Scream 2: Away at college, Sidney Prescott (Campbell) thought she’d finally put the shocking murders that shattered her life behind her…until a copycat killer begins acting out a real-life sequel. Now, as history repeats itself, ambitious reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), deputy Dewey (David Arquette) and other Scream survivors find themselves trapped in a terrifyingly clever plotline where no one is safe – or beyond suspicion – in this “delicious, diabolical and fun” (Rolling Stone) sequel.
Scream 3: While Sidney Prescott (Campbell) lives in safely guarded seclusion, bodies begin dropping around the Hollywood set of "Stab 3," the latest movie based on the gruesome Woodsboro killings. The escalating terror finally brings Sidney out of hiding, drawing her and the other survivors once again into an insidious game of horror movie mayhem that’s a “suspenseful, clever and very entertaining” (NBC-TV) installment in the wildly popular Scream franchise.
With the smash hit Scream, novice screenwriter Kevin Williamson and veteran horror director Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street) revived the moldering corpse of the teen horror picture, both creatively and commercially, by playfully acknowledging the exhausted clichés and then turning them inside out. Scream is a postmodern slasher movie, a horror film that cleverly deconstructs horror films, then reassembles the dead tissue, and (like Frankenstein's monster) creates new life. When a serial killer starts hacking up their fellow teens, the media-savvy youngsters of Scream realize that the smartest way of sticking around for the sequel is to avoid the terminal behaviors that inevitably doom supporting players in the movies. They've seen all the movies, and the rules of the genre are like second nature to them. One of the scariest/funniest setups features a kid watching John Carpenter's seminal Halloween on video. As Jamie Lee Curtis is shadowed by Michael Meyers and the kid on the couch yells at her to turn around, Craven reverses his camera and we see that the kid should be taking his own advice. The fresh-faced young cast (including Drew Barrymore, Neve Campbell, Skeet Ulrich, Courtney Cox, and David Arquette) is fun to watch, and their tart dialogue is sprinkled with enough archly self-conscious pop-culture references to make Quentin Tarantino blush. --Jim Emerson
Fully aware of its status as the sequel to the surprise hit thriller of 1996, this lively follow-up trades freshness for familiarity, playing on our affection for returning characters while obeying--and then subverting--the "rules" of sequels. Once again, movie references are cleverly employed to draw us into the story, which takes place two years after the events of Scream, at a small Ohio college, where the Scream survivors reunite when another series of mysterious killings begins. Capitalizing on the guesswork involving a host of potential suspects, director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson have crafted a thriller that's more of a Scream clone than a genuinely inventive new story. But the shocks are just as effective, and escalating tension leads to a tautly staged climax that's simultaneously logical and giddily over the top. Background information for trivia buffs: to preserve the secrecy of plot twists, copies of the screenplay were heavily guarded during production and restricted to only the most crucial personnel. When an early draft was circulated on the Internet, screenwriter Kevin Williamson did rewrites, and subsequent drafts were printed with red ink on brown paper, eliminating the threat of photocopying. None of the cast members knew who the killer was until the final scenes were filmed! -- Jeff Shannon
When Randy the video geek rattles off the rules of surviving a horror movie in Wes Craven's Scream, he speaks for a generation of filmgoers who are all too aware of slasher movie clichés. Playfully scripted by Kevin Williamson with a self-aware wink and more than a few nods to its grandfathers (from Psycho to Halloween to the Friday the 13th dynasty), Scream skewers teen horror conventions with loving reverence while re-creating them in a modern, movie-savvy context. And so goes the series, which continues the satirical spoofing by tackling (what else?) sequels while sustaining its own self-contained mythology. Catty reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) turns grisly murders into lurid bestsellers, a cult of killer wannabes continues to hunt spunky psycho-survivor Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) for their 15 minutes of fame, and a cheesy movie series (Stab) develops within the movie series.
Scream remains the high point of the series--a fresh take on a genre long since collapsed into routine, but Scream 2 spoofs itself with witty humor ("Why would anyone want to do that? Sequels suck!" opines college film student Randy), and delights with more elaborate set pieces and all-new rules for surviving a horror movie sequel. The endangered veterans of the original film reunite one last time for Scream 3, which plays out on the movie set of Stab 3. (It's a trilogy within a trilogy!) With Williamson gone, replacement screenwriter Ehran Kruger tries to mine the formula one more time. It's a little tired by now, and pale imitations (Urban Legend, I Know What You Did Last Summer) have further drained the zeitgeist, but the film bubbles with bright humor, and director Craven is stylistically at the top of his game. As a trilogy, it remains both the most consistently entertaining and self-aware horror series ever made. --Sean Axmaker
Still Scary: The Ultimate Scary Movie Retrospective / Scream: The Inside Story
As most horror devotees already know, the Scream franchise was fraught with production troubles from its inception through its fourth and apparently final entry, and the two documentaries included on the fourth disc of the Scream collector's set (both of which are feature length, which explains the confusion over the set's "5 Film" label) represent the first attempt to bring together a cohesive portrait of the series' behind-the-scenes history. Both Still Scary: The Ultimate Scary Movie Retrospective, by ShockTilYouDrop.com editor Ryan Turek, and Scream: The Inside Story, which was produced for the Biography Channel by much of the same creative team behind the epic Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, cover the same ground, which is director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson's struggles with the MPAA, producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein, and a myriad of other outside forces throughout the series through interviews with many of the production principals, most notably stars Neve Campbell, David Arquette, and Jamie Kennedy (Williamson and Courteney Cox are conspicuously absent from both projects). Still Scary offers the more comprehensive presentation, thanks largely to its inclusion of such less well-known players as Scream 3 scribe Ehren Kruger, who capably defends his much-maligned script, and offers welcome touches of visual and editorial style in its "quick cuts" segments, which present tidbits of info that, while not entirely germane to the documentary's main thrust, provide the sort of detail that dedicated fans of the series will love. The Inside Story delves deeply into pre-production issues, from Craven's reluctance to helm the series to the battle over Ghost Face's iconic mask and costume. In-depth discussions of the characters through dialogue readings by the original cast and screen tests, as well as split-screen comparisons between the original NC-17 edit and the R-rated theatrical cut, are equally invaluable. Though some viewers may argue with the documentaries' conceit that the Scream franchise reinvented the horror genre--reinvigorated is a more accurate description--the wealth of information presented in both films sets the bar for future horror documentaries. --Paul Gaita