20 years ago teens and 20-somethings were privy to the arrival of SCREAM 2, a highly anticipated follow up to Wes Craven’s slasher rejuvenator, SCREAM. While many fans held a little skepticism about such a timely turnaround for the franchise, those who truly fell in love with SCREAM were more than happy to take a chance on an immediate sequel. After all, SCREAM ended up being the freshest slasher film since high water marks within the A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13th franchises.
Fans needed something new to adore, and Wes Craven made that possible. Not only did he turn SCREAM 2 into something to adore, he completely nailed the essence of college life. It’s a wild ride, loaded with excessive alcohol consumption and extreme cram-sessions when it comes to homework. Those seemingly mundane, day to day activities were properly captured on film, as Craven offered us many accurate looks within a college campus. The sorority houses, the frat houses, even the hunger for knowledge (often illuminated by the wonderful Randy) are elements that Craven (and writer Kevin Williamson, obviously) knew to integrate into the story in order to generate a legitimately relatable picture.
To add to the mystique of the film was a tremendous soundtrack that felt as though it totally embodied the youth of America. In 1997 you couldn’t lose with Foo Fighters, Everclear, Tonic, The Eels and Dave Matthews Band. That perfectly assembled soundtrack was so relevant in fact, that it almost becomes a character within the film.
But beyond the great tunes, and beyond the accurate portrayal of youthful existence circa 1997, SCREAM 2 also managed to deliver a few big scares and one twisted finale. That finale would, as was to be expected, provide a few surprises and revelations. Sticking with the dual killer recipe concocted by Williamson was slick, and while the dual killer angle had already been utilized in the first film, it again proved to be appropriate and fruitful. The reveal of these killers, and their true identities was well-thought out and most certainly properly executed. As a result, we hungry fans got a fine dose of shock to chew on.
But how would fans respond to SCREAM 2, given the extremely quick turnaround? Would they embrace another franchise film, or would they opt to pass on the picture, the memory of SCREAM still bouncing about their cranium, providing plenty of food for thought? As it turns out, fans were more than prepared to check out another SCREAM film.
SCREAM 2 made its theatrical debut on December 12th, 1997, and it lured the genre fanatics from their homes, droves of eager teens stoked to see the next great slasher continue to grow in the hearts of hardcore horror fans. And grow the brand did: SCREAM 2 debuted at number one at the box office with an opening weekend take of $32 million domestically, obliterating the inaugural pic’s theatrical debut by a full $26 million. SCREAM 2 would eventually top out with a domestic figure of $101 million dollars, just $2 million behind SCREAM. SCREAM 2 also earned a respectable international tally of $71 million, which is just one million dollars more than SCREAM’s $70 million international take. In other words, popularity didn’t die down, in the least bit, between the release of SCREAM and the arrival of SCREAM 2. They were both genre homeruns, which is why we’re still talking about these pictures two full decades later.
Interestingly enough, SCREAM 2’s successful performance only further solidified the brand as a modern cultural phenomenon. When the following October 31st rolled around it was impossible to count the Ghostface costumes, and, as much as it hurts to admit, all those ghoulish ghost faces and jet black getups left me a little creeped out, constantly wondering: could one of these masks disguise a real killer? Anything is possible!
But in addition to the Halloween costumes, SCREAM and SCREAM 2 had spread so much influence through pop culture that you could easily get your hands on Ghostface coffee mugs, T-shirts, patches, shot glasses (yes, I admit I own a set) and yes, even those creepy little talk-boxes that modified your voice, transforming it in such haunting fashion that it became eerily similar to the voice of Roger Jackson. For the faint of heart, the likeness was enough to discard that talk-box forever. Creepy device!
SCREAM was an enormous success, any way you look at it. But it became a successful franchise because of SCREAM 2 further ignited interest in the franchise. And while the third and fourth films in the series feel a bit lackluster, those films cannot erase SCREAM’s place in history… especially when – years later – fanatics were gifted a surprisingly effective small screen series.
It seems nothing will keep Ghostface at bay.