Thursday, September 4, 2014

Scary Schools: Scream 2 (1997)


Riding high off the success of its predecessor, I wanted to be on top of Scream 2 (1997) since the first had completely slipped through my fingers. I was turning fourteen when the sequel hit theaters. I didn't see the original until it was available on VHS, borrowing it from a friend of mine and making the mistake of watching it with my mom during a time you don't want to watch those kinds of movies with any sort of guardian. Actually, I'm still against watching content with even as much as a  nuanced sex joke in it with my mother. Puritanism reigns.

First film survivors Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy) make their way to Windsor College after graduating high school. Randy studies film and Sidney finds a major in both theatre and confronting phone pranksters with caller ID who only think they're funny by trivializing her ordeal with Billy and Stu. Additionally, the other survivors of the Woodsboro crime wave Gale and Dewey (Courtney Cox and David Arquette) return when someone else decides to use the same mask to go on a murdering spree on campus. Once again targeting Sidney and everyone she's close to.

Thus begins a tragic thought pattern: this woman can't buy a break.

Performances by Women of Color

Jada Pinkett as Maureen


So Kevin Williamson totally called a spade a spade and constructed an opening with two Black characters; Omar Epp's Phil and Pinkett's Maureen (right), your heavy-handed Black caricaturizations. They're the film's first two victims for the opening sequence. This was 1997. I was a teenager and much more tolerant of people's "the Black dude dies first" jokes. And we were hit over the head with it here.

Pinkett's quips were fluidly delivered with attitude, yet so painstakingly scripted and cringe worthy. Williamson, never shy about admitting wanting his characters to always have the right thing to say at the right time very much took his share of notes from the Black Acting School. Consider Pinkett's role as Peaches in A Low Down Dirty Shame (1994). I would argue the characters were almost similar, but written by a Black man, Keenan Ivory Wayans, the character was a beautiful, street smart, and comic relief sidekick that was far from buffoonish. And she gets the guy at the end.

Maureen wasn't very likeable to some critics. But what did stand out with introspection was during the chaos in the theater as Maureen was being stabbed to death, took her last breaths to the front of a screen adaptation of a "real life" tragedy as a "real life" victim of thus inspired tragedy. It's very meta, and very 90s. It was that memorable, serious moment as patrons realized this woman was actually murdered, and we reflect on this as commentary of the escalated violence put on display during those times. Violent crime was theater. And realizing that our rapidly changing mediated world had reached some pretty low heights.

Elise Neal as Hallie


Hallie was Sidney's Black best friend. I mean, that's it. Right? I'm not sure if there was anything else to this character besides poking Sidney into the direction of some semblance of conformity. The central brooding female back from very close brushes with death needs that sass and flare from a Black friend as a pick me up and a signal to move on. It's a tad insulting, but the role didn't seem exclusively reserved for a Black actress.

It's been said that her character was supposed to actually be one of the killers. Imagine what you will, but that would've been a lot more interesting. Especially considering there's a line in the film from Dewey (David Arquette) about the profile of most serial killers being "white males," Hallie's relatively low profile would've made a lot more sense instead of just acquiring the torch of token.

The bottom line is, these ladies earned their paycheck. Big stars at the time were signing on to this franchise before they even read the script with no care to how big or small their roles were. And I still do enjoy this film and remember the fun I had seeing it opening night.




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