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Director Wes Craven found an ingenious way to trick the censors while making Scream 2, lying about the amount of violence present in his final cut.

Scream 2 is one of the rare horror sequels clever enough to rival the original, and director Wes Craven tricked the censors to ensure he delivered the film he wanted. The first film was released in 1996 to positive reviews and was an instant box office hit. Luckily, screenwriter Kevin Williamson already had an outline for sequels as a second installment was quickly greenlit, with a release date set for less than a year after the original.

Despite a rushed production, with some scenes written on the day of filming, Scream 2 proved to be a success with critics and audiences. While the original satirized horror movie clichés, the second film expanded on this idea to poke fun at the folly of horror sequels. Following Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) as a new Ghostface killer stalks her university campus, and in keeping with Randy Meeks’ (Jamie Kennedy) horror sequel rules, the movie depicts a greater number of deaths that were more violent than its predecessor.

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Wes Craven anticipated encountering problems with the violence in Scream 2 because he had already battled the MPAA censor board on the first film. Numerous cuts had to be made to the original’s murders, such as the infamous death of Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore). To avoid this problem a second time, Craven tricked the MPAA by deliberately submitting an extra violent cut he never planned to release. What’s more, they responded with a particularly surprising review of the cut.

Speaking in the making-of documentary Behind the Scream, editor Patrick Lussier reveals how they jacked up the film with extra gore before submitting their first cut to the MPAA. Wanting an R rating opposed to the dreaded NC-17, which could hinder box office performance, “Master of Horror” Wes Craven included additional scenes of violence he had no intention of appearing in the final film. The hope was that the takes he actually wanted would then seem tame in comparison. One example of this is the death of Phil Stevens (Omar Epps) during the films’ opening sequence at a movie theatre showing Stab. In the final film, Phil is stabbed in the ear once, but the MPAA viewed an alternate version with three stabs, which is undeniably excessive. The death of fan-favorite Randy was also used to mislead censors. They viewed a scene that was longer and bloodier, with Lussier commenting he just got stabbed forever. Considering Randy’s demise is one of the saddest of the Scream series, it’s fortunate his murder occurs offscreen in the finished film.

This wasn’t the first time Craven had lied to the MPAA. While making cuts to the gore featured in Casey Becker’s death in the first Scream, the director sneakily lied about only having one take of her murder, therefore it had to remain in the movie. To the filmmakers’ shock, the censors actually granted the extra-violent cut an R rating. This was because they felt the film’s commentary on the dangerous impact of cinematic violence and desensitization of America’s youth justified the bloodshed. In fact, they believed Scream 2 ‘s message was stronger than the first, particularly with the opening sequence, in which the entire theatre audience laugh and cheer as Maureen (Jada Pinkett Smith) is murdered, confusing her cries of pain for a publicity stunt.

definitely emphasizes the influence of movie violence to a greater extent than the original, thereby enabling the movie to showcase some truly grisly murders, like the car crash scene. However, the slasher series may seem restrained compared to the gore in recent horrors. What really makes this film so chilling is the chemistry between the characters and how Ghostface tragically tears them apart.

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