SCREAM 2 (1997)

Synopsis:  A sneak preview is held of Stab, a film based upon the book “The Woodsboro Murders” by TV journalist Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox). Among those attending are Phil Stevens (Omar Epps) and Maureen Evans (Jada Pinkett), although the latter is reluctant due to her dislike of horror movies; a feeling not abated by the discovery that the film is being promoted by the handing out of “Ghostface” masks, robes and glow-in-the-dark plastic knives. Maureen goes for popcorn and on the way back is startled by Phil, who has donned his mask. The unimpressed Maureen returns to the auditorium, while Phil goes to the men’s room. Entering a cubicle, Phil is puzzled and amused to hear muttering from the next stall. He leans closer, trying to make it out, and a knife plunges through the wall…. Shortly afterwards, Maureen takes little notice as a masked figure slides into the seat beside her – until, after clutching its arm, she finds blood on her hands. The figure draws a knife and stabs Maureen repeatedly, and she staggers towards the screen before collapsing in a bloody heap. No-one in the excited audience takes any notice…. At nearby Windsor College, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is tormented by crank callers as the opening of Stab draws near. Sidney’s roommate, Hallie McDaniel (Elise Neal), turns on the TV just in time for Sidney to be confronted by the sight of Cotton Weary (Liev Schrieber) being interviewed. Moments later, another dorm-mate breaks the news of the murders. Sidney goes looking for her friend and fellow Woodsboro survivor, Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy), and is immediately set upon by a pack of reporters. She evades them, and heads for Randy’s film theory class, which is debating the influence of entertainment upon real-life violence, and the natural inferiority of sequels. Randy meets Sidney outside, and insists that the murders are just a coincidence. Sidney accuses him of being in denial. More reporters arrive, including Gale Weathers. Gale is bailed up by admiring local newshound Debbie Salt (Laurie Metcalf), but brushes aside the woman’s fulsome compliments, and proceeds to dominate completely the news conference called by Chief Hartley (Lewis Arquette). As Randy goes to take a closer look at the conference, Sidney suddenly spots Dwight “Dewey” Riley (David Arquette). Limping towards her, Dewey tells Sidney that he’s come to look after her. Shortly afterwards, Gale corners Sidney and forces her into an on-camera meeting with Cotton Weary. Sidney lashes out in anger, while Cotton abuses Gale for misleading him about Sidney’s willingness to co-operate – and for not getting him his promised airtime. Gale is startled when she suddenly runs into Dewey, who speaks bitterly of her depiction of him in her book. That night, while doing solitary “designated driver” duty at her sorority house, CiCi Cooper (Sarah Michelle Gellar) receives a frightening phonecall – and then discovers that she is not alone after all…. The news of another murder swiftly breaks up a college mixer. Sidney’s new boyfriend, Derek Feldman (Jerry O’Connell), offers to take her home, but when she goes back into the house to get her jacket, she is attacked by a masked, robed figure. Derek rushes to her rescue, and chases the killer through the house. Dewey arrives moments later. He finds Derek with his arm slashed open, but there is no sign of the killer. At the police station, Gale learns that CiCi’s real first name was Casey. Putting together the names of the three victims – Maureen Evans, Phil Stevens and Casey Cooper – Gale makes the horrifying discovery that someone is trying to re-enact the Woodsboro murders….

Comments:  Call me a rebel – call me an iconoclast – or call me an idiot, whichever you prefer – but the fact is, this is one instance, Randy Meeks notwithstanding, where I much prefer the sequel to the original. Of course, this hardly constitutes praise of any great magnitude. Considering how thoroughly underwhelmed I was by Scream, it’s rather like saying, “Gee, I’m so glad I contracted smallpox instead of the Ebola virus.” I was left to wonder just how much the pre-conceptions I had of these two films had to do with my reactions to them. I went into Scream with very high hopes, having heard little but praise of it, and came away bitterly disappointed; whereas I expected nothing at all from Scream 2, and found myself – for about two-thirds of its running-time, anyway – thoroughly entertained by it. This double inversion of expectation led me, in turn, to take another look at Scream, to see whether I had misjudged it in the first place. Consequently, this review is going to be almost as much about Scream as it is about Scream 2; and it might save time for all of us if you hopped on over to my review of the former, just so that we’re all on the same page when I start my blatherings. Go on, off you go. Won’t take you that long. In the meantime, I’ll just wait right here….do a bit of writing….play a game of Freecell….maybe even answer some e-mail! (Pah! Who’m I kidding? That’s not going to happen.)

[Insert soothing musical interlude]

You back? Good. Narky when I wrote that, wasn’t I? I suppose that’s not too surprising since, as I recall, it came out of the very first flush of my disappointment with Scream. Anyway, as I mentioned, I was inspired by circumstances to take a second look at the film; and having done so, I admit to being more impressed by certain aspects of it than I was on my initial viewing; probably, ironically, because Scream 2 had made me more sensitive to them. Yet I didn’t like the film any more than I did before (it doesn’t help that a second viewing negates the – alleged – whodunit aspects of the story that string the audience along the first time); so I did what I usually do in such a situation: I read numerous other reviews of the film, positive reviews, to see what those people were seeing that I was missing – and vice versa.

The praise of Scream seems to resolve itself into four or five main lines of argument. I will deal with two of them – Scream as “comedy”, and Scream as “scary movie” – only briefly, since they are more a matter of taste than opinion. My feelings on these two heads have not altered at all. It utterly mystifies me what some people find so funny about Scream. Oh, sure, it raises a few smiles with its movie references, but it certainly isn’t hilarious. Nor is it particularly “scary”. (By the way – does any one out there actually use, or know anyone who uses, that inane little phrase, “scary movie”? Because I sure don’t.) It does have a few scenes that are intense and disturbing, particularly the opening sequence, and it occasionally makes me jump – no great achievement, considering my status as unrepentant caffeine addict – but I am never at any stage frightened by it; by which I mean, it never induces that weird, prickly feeling that runs down my spine and then around my body, and makes me overly conscious of my own breathing. (Trust me, it’s freaky.) But anyway, like I said, that’s all a matter of opinion. What isn’t, however, is the following, which appeared in so many reviews that I can only assume that the people responsible for distributing the promotional material for the film did a bang-up job: Scream is “a witty spoof in which teenagers use their knowledge of horror films to outwit a killer”. I’ve dealt with the first half of that statement already; as for the second half – excuse me? There’s a strange kind of myth extant that the characters in Scream are all movie-obsessed, when actually the reverse is true. Sure, they’ve watched a bunch of movies, but their knowledge is the most facile kind. Consider the “Halloween” sequence. Not only is Stu watching in expectation of seeing Jamie Lee Curtis’s breasts, the rest of them don’t even understand the long-term health benefits of virginity! (One thing that a second viewing of Scream did do was make me realise that when Randy, oblivious to the presence of the killer, calls out his warnings to “Jamie”, he is, of course, talking to himself as well as to Jamie Lee.) And let’s not forget that Scream opens with Casey Becker’s famously fatal blunder, insisting that Jason Voorhees was the killer in Friday The 13th. The only two characters who have retained more than the usual amount of trivial misinformation are Randy and the killer (assuming for the moment that they’re not one and the same – mwoo-ha-ha!) and Sidney herself, who for someone who insists she doesn’t “watch that shit”, sure seems to know a lot about horror movies. (I assume she’s been doing the “good girlfriend” routine, and subjugating her own tastes for the benefit of her boyfriend.) We certainly do hear a lot about “the rules” in the course of Scream, but I’d defy you to point out a scene where anyone “uses their knowledge” to “outwit a killer”, whatever the advertising department tried to tell us. Oh, and just for the record – three characters say, “I’ll be right back” in the course of Scream. One of them dies; two of them survive. You tell me.

Thinking about all this, I can’t help but wonder whether my lack of enthusiasm for Scream is rooted in the fact that its supposed “satire” seems like normality to me. Considering the amount of time I and my friends spend thinking and talking genre movies, whether verbally, online, or in written form, why would I find its use of movie references as simile either inordinately clever or inordinately funny? Particularly since those references are so obvious; way too obvious to get a reaction out of someone in the happy position of having friends who make jokes with punchlines that require in the listener a working knowledge of the career of Cuneyt Arkin.

(Or perhaps the truth is that I’m simply jealous. After all, I crap on like the characters in this film all the time, and no-one’s ever called me a brilliant piece of satirical comedy, still less a postmodernist masterpiece.)

Ah, yes: postmodern. That’s the other expression that cropped up again and again throughout the reviews of Scream – and it’s also the word that, as you may or may not be relieved to hear, will finally bring me back to the long-lost point of Scream 2. “Postmodern”…. It’s one of those words, isn’t it? Those words that people use, without ever making it quite clear what they actually mean by them – or perhaps without truly knowing what they mean by them. Pretentious is another one, and one that really gets my hackles up. If I had a dollar for every time I’m heard someone dismiss a film they didn’t like – or, more frequently, didn’t understand – as pretentious, without providing the slightest hint of an explanation, I could afford to own the complete works of Cuneyt Arkin. (Such behaviour is nothing new. Consider the scene in “Sense And Sensibility” in which a minor character tries to express her dislike of the two elder Miss Dashwoods: “She fancied them satirical: perhaps without exactly knowing what it was to be satirical; but that did not signify. It was censure in common use, and easily given.”) In any case, I can attest that few reviewers of Scream bothered to explain themselves when they praised it for its postmodernity. To avoid falling into the same trap – and because I am finally, if very slowly, circling around to why I prefer Scream 2 to Scream – I will explain here (or try to!) what I believe the word to mean in this context. Scream is “postmodern” in its inter-weaving not just of “life” and “art”, but also the representations of both; and in turn, and perhaps more importantly, in the subsequent influence of those very representations upon life and art. (Phew! I’m beginning to understand why most people don’t try!) There is, if you like, a triple confusion of perspective, one best represented by the fact that within the “real” murders that occur in Scream – “real”, that is, within the context of a movie – there is one “fake” murder; a murder staged following the methods employed by the makers of another movie with which the characters in this movie are familiar, in which the “fake” blood was intended to look “real”. The boundaries between the external and internal events of the motion picture world have been lost; as indeed have those between the reality of life and the reality of the representation of life – that is, life as we see it depicted on film. (“This isn’t a movie!” Sidney protests to her potential killer. “It’s all a movie,” responds the killer. “It’s all one great big movie.”) “If they’d just watch Prom Night, they’d save a lot of time,” comments movie geek Randy, and in one sense he’s right: the killings in Scream are being committed according to “the rules” of the slasher film. (Up to a point: one of my main problems with Scream is that it junks not just the killer’s rules, but its own rules, whenever it writes itself into a corner.) Randy himself is the very centre of Scream’s supreme depiction of its thesis: he watches Halloween, oblivious to the fact that the killer is stalking him; while outside in the broadcast van, Sidney and the cameraman Kennie watch the stalking of Randy on a remote TV, images courtesy of a small camera that Gale Weathers has planted inside the house. As Michael Myers raises a knife to attack Laurie Strode, Scream’s killer raises a knife to attack Randy Meeks – and we watch as Kennie and Sidney watch the killer watching Randy as he watches Michael watching Laurie. “Behind you!!” shout the various participants in near chorus – Randy with no less fervour than Kennie and Sidney. Life and art have become the same thing.

With this blurring of the boundaries, the participation of Gale becomes not just important, but critical to the story: we witness the very process by which “truth” mutates into “accepted truth”. Gale is there initially as a reporter; she steps into the story she is reporting when she sees an opportunity to boost the sales of her book about the murder of Maureen Prescott – a book that consists of an interpretation of events that conflicts with the “accepted” version of events. The film’s climax sees Gale making the story that, only minutes later, she will herself be reporting. And by the time that Scream 2 rolls around, Gale will have turned her reports into another book, and that book will have been turned into a movie. “The truth” – what we saw happen in Scream – undergoes no less than three separate rounds of re-representation.

In terms of intertextualism and self-reflexiveness, Scream 2 has it all over its predecessor – although, granted, it does possess the grossly unfair advantage of having Scream itself as its major point of reference. Scream is clever, but only in fits and starts; the rest of the time, it just thinks it’s clever. Scream 2, on the other hand, maintains its satirical edge for a good two-thirds of its running-time – and its commentary is much more pointed, and much more far-reaching, than that of its fairly insular predecessor. The portion of Scream 2 that deals with the events surrounding the premiere of Stab is both intelligent and funny – and to a quite unexpected extent. There is a degree of sophistication in the humour here that highlights just how obvious the movie referencing in Scream really is. Scream 2’s privileged position as sequel allows it to comment simultaneously upon the events of the first film in real world and reel world terms. We see two of the scenes from Scream that have been recreated in Stab during the course of Scream 2, both of them – presumably deliberately, although perhaps I’m giving Craven and Williamson too much credit here – scenes that could not possibly have been recreated, one because there were no survivors to describe what happened, the other because you can hardly imagine Sidney Prescott whispering the intimate details of her relationship with Billy Loomis into Gale Weathers’ shell-like ear. But the viewers of Scream 2 know what happened, and that’s what counts. The re-staging of Scream’s justly famous opening sequence is a razor-sharp satire upon the movie business – and upon the making and marketing of exploitation films in particular. Assuming, and rightly, no doubt, that the audience for this film (uh, Scream 2, that is, not Stab – see how confusing this gets?) is shot-for-shot familiar with Scream, Craven and Williamson proceed to play games with its expectations. (Before the film – Stab, that is! – starts, there is a moment to warm the heart of any genre fan of my age and tastes: a model masked killer is floated on wires over the gathered crowd, á la William Castle’s House On Haunted Hill.) The camera pans down over the Becker house; it’s familiar, but not really: it seems to have too many windows; and was that pool there before? We meet the faux-Casey Becker a moment later, and in place of the long pants and long-sleeved top that our Casey wore, this Casey is clad only in a skimpy robe – which she sheds, to the howling appreciation of the predominantly male preview audience, prior to taking a shower. (Cue “Psycho reference” shower-head shot.) Down in the crowd, Maureen Evans is suitably disgusted. “What has that got to do with the plot, her being bare-ass naked?” she demands in exasperation; her boyfriend’s broad dopey grin is all the answer that anyone requires to a question that need hardly have been asked. Casey’s shower is improbably situated directly beside a big, clear glass window, and as she turns away to answer the film’s opening phonecall – re-donning her robe, to the disappointment of the Rialto audience – we see Ghostface outside that window, illuminated by a flash of lightning – because inevitably, all of this is taking place in the middle of a violent thunderstorm. And finally, the icing on this richly textured cake comes with a brief shot inside faux-Casey’s kitchen, which reveals that the product placement people from Jiffy Pop had enough marketing savvy to do a deal with the producers of Stab. I bet their sales just soared.

(And there’s more going on here than just pot-shots at the movie industry. Scream was, after all, roundly abused by many slasher movie fans for denying them what more than two decades of video watching had led them to expect, what they considered their right: what Randy, re: Halloween, referred to as “the obligatory tit shot”. Clearly, the makers of Stab had no intention of making the same “mistake”; although of course, while Stab’s audience got its jollies, the audience of Scream 2 was again denied.)

But it is not only we, in the external audience, who are able to judge the accuracy, or lack thereof, of Stab. So can the internal audience, those people whose lives are being depicted on the big screen. A further clip from Stab shown later in Scream 2 demonstrates that Sidney’s gloomy prognostication from Scream has come true: she is indeed being played by Tori Spelling (who is, we hear, getting “rave reviews” for her performance, which seems unlikely however you look at it). Dewey Riley, in turn, is played by David Schwimmer (someone’s being insulted there, I’m just not sure who), while to poor Randy’s indignation, he got “Joe Nobody” from “one episode of Dr Quinn”. The cream of the Stab jest, however, is the casting coups not overtly acknowledged. The opening sequence features Heather Graham in a bob-wig, not merely playing Casey Becker, but rather playing an actress playing Drew Barrymore playing Casey Becker. Best of all, though, is the brief glimpse we are given of Stab’s depiction of Billy Loomis: Luke Wilson’s dead-on take-off of Skeet Ulrich’s own third-rate Johnny Depp routine is, you should pardon the expression, a killer. As to how all this works as a film--- Well, as usual, Randy gets the last word: “I’ll wait for the video.”

The recreation of Scream in Scream 2 is a wonderfully funny bit of sleight-of-hand, but there is a serious point lurking behind this comic façade; and this is one of the reasons that I prefer the sequel to the original. When all is said and done, Scream itself is a very limited film; like its killer, it exists only by copying the work of others. Scream 2 operates from a much broader and more varied palette, as the multiple representations of the events of Scream makes clear; the focus has shifted from the effects of copying art to the effects of creating art. During an interview, Tori Spelling assures us that she prepared for her starring role as Sidney Prescott by “reading the book”. This is Gale Weathers’ book, of course; and the degree of accuracy within her account of “The Woodsboro Murders” has already been made quite clear to the viewer of Scream 2. Confronted by an understandably nervous young replacement cameraman, Gale reassures him that his predecessor “wasn’t gutted; I made that up.” Want to bet which version of events made it into Stab? – and which version the public ends up believing? “It’s just a movie!” protests a teenage girl to her hesitant friend in the lobby of the Rialto Theatre. “No, it isn’t,” returns the other. “It’s based on a true story. All these kids really did get killed a couple of years ago in California.” They are both right, and they are both wrong. Stab is neither truth nor fiction, but a strange new entity with a life and a power of its own. It’s true, I saw it in a movie. The question that Scream 2 raises, intentionally or otherwise, is whether, given the extraordinary ability of the cinema to impose its version of history upon society, film-makers have any obligation to tell the truth? And what role does the media itself play in all this?

Instead of making horror movies its only frame of reference, as does Scream, Scream 2 depicts a society well-versed in all aspects of popular culture. Maureen Evans wants to go, not to Stab, but to the new Sandra Bullock film; her boyfriend insists on the horror film, until it is made clear to him that a chick flick is more likely to get him a little action. “Let’s go see Sandra!” (A lesson to the anti-chick-flickers: they might make you nauseous, but they rarely get you killed….unless, of course, you’re driven to cut your own throat….) A day later, potential victim CiCi Cooper discusses the [*cough*] complexities of Dawson’s Creek over the phone, all the time flicking through the channels of her TV set, which finally settles upon Nosferatu; while an aggrieved Gale explains that those nude photos of her on the internet are really her head pasted onto “Jennifer Aniston’s body!” More pertinently, while only Gale represented the media itself in Scream, by Scream 2 “the media”, ad infinitum, has become almost a character in its own right. Wherever the characters go, a swarm of reporters follows; Gale herself is targeted as much as Sidney, even having microphones shoved in her face while she is attempting to interview someone else. Object has become subject. Cotton Weary, falsely accused murderer of Maureen Prescott, reappears in Scream 2, trying to construct himself a life as professional media darling. Essentially, despite Gale’s book and Stab, Cotton doesn’t think anyone will believe him truly innocent until he gets to say so – on television, of course, and in the right forum: an interview with Diane Sawyer. (You know, considering I’ve never even seen Diane Sawyer, it is unnerving to reflect upon how much I know about her – or think I know – thanks to “the movies”….) It is not just that Cotton wants his fifteen minutes of fame to help make up for the year that he has lost from his life; rather, it is made abundantly clear that he considers that year lost not too high a price to pay for his fifteen minutes. He will get his day in the sun….and is even prepared to kill to get it. When the motives behind the murders in Scream 2 are finally revealed, it’s doubtful that anyone is surprised to find “media exposure” amongst them. “You’re just in time,” says Maureen Evans, as someone takes the seat beside her in the Rialto Theatre, “looks like she’s about to get it.” But of course, it’s Maureen who’s about to get it, the violent attack upon her and her staggering bloody death taken initially by the excited Stab audience for nothing more than unusually effective performance art – a “publicity stunt”. And so, in a manner of speaking, it is….

When Sidney tracks down Randy in his film theory class on the morning after the murders of Maureen and Phil, the discussion is inevitably centred upon the influence of violent entertainment upon real-life violence. Arguments are offered, pro and con; we, the horror fans, have heard them all before. Intriguingly, it transpires that since Scream, Randy has changed his tune – and undoubtedly speaks for his creators, as well as for much of his audience. Rather than claiming that the answer to all of life’s mysteries may be found at your local video store, surviving Woodsboro has altered his perspective: “Life is life; it doesn’t imitate anything.” Sorry, Randy – but that’s not quite true. Not that I am by any means an advocate of the “blame the movies” credo, but there is something that has a significant effect upon real-life acts of violence, particularly upon the kind of mass shootings that we are all, sadly, all too familiar with. We’ve heard a lot in the media about the supposed influence of movies, music and video games in triggering these acts of violence; what we have not heard is that research has demonstrated that one of the biggest influences upon the perpetrators of these tragedies is media coverage of similar incidents. This is why you tend to get two such incidents, bad ones, occurring within weeks of one another. Attempts to blame these events on a simplistic scapegoat like “violent movies” rarely hold water, and are occasionally embarrassingly wide of the mark. Following the Port Arthur shootings of 1996 – the year that Scream was released – an initial claim that Martin Bryant owned “two thousand violent and pornographic videos” was hastily dropped when an inspection of his collection revealed that most of the videos were in fact musicals and romances from the 1930s. Similarly, when British serial killers Fred and Rosemary West were arrested, their video collection, to the disappointment of everyone but the people at DreamWorks, consisted primarily of Disney films. Of course, none of this actually stops the media from continuing to point a finger when violent incidents occur; and it certainly didn’t stop it from pointing that finger at Scream, and at Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson, when a number of possible “copycat” incidents occurred in the wake of the first film’s release – which perhaps explains why in Scream 2, “the media” might almost be considered a co-culprit. Ultimately, however, while it does know what the issues are, and is happy enough to raise them, Scream 2 doesn’t have any real intention of truly dealing with them. I guess this isn’t too surprising. I mean, when all is said and done, it’s not as if Scream 2 didn’t want as much friendly publicity as it could get, is it?

In its early stages, Scream 2 is an engaging piece of commentary upon the society in which we all function – much more successfully so, I believe, than Scream. I also find it to be funnier than its predecessor, and far less mean-spirited. Scream tried to milk too much humour out of its killings, and its characters’ reactions to those killings – as if they were funny in and of themselves. (My identification figure in Scream, Randy aside, is Principal Himbry, who sums up most of the characters collectively as “heartless, desensitised little shits!” Naturally, he ends up part of the body count….) There is no such tendency in Scream 2, although of course the cast has to try and figure out where the various victims fit into this real-life “sequel”. For my money, the humour of this film is much better woven into the fabric of its story. Take, for example, our first glimpse of Sidney Prescott, matter-of-factly disposing of yet another crank caller by – unknowingly taking the advice of Maureen Evans – Star-69-ing his ass. (“Who is this?” “You tell me.” “Cory Gillis, 555-0176.” “Oh, shit!”) We know in an instant just what the past two years of Sidney’s life have been like – and that, regardless, she is soldiering on. Yet for all this, we – I, anyway – don’t really care all that much what happens to Sidney; perhaps because we know that she will be okay at the end, whoever else bites it; or perhaps because Kevin Williamson hasn’t yet learned the art of writing characters for whom we are really concerned. (And the way his career is going, he’ll never get the chance to learn, nyuck, nyuck.) There are moments in Scream 2 that ought to be affecting, but don’t quite come off. This is particularly true of the scene in the theatre, where Sidney’s new boyfriend faces a terrible danger, and yet Sidney cannot bring herself to help him – because the killer has planted in her mind the idea that Derek, too, might be involved…. (Of course, looked at detachedly, the reason that this scene doesn’t quite work is because Derek is played by Jerry O’Connell – and who honestly doesn’t want to see Jerry O’Connell get cacked?) Conversely, some parts of Scream 2 work much better than you’d expect them to. Imagine my astonishment when I realised that the only characters for whose fate I felt some concern were Gale Weathers and Dewey Riley!? – perhaps because they’re the only ones who seem fundamentally changed by their experiences, what with Gale’s late-blooming conscience, and indications that Dewey has finally grown up a bit – even developed something resembling half a brain. It’s also refreshing to see a couple in a horror movie – and fancy having to say this! – that considers the events going on around them to be more important than their desire to get their mutual itch scratched. (This feeling on my part was all the more unexpected since I certainly don’t give a rat’s ass about Courtney Cox and David Arquette. Although while we’re on the subject--- Easily the scariest thing about either Scream film is the amount of weight that Cox dropped between the first shoot and the second. Showing that much of your clavicles really isn’t healthy, Courtney.) I also feel that Scream 2 has more individually effective scenes than Scream, which after its shattering opening is content to coast. Particularly memorable is an attack that occurs while two of the characters are separated by the glass of a soundproofed booth: one can only look on, screaming silently, as the other collapses in a bloody heap. I also – against my better judgement, believe me – like what we see of Windsor College’s production of “Oedipus Rex”, starring Sidney Prescott as Cassandra. This ridiculously overblown sequence shouldn’t work at all, and yet – as Sidney glimpses Ghostface amongst her robed and masked fellow actors – it somehow does. But Scream 2 reaches its true dramatic climax with a scene that Scream, hidebound as it was by the conventions of the slasher film, could not and would not have pulled off: a lengthy suspense sequence set outdoors and in the full light of day; one which culminates in something else that Scream didn’t have: a genuine shock. Whether it’s a shock that fans of the franchise actually wanted, well, that’s another matter.

Still, when all is said and done, Scream 2 is a slasher film; and in the final assessment, not a very good one. It seems that Kevin Williamson took his own speech about the inferiority of sequels as permission to turn in some abysmally sloppy writing. In fact, Scream 2 is fairly remarkable inasmuch as you can pinpoint the exact moment when – if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor – it runs off the rails and plunges down the toilet. It happens at the eightieth minute mark, as Sidney and Hallie are conducted to a “safe house” under the so-called protection of two law officers so competent, they make Dewey Riley look like Elliott Ness. (Some people believe that Scream 2 goes to the bad at the sixty-second minute mark; and while I can see their point, I don’t necessarily agree with it.) Let me describe what happens next to you in some detail, because it encapsulates everything I believe to be wrong about this franchise, which holds itself up as inherently “superior” to the films it references (read: mocks), yet commits artistic sins you wouldn’t forgive if they occurred in any old Friday The 13th knock-off.

Sidney and Hallie are in the back of a police car, enclosed by automatic locks, reinforced glass and metal mesh between them and the front seat – okay? The car gets held up for an unnaturally long time at a red light – no other traffic or people in sight, of course – and suddenly Ghostface manages to Off-Screen Teleport© himself right next to the car. He smashes a front window and disposes of Cop #1. Cop #2 then fails to shoot Ghostface despite having two opportunities to do so, and ends up being carried along on the hood of the car until it crashes. Cop #2 is fatally impaled by a stray metal rod, although his gun stays clutched in his hand, and Ghostface is knocked unconscious. So – what do the girls do? They can’t get out either through their windows or their doors, so they have to think of something else. Sidney sees that the mesh has been partially dislodged, and tugs it back far enough to make a gap big enough for herself to squeeze through, which she does – ending up in the front seat, right next to the motionless Ghostface. The door on her side is blocked, so to get out, she has to climb over the – apparently – unconscious killer….

Rather than moving, Sidney starts reaching out, slowwwwly, for the killer’s mask – only to have Hallie shriek for no good reason, “No, don’t!” And she stops!! And then climbs out after all. She tries to get Hallie out the back, but can’t, so Hallie has to copy Sid’s journey. They start to run away. Then Sid stops, deciding she’s going to unmask him after all. She heads back, despite Hallie’s pleas that they just go, and finds the killer gone. A second later, he leaps out from nowhere and murders Hallie.

Now, let me be quite clear about this: this scene is played out absolutely dead straight. There’s no hint of satire here. When Hallie stops Sidney from unmasking the killer, there’s no jokey “Gee, Sidney, you can’t unmask him now, there’s still thirty minutes to go!” vibe about it. We’re supposed to take this crap seriously! “No, don’t!” The hell - !!?? Yes, do, Sidney! Take his damn mask off! Or take off an article of clothing, a belt if you have one, and tie his hands together. At least take his knife away from him!! Or pick up something heavy from that construction site you’re near, and pound him around the head with it. Or take the gun from the dead cop, and put a few bullets into him. Or, if you’re not comfortable with shooting someone who’s unconscious, how about one of you holds the gun on him – Sidney, preferably, she’s had some experience in that sort of thing – while the other goes for help? At any rate – do SOMETHING!! Don’t just stand there doing nothing like every big-breasted idiot heroine of every stupid cheap crappy slasher film ever churned out by every hack director who thinks tits + blood = HORROR!!!!

I swear – I have seen a lot of stupid behaviour in slasher films over the years, but this ranks right up there with the most contrived, the most idiotic things I have ever suffered through. And I haven’t even mentioned the subsequent disappearance of Ghostface, which ranks as one of the most shameless pieces of Off-Screen Teleportation© ever perpetrated: given where Sidney and Hallie are standing, the killer could not possibly have got out of the car without the girls seeing and hearing him; and nor did he have time to circle around to where he could leap out at Hallie.

So what are we supposed to make of this stuff? It’s not suspenseful. It’s not scary. It’s just stupid. As Sidney herself once said, it’s insulting. And it jerks you right out of the story and reminds you that, yep, this is just another piece of formula crap, in spite of its budget – and its pretensions.

And it gets worse! Sidney flees the site of the latest murder and ends up back on campus (where, by the way, there seems to be no increased police and security presence!). Does she head for the brightest, loudest, most crowded spot she can find? She does not. Instead, hearing music from the darkened college theatre, she heads over there. And just as well, too, really, because if she’d behaved sensibly instead of like a complete moron, the whole final showdown between herself and the killer couldn’t have happened, and several lives would have been saved. And that would have been an embarrassment for all concerned, right?

Of course, once we’re brought to this point, it’s easy to see that the earlier murders were just as illogical and contrived. It’s just that in those cases, Scream 2 did a better job of disguising the fact. But looked at after the event--- Gale puts together the names of the first three victims, and deduces that someone is re-enacting Woodsboro. And the moment she does so, the re-enactment murders stop, even though – and I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying this – the killer doesn’t know this deduction/realisation has been made. Moreover, the killing of CiCi is no longer a random act. The pattern required that someone called Casey be alone and vulnerable right at the most appropriate moment, and hey presto! (They can try all they like to tell us that “CiCi” stands for “Casey Cooper”, but they’ll never convince me it doesn’t really stand for “Celebrity Corpse”.) Scream 2’s “van murder” is one of its most memorable scenes – until you realise that it required the killer to walk to the van carrying the Ghostface outfit, break in, get changed, wait until the designated victim, conveniently enough, came close enough to be grabbed, commit the murder, change clothes again, and walk away, all without being spotted, getting any blood on his street clothes, or the owners of the van returning to it prematurely. Still more ludicrous are the opening murders. So, two people called Maureen and (kind of) Steven just happened to attend the premiere of Stab together? Right. And while I can accept the circumstances of Maureen’s own murder, Phil’s is almost as staggeringly dumb as the car sequence, since it asks us to believe that someone with the required name just happened to go the men’s room and just happened to enter the cubicle next to the one where the killer just happened to be waiting and just happened to put his head where the killer just happened to need it. What on earth would serial killers do, I wonder, if their victims refused to behave in this obliging manner? The other thing to remember is that if the murder of Phil Stevens doesn’t happen, then the killer’s entire plan collapses at the outset. I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to be impressed by a Grand Plan that depends wholly upon a potential victim’s degree of bladder control. And can’t you just picture what would have happened if Phil had thought to go to the bathroom before heading out to the cinema? – an increasingly panicky killer, hunkered down in that toilet cubicle the whole night, finally driven to tap on the wall every time someone entered the cubicle next door. “’Scuse me – your name Steven? No? Know anybody named Steven? Oh, no reason….”

It isn’t only the murders that suffer from incredulity overload in Scream 2. The good-humour and satirical edge of the first half of the film make the impossibility much easier to swallow, but the reality is, in this day and age, there’s little chance a film like Stab could be made in the first place, still less promoted the way it is here – not to mentioned premiered in the very town where the survivors were living! And just between you and me, I frankly doubt that the Jiffy Pop people would have touched Stab with a ten-foot pole….

Finally, the revelation of the killer’s identity all but ruins Scream 2. This is one thing about being a sequel that really does suck: you can’t pull the same trick twice. Scream got away with as much as it did because viewers had not had the chance to, so to speak, figure out the rules of the game; as Randy Meeks so rightly put it, everyone was a suspect. Watching the sequel, however, the same audience was only too well aware of two things: (i) that there were particular characters who almost certainly weren’t going to turn out to be the killer; and (ii) that while there would be hints and indications that would gain meaning after the event, there would be nothing in the film from which you could logically deduce the killer’s identity. Robbed of any internal clues, viewers therefore were forced to look for the killer by external logic; and once that is done, the killer’s identity, if not motive, becomes really quite painfully obvious….

Now – I said this would be as much about Scream as about Scream 2, yes? And so it is, because I’m about to do what I didn’t do before, which is discuss the endings of both films. Horrifying truths revealed! Shocking twists explained! The works!

So if you don’t want to know, run away now. I’ll insert a little leaving music – maybe the outtro from The Bugs Bunny Show – to help you on your way….

[Dah-dah-dahhh--- Dah-dah-dahhh--- Dah-da-da-da-da-da-dah-dah-dahhh---- Da-dah-dah-dah-dah-dahhh--- Dah-da-da-dah-da-da-dahhh---]

Okay – you’ve had your chance.

As all the world knows now – and probably knew way back when, when I was so nobly refusing to give up the names, even under threat of torture – the twist at the end of Scream is that there are two killers, not one: Billy Loomis and Stuart Macher. Many people seem to have been caught off-guard by this, but as true horror buffs would know, it’s hardly original. Most famously, perhaps, the same twist was used in a very influential Italian film of the 1960s – and no, I’m not going to tell you what it is. Even under threat of torture.

I suppose you kind of have to admire the audacity of the double bluff that Scream pulls, in having two patently psychotic characters turn out to be, well, psychotic. I mean, come on: look at those two! Just look at them! Have you ever in your life seen two guys more skin-crawlingly creepy!? (The fact that two bright, level-headed girls like Sidney and Tatum see nothing the matter with their respective boyfriends is just….just….wrong. Maybe it was intentional, an attempt to “sell” Billy and Stu to the audience. Or maybe it’s just one more mystifying example of a man’s idea of What Women Want.) I imagine the reasoning was that no-one would believe the film-makers capable of anything so transparent: Billy and Stu are the obvious suspects, therefore, ipso facto, they aren’t. Unfortunately for Wes and Kev, though – and perhaps for myself, as far as getting a bit more enjoyment out of Scream goes – I wasn’t prepared to buy into that assumption; and besides – being a true horror watcher, not just the kind of mainstream groupie that Scream was apparently aimed at – I’d seen plenty of films in the past where the heroine’s boyfriend/husband turned out to be the guilty party. And I’d also seen a couple where two perpetrators provided alibis for one another. And since Kev seemed to be as intent as Billy Loomis himself on copying others, following “the rules”, rather than producing anything original, well, let’s just say I didn’t see any good reason to take my suspicious eyes off Billy and Stu – not even after Billy’s “murder”…. I mean, c’mon! – who hasn’t seen that stunt before?

(See the trap you fall into, Kev, when you start “referencing” other films?)

The revelation of the guilty parties provides plenty of reason to reassess events from another angle – and doing so highlights just as many contrivances in Scream as there are in Scream 2. Take the Neil Prescott subplot. He has to leave town for the weekend, of course, because otherwise he couldn’t be set up as a red herring. (And how, exactly, did Billy and Stu manage to abduct him?) But once you know he’s not guilty, then his leaving Sidney at home alone on this of all weekends, business commitments be damned, is a piece of unbelievable callousness. And while we’re on the subject, how convenient that Stu’s parents be missing in action on just the weekend that their son needs them to be – and how lucky that news of the murders didn’t bring them back from wherever they were! (I wonder how Stu was planning to explain the corn syrup spilled all over their bedroom?) How lucky, too, that everybody concerned with this story lives in a big isolated house miles from anywhere: just one near neighbour, and the whole convoluted plot would have been dead in the water! And then there’s the world’s slowest police force, unable to answer an emergency call in under twenty minutes – despite how rapidly they answered Sidney’s call when she was first attacked. You’d think a string of murders would make them go faster, not slower….

Well, I suppose most whodunit-ish films suffer from shortcomings like these – at any rate, I’d bet that would be Kevin Williamson’s defence – so let’s move on to examine what Billy Loomis swears he doesn’t have – the motive – and the role in all of this played by the late Maureen Prescott.

Just for the late-comers: Sidney’s mother, Maureen, was supposedly raped and murdered by Cotton Weary, who was convicted of the crime because of Sidney’s testimony against him. TV reporter Gale Weathers, however, believed Cotton’s story that while he had been having an affair with Maureen, he did not kill her – and wrote a book saying so, thus earning her Sidney’s deep enmity. Just under a year later (and may I say, justice is awfully swift in Woodsboro! – a murder, an investigation, an arrest, a capital trial, a conviction, a book written and published, an appeal, all in one year!?), Casey Becker and Steven Orth are murdered. The next day, Sidney herself is attacked. She is subsequently taunted over the phone by the killer, who describes her mother’s death, and the framing of Cotton Weary….

I want to do now what neither Scream film ever does. I want to consider Maureen Prescott. She was, it seems, a serial adulterer – but we never find out why. Was she unhappy in her marriage? Did Neil Prescott treat her badly? Did he cheat on her? Was she bored? Lonely? Resentful? Frustrated? We never find out. Like Billy Loomis herself, Maureen didn’t seem to need a motive. She was just “the town slut”.

Except, as it turns out, Billy did have a motive: Maureen. “Your slut mother was fucking my father,” he finally tells Sidney. Note the wording. Not “My father was fucking your mother” – the other way around. Furthermore: “She’s the reason my mom moved out and abandoned me.”

The only thing more remarkable than how much the scripts of Scream and Scream 2 manage to blame on Maureen Prescott is how completely, at the same time, they manage to refrain from uttering a breath of criticism of Hank Loomis, who you’d think would be at least as culpable as her. But apparently not. Maureen broke up the Loomis marriage, all on her own; and Maureen sent poor Billy Loomis crazy….

Crazy, yes. Not depressed. Not angry. Not alcoholic. Not drug addicted. Out and out Looney Tunes. Enough so to plan and carry out the revenge murder of Maureen Prescott, and to plot an even sicker revenge against her daughter: his girlfriend, Sidney. (I complained in my review of Scream about the fact that Sidney starts getting over what happened to her mother when she finds out for sure that she’d been having an affair. It’s actually worse than that: Scream clearly implies that Billy’s “good” mother walking out is far more traumatic than Sidney’s “bad” mother being butchered.) But of course, to carry it out, he needed an accomplice…. Scream never does bother to provide a motive for Stu, beyond a wisecrack. I guess he was just crazy too. Must be something in the air around Woodsboro. Or perhaps the opportunity to kill both his ex- and his current girlfriend was too good to pass up – there’s always some bullshit reason to kill your girlfriend, right, guys? This aspect of the plot is not well integrated at all, but you can almost forgive that for the sequence in which Billy and Stu, as part of their plan to clear themselves, take turns stabbing one another. This is the one moment where Scream really does strike a note of psychological authenticity: you can honestly imagine these two young sociopaths coming up with such an idea, never stopping to consider that there might be blood, and pain, and even death….

But the point of all of this is, and always was, Billy’s campaign against Sidney; and it is here that Scream turns seriously unpleasant. Billy is intent upon carrying out his killings according to “the rules” of the films he loves so much – and that means that by his own declaration, Billy cannot kill Sidney until she is no longer a virgin. Her seduction is the centrepiece of his plan. From the very first moment we see Billy Loomis, he’s putting the pressure on Sidney – from the moment, in fact, that he first announces, “I’m not trying to rush you.” Almost every word he speaks to her is intended to play upon her feelings of guilt. (When Billy compares his mother’s departure to her mother’s death, that slap on the forehead and the “Stupid!” indicate that he knows he’s made her feel angry rather than guilty, not that he’s sorry for what he said.) He’s been “so patient” – he’s “put up with so much” – I’m “sexually anorexic,” says Sidney, regurgitating every thought that Billy has deliberately planted in her mind, and ignoring her best friend’s counsel that her “intimacy issues” are perfectly natural under the circumstances, and nothing she should be stressed about. (“Billy and his penis don’t deserve you,” insists Tatum who, not coincidentally, is dead a scene or two later.) Nastily enough, the true motive behind Billy’s behaviour remains concealed because a teenage boy pulling every dirty trick in the book in order to get into his girlfriend’s pants is generally considered “normal”, “acceptable” behaviour. And finally Sidney gives in – not, plainly, because she wants to, but because she feels she ought to. “Fuck you!” Sidney spits at Billy, when he later describes her mother’s death to her. “No, Sid,” smirks Billy. “We already played that game – and you lost.” There is, truly, some profoundly ugly stuff going on here, all the more so since it’s buried in a film that wants to pass itself off as “just a spoof”. Now, I’m certainly not a believer in “a fate worse than death”, and I’m not going to try and tell you that Sidney is punished for having sex as badly as her cinematic sisters, most of whom end up gruesomely butchered for allowing even a thought of S-E-X to cross their minds; but at the same time, anyone who says Sidney isn’t punished at all simply hasn’t been paying attention.

And you know what? When I watched Scream again this time, an even worse inference occurred to me: that Sidney’s punishment is, in a sense, self-inflicted. Her sexual surrender occurs, after all, immediately after she is forced to come to terms with the truth about her mother’s behaviour, and with the fact that her inability to do so earlier resulted in an innocent man spending a year in jail. (Neither Scream film ever really deals with Sidney’s culpability with respect to the false imprisonment of Cotton Weary – she’s too much the Designated Heroine© for any actual criticism of her actions to seep through – and in the end, they dismiss the issue in Scream 2 by making Cotton a king-sized jerk, so that we’re not obliged to feel sorry for him. For myself, I would have preferred a backstory that had a much younger Sidney – at fourteen or fifteen, perhaps – testifying against Cotton, then slowly growing into her knowledge of the truth. But of course, such a scenario would also mean a much younger Billy and Stu; too young to be “acceptable” Hollywood killers, despite what the real world teaches us.) Sidney never really believes that Billy is not guilty – from the moment the cell phone drops, she knows on some subconscious level that he is guilty – and yet she sleeps with him anyway. Furthermore, almost the second the act is over, she starts grilling him again about the night of the original attack on her – even comes up with a way he could have called her, despite being in jail…. I wonder whether Sidney has recently been aware of a familiar, and deeply unwelcome, sensation within herself? – has realised that she feels about Billy the same way that she felt about Cotton; only this time, instead of forcing herself to believe in Cotton’s guilt, she’s forcing herself to believe in Billy Loomis’s innocence.

Or maybe I’m just putting way more thought into this than either Wes Craven or Kevin Williamson did….

Scream does end on essentially jokey note: with the revelation that you can’t kill Dewey Riley no matter what you do (to the great disappointment of some people I know!); with survivor Randy’s fervent declaration, “I never thought I’d be so glad to be a virgin!”; and with Billy’s inevitable, if brief, resurrection, which happens because it always does, because Randy just said it would – and because every convention you can name dictates that it be Sidney, not Gale, who ultimately takes Billy Loomis down….

….which brings us to Scream 2, and the discovery that the issues that looked resolved at the end of Scream are anything but.

When I said that the identity of the killer in Scream 2 was painfully obvious, brother, I meant it. You can always write a girl into a slasher sequel, because the presence of a girl needs no justification: she can just be there to die gruesomely, as do CiCi Cooper and Hallie McDaniel. But you cannot, cannot, write in a guy, give him little or nothing to do with the plot, and then expect the audience not to know that he’s the killer – which is exactly what happens in the case of Mickey Altieri, Randy’s fellow film class geek. (Hence his constant insistence that sequels are better than originals.) And since Killer #1 obviously has an accomplice, let’s look around for Killer #2. Sidney’s new boyfriend? Nah, too passé. How about the name guest star who also has little or nothing to do with the plot? – Laurie Metcalf’s Debbie Salt.

Truly, if you haven’t figured out that these two are responsible for the latest outbreak of killings by the halfway point of Scream 2 at the latest, you really haven’t watched enough movies. You might not have figured out the exact motive, of course – although as Randy pointed out, in this kind of situation, the motive is incidental….except that, as in Scream, it really isn’t.

Mickey’s motive? Well, like Billy and Stu, he’s just plain nuts. Unlike them, however, he wants to be caught – and tried – and given lots and lots of publicity. He already has his defence all planned: “I’m gunna blame the movies!” he informs Sidney gleefully – and suddenly Scream 2 is skating on the same thin ice that Scream did, trying to prevent itself from being included amongst those entities that are “to blame” for people like Mickey. I argued in my earlier review that Scream was guilty of more than a little hypocrisy, essentially adhering to the “blame the movies” credo while holding itself blameless. Scream 2 pulls more or less the same stunt, but broadens its range of targets, conjuring up a scenario in which “the lawyers, Bob Dole and the Christian Coalition” all come running to Mickey’s defence, and also finding a co-defendant for “the movies”: “the internet”. That’s how they met, you see, Mickey Altieri and Debbie Salt – a piece of background information that conjures up an irresistibly funny vision of aspiring serial killers advertising themselves in banner ads. (“Your first five killings for only 49c! Click here for details!”) But as if embarrassed by the very lameness of its own explanation, as it should be, Scream 2 then disposes of Mickey as swiftly as possible, having him shot by his own fellow conspirator. It is Debbie Salt who is actually the prime mover in the story, because Debbie Salt has a secret: she is really Billy Loomis’s mother….

Well, I told you the whole “Maureen Prescott” thing wasn’t over, right?

The makers of Scream 2 pushed their luck much too far with this one, writing themselves into a corner with no possible way out. You can see the bind they were in, of course. On one hand, they didn’t dare have one of their killers just appear from nowhere at the end of the film, even though logically, the mastermind of such a plot would have done everything in her power to remain concealed until the penultimate moment. (Intriguingly, the Kevin Williamson penned I Know What You Did Last Summer, released the same year as Scream 2, suffers from precisely this: the young protagonists spend about half the film playing detective, and then the killer turns out to be someone neither they nor we have ever heard of.) But on the other hand, how idiotic is the notion of a woman with a secret identity running around right out in the open, despite the fact that recognition would ruin her entire elaborate scheme, and that any one of four other characters could have recognised her at any moment? Okay, maybe Randy and Dewey didn’t know Mrs Loomis well enough to pose any real threat to her; and maybe Sidney’s instinct to flee the media kept her safe in that direction too; but what about Gale, into whose face Mrs Loomis sees fit to thrust herself at every possible opportunity? Say what you will about Gale, she’s thorough. Are we honestly expected to believe that in the writing of her second book, she didn’t dig deeply enough into the Loomises’ dirty laundry to recognise the long-absent Mrs Loomis when she saw her, even if only on a, “Hey, don’t I know you from somewhere?” level?

Of course, Scream 2 does eventually see fit to provide an “explanation”, of sorts, for why Mrs Loomis isn’t recognised….and I’ll have more to say about that later.

Debbie Loomis swiftly disposes of her puppet accomplice (whose tuition fees she was paying: shades of I Still Know What You Did Last Summer!), and then reveals her own motive: “good old-fashioned revenge!” You might remember that in Scream, Billy Loomis declared that Maureen Prescott was the reason that, “My mom moved out and abandoned me.” Incredibly, it turns out that Mrs Loomis holds the same opinion! “You want to blame someone, why don’t you blame your mother? She’s the one who stole my husband and broke up my family!” she snarls at Sidney. (Which seems a bit unfair: Maureen may have been into husband boffing, but hardly husband stealing.) I have never understood what’s going on here. In the first place, we yet again have Maureen Prescott shouldering 100% of the blame for her affair with Hank Loomis; even Hank Loomis’s wife doesn’t utter a breath of criticism of him! I guess he was just sitting there, minding his own business, when…. But regardless, why would Mrs Loomis have walked out the way she did? If she was that hurt and that angry, why wouldn’t she have tossed her cheating husband out on his arse, taken him for everything he had in court, and retained custody of her son? Or if she couldn’t face the humiliation of sticking around, why didn’t she leave with her son – whose sympathies were obviously with her? It makes no sense – particularly not if the relationship between mother and son was intense enough to turn Billy himself into – in the immortal words of Randy Meeks – “a rat-looking homo-repressed mama’s boy”, and for its rupture to induce homicidal psychosis in both. How flimsy, then, the contrivance upon which the plots of two entire movies ultimately rest!

But there is something else going on here – and there was something else going on, too, at the time of the Prescott/Loomis affair – which brings me back to the point of no-one recognising Mrs Loomis prior to her self-revelation. Many a true word is spoken in jest, they say; and personally, I believe that many a true word is spoken in throwaway smartarsery, too. Let’s consider what happens when Sidney finally is face to face with her adversary. “Mrs Loomis?” she utters slowly, as if not quite sure of herself. Gale, too, is astonished. “Mrs Loomis!?” she repeats. “It can’t be! I’ve seen pictures---”

That was sixty pounds and quite a lot of work ago,” says Sidney.

Now – setting aside for a moment the fact that Sidney is confronting the person directly responsible for the taking of nine human lives, including those of three of her closest friends, and yet she can find nothing worse to say than to make a crack about that person’s former weight problem (although, I guess if you’re talking to a woman, there is nothing worse you can say, is there?) – let’s consider the full implications of that remark, shall we? To put it another way, when Sidney last saw Mrs Loomis, Mrs Loomis was overweight; which was presumably just before she left Woodsboro; which was the time of her husband’s affair with Maureen Prescott.

See where I’m going with this?

And at long last, the reason that both Scream and Scream 2 manage to discuss that pivotal adulterous affair without anyone uttering a single word of blame for Hank Loomis becomes crystal clear. After all, if a man’s wife puts on weight, he’s perfectly justified in cheating on her, right?

A staggering amount to ascribe to a casual bitchy remark, granted; but still, if you take the events of the two Scream films step by step, the inference is clear. While Maureen Prescott’s adulterous behaviour is made the proximate cause of all that happens across the two stories, the ultimate cause is Debbie Loomis’s weight problem. Everything that we see, everything that is implied – the slaughter, the terror, the ruination of countless lives, all of it – happened because a married woman let herself go.

So there you have it, ladies. You’ve been warned….

Footnote:  Special thanks to correspondent Ashley Lane, whose intelligent discussion of these two films was an enormous help in getting my own thoughts in order.