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How SCREAM 2’s Script Leaks Saved the Movie from a Lame Twist

The second installment in the Scream franchise had a lot to live up to. 1996’s Scream—still the highest-grossing slasher movie in history—may not have been the first movie to use meta commentary on its genre, but it perfected the art and granted it mass exposure. The film allowed the late Wes Craven to focus on something other than the past-its-prime Nightmare on Elm Street series, and in the process introduced us to one of the all-time greatest Final Girls: Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott. Any sequel would have a hard time living up to such a predecessor. Fortunately, Scream 2, which came out 20 years ago today, is still a solid slasher movie, particularly for a sequel. And considering its troubled production history, that’s nothing short of movie magic.

Part of screenwriter Kevin Williamson’s (perhaps better known now for Dawson’s Creek and The Vampire Diaries) process in writing the original Scream was developing treatments for additional movies in the series. As such, he was more than ready to delve into the script for Scream 2, which got the green light in March 1997. Filming was in full swing by summertime; the turnaround time had to be quick given Scream’s runaway success. In addition to a few new faces, most of the cast was slated to return.

The sequel followed Sidney to Windsor College, where a brand new Ghostface terrorizes the campus. This Ghostface is more theatrical than the first, beginning their killing spree with a double homicide at the premiere of Stab, a movie inspired by the Woodsboro murders. Ghostface then begins his on-campus rampage, leading to some truly spectacular deaths of characters old and new.

With a new setting and a still-recovering Sidney, the Scream 2 premise was promising, but that promise was dashed when the identity of Ghostface was leaked online well before the December release. The Big Reveal is one of the most explosive, entertaining elements of a slasher movie, and this one was going to be a doozy: Sidney’s roommate Hallie and boyfriend Derek would be revealed as two of the killers, destroying Sidney’s trust in the people she cares about most all over again. Their accomplices were Cotton Weary, who was accused of Sidney’s mother’s murder in the first film, and Billy Loomis’ mother, who wanted revenge for her son’s death at Sidney’s hand.

Once that information was out there, Williamson had to retool his story as production continued. In the new shooting script, Derek and Hallie weren’t part of the plan. Mrs. Loomis, posing as a local reporter, would still wear the mask, as would Derek’s friend Mickey. To prevent further leaks, the identity of the killers became a closely guarded secret, only revealed to actors on a need-to-know basis.

The leak was a blessing in disguise. Four killers—two with no obvious motive—could’ve been a messy proposition, and it’s much more fun if, in the grand tradition of horror movies, a killer’s mother is the real monster. Even better if her partner in crime is an unhinged movie buff who’s ready to blame his murderous streak on violence in cinema. Laurie Metcalf’s and Timothy Olyphant’s performances are among the best in the franchise as Metcalf nails Mrs. Loomis’ cold-bloodedness (it runs in the family) and Olyphant hams it up right up to the final jump scare. Loomis is suspicious from the start, and that’s okay—it’s fun being able to spot the guilty one, and it’s not hard to do when it’s a previously unknown figure. Granted, that’s what Mickey is, too, but he’s just another classmate with nothing against Sidney or her friends. That’s why it’s all the more satisfying when you find out Mickey is responsible for some of the movie’s best kills, including Derek’s (which happens on a cross, no less). Without the rewrite, we wouldn’t get the chance to see that particular kill, and what a loss that would be.

Overall, the Scream 2 that we got was almost certainly better than what would’ve been. Craven and Williamson proved they could succeed under enormous pressure, and Scream 2 was a hit, grossing within a million dollars of what Scream had ($172.4 and $173 million, respectively). Critics and audiences alike were pleased, with some even giving the movie preference over the original. Though that’s a debate for the ages, there’s no denying that Scream 2 resulted in something much more satisfying than making the best of a bad situation. Twenty years on, it’s still well worth revisiting. After all, who doesn’t want to take a break from holiday movies to see Jamie Kennedy slain in a news van?

Does Scream 2 live up to the first? Let us know in the comments!

Images: Dimension Films

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