This year (2007), I saw more summer movies than I have in at least five years. I avoid big Hollywood franchises (the modern ones, the revitalization attempts… it’s fifty-fifty), so I really don’t know how bad the acting is in most of those films–from what I saw this summer, it’s probably atrocious. But there’s a special place for Scream 2, because not a single new cast member gives an acceptable performance. All of them, almost uniformly, are terrible. I suppose an order can be arranged–Elise Neal is worse than Jerry O’Connell, who is worse than Timothy Olyphant… though no one can compare to Sarah Michelle Gellar. Her performance is so incompetent, even her facial expressions are ludicrous. The lesser supporting case members–Laurie Metcalf, Duane Martin, Rebecca Gayheart and Portia de Rossi–all terrible. Of the new additions, only Jada Pinkett and Omar Epps–who have nothing to do with the actual film–are acceptable. And I suppose Lewis Arquette isn’t too bad.
Though she’s the “star,” Neve Campbell is barely in the film, entirely overshadowed by all the terrible acting going on around her. When she is around Courteney Cox, David Arquette and Liev Schreiber, things really work. Cox and Arquette are great together, Schreiber is great with anyone… only Jamie Kennedy (of the returning cast members) is lame. Oddly, the film ends on a high point–establishing a wonderful chemistry between Cox, Campbell and Schreiber… which might be why I remember the third one being disappointing, regardless of it being lousy–the potential for something of particular merit is certainly established by this one’s conclusion.
Most of the problems are because of the acting. A dumb horror movie can survive with decent acting, but Scream 2 also lacks charm. The college setting is stupid, the writing is dull–Williamson goes overboard with his pop culture references to hide there being nothing going on for any of the characters (except Cox and Arquette and Schreiber, so their scenes are better). Wes Craven’s direction is framed for a pan and scanned VHS–possibly the worst case of framing for home video since The Untouchables. He has two good shots in the entire movie, both near the end anbd one of them is only funny (it’s an Evil Dead 2 slash Nosferatu reference).
Scream 2 doesn’t work because everyone who dies is a welcome victim (except the two opening deaths), because they’re such terrible actors. When Gellar goes, it’s a reward to the audience for having to sit through her. If anything, her death wasn’t gratuitous enough (as opposed to the opening, when Scream 2 really felt exploitative). But having to tolerate Neal for the whole movie… argh. I’d forgotten Miramax recycled bad actors through their movies, trying to build them up into… well, into something.
Maybe if Craven had directed some of the actors, or composed the shots with some dignity, it’d be better. It has a great conclusion–all the likable characters, played by all the decent actors, have nice exits. Except then the lame music for the Miramax Records (or whatever they called it) soundtrack kicks in and helps one remember the piece of crap he or she just sat through.
And Luke Wilson’s cameo is fantastic–but they really shouldn’t have mocked Skeet Ulrich so brutally if they were going to cast worse actors then him in the movie.
Directed by Wes Craven; written by Kevin Williamson; director of photography, Peter Deming; edited by Patrick Lussier; music by Marco Beltrami; production designer, Bob Ziembicki; produced by Cathy Konrad and Marianne Maddalena; released by Dimension Films.
Starring David Arquette (Dewey Riley), Neve Campbell (Sidney Prescott), Courteney Cox (Gale Weathers), Jamie Kennedy (Randy Meeks), Laurie Metcalf (Debbie Salt), Elise Neal (Hallie), Jerry O’Connell (Derek), Jada Pinkett (Maureen), Omar Epps (Phil), Liev Schreiber (Cotton Weary) and Duane Martin (Joel).