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The Revenant Review

Horror Film History, Analysis, and Reviews

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1997

Movie Review – Scream 2 (1997)

Movie Review – Scream 2 (1997)

Following the overwhelming success of 1996’s Scream, Scream 2 (1997), also directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson, was released just shy of a year after the first film. Following the same winning whodunit slasher formula, the film nevertheless suffered considerable production problems, most notably being that the screenplay was leaked onto the internet revealing the identity of the killers. Major rewrites, therefore, had to be completed as the movie was being filmed. The actors did not even know who the killers were until those scenes were set to be shot.

Set two years after Scream, the film once again centers around Sidney (Neve Campbell) at her college campus as murders begin to spread familiarly around her. The script ups the meta ante, having a film within a film as the events of the first movie are dramatized in a feature called Stab. As Scream was partly inspired by the very real Gainesville Ripper murders, it’s fitting that the Woodsboro murders would get their own satirical Hollywood treatment complete with bad acting and even worse wigs. Craven shows just how skewed and shallow the Hollywood version of reality ultimately is.

While there are still horror film references, this time focusing more on Friday the 13th (1980) instead of Halloween (1978), many more references are dedicated to the other projects of the actors and actresses involved, such as Courtney Cox’s Gale Weathers mentioning Friends co-star Jennifer Aniston or the character of Sarah Michelle Gellar, who had recently begun playing the titular television role on Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, watching 1922’s Nosferatu. These are certainly timelier and, as a result, have not aged as well.

In addition to this self-analysis Scream 2 also confronts the nature and quality of horror sequels, which historically have been largely terrible. As Randy (Jamie Kennedy) comments, “The entire horror genre was destroyed by sequels.” Randy also, as in the first film, lays out the guidelines for the audience: “There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to create a successful sequel. Number one: the body count is always bigger. Number two: the death scenes are always much more elaborate – more blood, more gore – carnage candy. And number three…” Here he’s cut off in the film, though the movie’s trailer has him continue with: “never, ever, under any circumstances, assume the killer is dead.” True to form, Craven gives the audience a higher body count and some elaborate tension-filled set pieces, the first involving Sidney and her friend trapped in a police car with the unconscious killer and the second involving Gale Weathers in a soundproof booth.

The performances from our returning cast are strong, including David Arquette who adds a sympathetic vulnerability to Deputy Dewey. His and Gale’s story arc is the best written. That being said, the new characters are never really fleshed out. We learn too little about them to be emotionally invested, and also too little to suspect them to any real degree, with the exception of Liev Schreiber’s Cotton Weary. The movie becomes less of a whodunit mystery and more of a waiting game, as the red herrings are not nearly as convincing as in the first film.

Scream began strong and ended strong, and this film inverts that, though not purposefully. The opening scene is rather over-the-top and the ending not nearly as satisfying. However, considering the re-writes that occurred it’s impressive that Scream 2 is as solid a sequel as it is, even if it does not quite meet the standards of its predecessor. When compared to the other teen slashers that were being released or about to be released, including Williamson’s own I Know What You Did Last Summer (also starring Gellar) which came out the same year, Scream 2 is definitely a superior entry.

Grade: C+

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Movie Review – Event Horizon (1997)

Movie Review – Event Horizon (1997)

I saw Paul W.S. Anderson’s Event Horizon when it first came out in 1997. Preparing for a re-watch, I recalled really liking the premise but being less impressed by the execution, especially the ending. Though it received mostly negative reviews when it was first released, in recent years its reputation has grown and many genre fans appear look upon it fondly. With this in mind, I decided to give it another go, hoping I’d find more to appreciate this time around, as I have with some other 90s films like Wes Craven’s Scream (1996).

The premise is indeed intriguing. In the screenplay by Philip Eisner we follow a rescue crew who are investigating a spaceship called the Even Horizon that disappeared to the outer reaches of space and has now mysteriously returned. Unlike the 90s trend of sending franchise monsters into space for no good reason, here we have a legitimate premise for a sci-fi horror film. To my sincere disappointment, that’s where my favorable views of this film, like a real event horizon, end.

Instead of finding more to appreciate on my most recent watch, I found more criticize. A really cool idea is bogged down by poor dialogue, thin characterizations, and an incoherent plot. A character is smart one minute and stupid the next, depending on the needs of the story. In just one instance of idiocy, one woman goes chasing after what appears to be her son after we’ve already established that her son is safe back on Earth and that the ship is haunted and trying to kill them with mindfuckery.

What I remembered as being nods to Aliens (1986) and Hellraiser (1987) feel more like rip-offs, especially as Pinhead was killing people in a space station just a year prior (Hellraiser: Bloodline). Worst of all is Dr. William Weir’s change, which is wholly unconvincing and turns him into a poor-man’s Pinhead. Sam Neill is a fine actor, don’t get me wrong, but he’s simply not scary. Lastly, while the special effects are pretty good, the scares they serve often don’t make sense and, worse, are generally cheesy.

Anderson has claimed that there is about ten minutes of footage that was cut from the film to please producers and that, if put back in, would solve many of the pacing and narrative problems. Unfortunately, most of that footage has either been lost or damaged. As it currently stands, Event Horizon is a mess of a film kept afloat by a great sci-fi setting and good special effects. But it’s too much style over substance, and rather than only disliking the ending this time I found myself irritated with the movie shortly after the halfway point.

Grade: D+

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