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Credit most of Scream’s success to a commingling of bloods old and new—veteran horror director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson—and their decision to make a film that is both splatterfest and self-conscious sendup of horrordom’s cliches and conventions. Winking and nudging each other like two pubescent kids, Craven and Williamson still have satire on the brain, only this time they don’t just get to parody the Friday the 13th and Halloween movies, they get to hack into their own baby, too. Indeed, Scream 2’s most clever conceit is that it shows us excerpts from the movie-within-a-movie Stab, a dramatization of the first Scream’s events starring (in what might be her best role ever) Tori Spelling. Also funny are the conversations Scream 2’s teenagers have about movie sequels—and whether or not they are inherently inferior products. The teenagers—played by, among others, the nubile Neve Campbell, Jerry O’Connell, and television’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer—come up with a handful of Part Twos that outclass their respective Part Ones: Aliens, Terminator 2, the second Godfather. Though it comes close, Scream 2, the middle installment of a proposed trilogy, doesn’t quite make it into this category. More mean-spirited than Scream (its opening sequence, during which Jada Pinkett is not only stabbed, but gutted and literally sacrificed to the horror movie gods, is so brutal and gruesome it’s almost unwatchable), ultimately, it is also less fresh. It’s still plenty scary though, and diverting enough that at Scream 2’s end, one finds oneself guiltily looking forward to the black-robed, Munch-masked killer’s inevitable return next Christmas. At area theaters; see Showtimes for venues. (Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa)