkett Smith and Heather Graham, and ends with a revenge thriller in the vein of Sean Cunningham's 'Friday the 13th.' The plot also addresses the issue of how African-Americans are depicted in the genre with comments by Smith, Omar Epps and Duane Martin. Jerry O'Connell, Laurie Metcalf, and Liev Schreiber join the cast to fill in the usual list of possible suspects, but function best as distractions to the story's shocking revelation at the end.
Early on, Kennedy's Randy claims sequels are by definition inferior to the original. He has a point. Sequels tend to either suck (look no further than 'Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2') or be simple carbon-copy cash-ins of the first. (Oh! and one thing Randy. 'Silence of the Lambs,' 'Evil Dead 2,' 'The Devil's Rejects,' 'Blade II,' 'Bride of Frankenstein,' 'Dawn of the Dead.' All equal if not better than the original.) But as Wes Craven proves with this particular slasher flick, Randy's assertion is not a fixed, clear-cut rule by which to judge. Covering similar ground as part one, 'Scream 2' is a surprisingly good and entertaining follow-up, one which now joins the list above as sequels which are just as accomplished and satisfying as its predecessor.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Lionsgate Films Home Entertainment brings Wes Craven's 'Scream 2' to Blu-ray on a Region A locked, BD25 and housed in a blue eco-case. The disc commences with a theatrical preview for the upcoming 'Scre4m' film and followed by a trailer for the 'Saw' series and a promo for Lionsgate Films. Afterwards, viewers are greeted by a standard menu selection while music and full-motion clips play in the background.
'Scream 2' arrives in pretty much the same condition as its predecessor, meaning the studio should have remastered the horror series before releasing onto the high-def format.
Sure, contrast is well-balanced and bright, giving the picture an attractive cinematic pop, but there are also many scenes showing distracting noise and slightly poor resolution. Fine object and textural details are fairly stable, with some great clarity and strong definition, especially in close-ups, but this is equaled with several instances of softness and a bit of mushiness in trees from a distance. The biggest culprit is the same which plagued the first movie — edge enhancement that ranges from very minor to annoyingly obvious.
The best aspecst of the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.35:1) are the strong, deep black levels, providing the image with some appreciable depth. Shadow details are unmistakable and never engulfed by the darker portions. Primaries are bold and vibrant while the rest of the palette remains cleanly rendered. Still, the horror sequel comes with a meager and disappointing transfer, and it's in desperate need of a new master from the original negatives.
The slasher flick also comes screaming to Blu-ray with a generally loud DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The first movie was fairly loud as well, but at least, it played nice and didn't overwhelm the room. This track actually sounds like someone cranked the volume in the surrounds, especially towards the end while everyone's fighting on stage. Granted, horror features are supposed to jump a couple decibels for shock and fright, but this is exaggerated and not at all balanced with the front speakers.
During most of the movie's runtime, atmospherics in the rear are very subtle and satisfying, creating a strong and convincing environ. The musical score and song selections spread into the background, enhancing the soundfield nicely. The lossless mix exhibits sharp dynamics, excellent clarity detail and fine channel separation. Low-frequency effects are sturdy and effective during the film's more intense sequences. And dialogue reproduction is well-prioritized and clear throughout, making this a very good audio presentation, despite being a bit too loud in certain areas.
Nothing new here. Lionsgate carries over the same set of bonus features as the Miramax DVD.
Wes Craven's 'Scream 2' is a surprisingly good and cleverly entertaining follow-up to the 1996 box-office smash. With principal actors reprising their roles, the movie covers much of the same ground as its predecessor and still manages to surprise while reflecting on the conventions of horror sequels. The picture quality of the Blu-ray unfortunately is far from good and in need of remaster, minus the noise and sharpening tools. The audio presentation, on the other hand, is better, and supplements are carried over from the previous DVD release. Overall, fans might want to wait for the inevitable double-dip collection with the upcoming 'Scre4m' movie. As it is, it's best to stick with a rental.