Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sequels Suck

I'm pretty proud of myself for getting in at least one more post between Christmas and today, our first day back to school after the long winter break.  This year we were off for a whopping 17 days this year thanks to a calendar goof (our district calendar authors did not allow for the federal holiday yesterday and thus were forced to take it).  I don't think anyone has broken the bad news to the kids yet, because no one has complained about it yet...but because we took an extra day and still must get in our 180 days, their last day of school has moved from May 31st to June 1st.  A huge change I know (and yes that is sarcasm) but at the end of the year, an extra school day is like cruel and unusual punishment to them.  I'm not worried really, I have my last two exams classes that day and I predict a large majority of my annoying students will simply not come that day (look at my tears, I'm so sad about it)...but the whining that they will let loose when they are told will most definately ruin my day on the day they finally break the bad news.  Today has been fraught with annoyances though, largely due to the fact that they installed new copiers while we were gone.  I am the first to say that our old copiers weren't up to snuff, but this new machine is so different and slow that I am missing our old jam-a-minute giants.  Normally this wouldn't bug me, but since I had to copy several sets of quarterly assessments (at 10-20 pages a pop) I was not happy to be the first to get an error message and to spend 45 minutes down there waiting for the job to finish.  However, the kids are being pretty good today (a blessing) and I think we all got our batteries recharged nicely over break and we are ready to face the long stretch before spring break (12 weeks and counting) that looks to not be littered with delays and snow days this year (it only just snowed on Sunday for the first time here...which is very unusual).  Anyway, as we head into these last weeks before the semester ends and we gear up for the second half of the year, I got to thinking about part 2s in film.  People typically acknowledge that sequels stink in the film world aside from some rare exceptions (that are usually held up as templates for good sequel making)...and the horror genre is no exception.  In fact, aside from notable sci-fi franchises and James Bond...the only series' from America to pass the 2 or 3 mark are those tried and true horror franchises.  So when Bob and Harvey Weinstein hit one out of the park with their incredibly risky Scream in 1996, they immediately saw "franchise" in their futures and rushed a second film into production.  Lucky for them, Wes Craven was keen to continue and Kevin Williamson had already written a 15 page treatment for the sequel to "Scary Movie" (the original title of Scream) when he submitted his final draft.  The key survivors were onboard too, and with the success of the first, they now had their pick of actors to portray the new victims of Ghostface.  Was the film any good or should it be filed away with all those other lesser sequels to horror originals.  Let's find out as we look into Scream 2.

If one thing about life is certain, pathos brings about avid interest and fortune for those willing to capitalize on it.  Such is the case of the story of Sidney Prescott who has been unwillingly thrust into the limelight following her fight to the death with Billy Loomis and Stu Macher, her boyfriend and friend respectively, who had terrorized her on the anniversary of her mother's death.  Thanks to constant media coverage, a bestselling book about the case by Gale Weathers titled "The Woodsboro Murders", and a new film based on the book called Stab, Sidney can't seem to escape her tormented past.  When two students from her college are murdered at a sneak preview of the new film, Sidney finds herself again tormented by a masked killer and a voice on the phone who could literally be anyone.  As the body count rises and the list of suspects grows longer, Sidney, Randy, Gale, and Dewey must examine cliches of movie sequels that the killer is following and figure them out to try and survive.

Scream 2 was a film that first disappointed me in theaters because my 8th grade mind felt it was too different from the first film.  I was expecting a repeat of what made the first film so successful, which does happen, but Craven and Williamson delivered so much more than I was expecting that I originally felt that they got it wrong.  Only years later when I viewed the film again, did I realize that they got everything right...again.  Scream 2 is one of those rare sequels that not only meets the original at it's own game, but in many ways surpasses it.  The opening scene with Jada Pinkett Smith and Omar Epps acts not just as a thrilling start to an engaging ride, but it also acts as an excellent piece of meta-cinema that asks the question "Take a really good look at what we're being entertained by."  The scene feels like a party, with audience members cheering and howling at the screen as they are entertained, much in the way we were, watching the first story that we all know so well.  However, things take a sick turn when one of them is stabbed repeatedly and then stands on stage for all to see before she dies.  Suddenly, no one is cheering or clapping...they are shocked to stunned silence wondering if what they're seeing is real or a publicity stunt.    There is also a heavy emphasis on the different stages of the world, whether it is a movie theater stage or a dramatic theater stage, and how action plays out across them in similar ways.  Scream 2 is, in many ways, the most intellectual of the "Scream" series, and I think that is probably why it lost me when I was 14. I was only seeing the forest and not the trees.  Now I can appreciate all the surface and deeper meanings of Scream 2.  The performances should not be overlooked in this analysis as each returning actor brings a sense of depth and experience to their characters that feels natural, and once again as though they are real people dealing with a real scenario.  It should also be noted that the film, like Wes Craven's New Nightmare, faces head-on the question of whether violent movies lead to violent actions and comes up with a very compelling answer tied to the new killer's motive.  I shant give it away, but I will say that I did not see it coming the first time.  If you liked Scream, chances are you will like Scream 2 even more so why not give it a whirl.

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