Scream 2 opens promisingly, with a sneak preview showing of the based-on-Scream film Stab at which an African-American couple (Omar Epps and Jada Pinkett-Smith) lob volleys about the horror genre’s racial inequity before being slaughtered by a new, copycat Ghostface killer. Ending with the sight of a victim collapsing in front of both the screen and the theater’s hundreds of costumed attendees, it’s a superbly critical image of the spectator’s culpable role in gruesome cinema, and a moment that the rest of Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson’s follow-up never quite matches. Rather than Halloween, Prom Night and other genre staples, this sequel takes its predecessor as its primary frame of reference, a natural development that pays modest dividends as it recounts the efforts of Sidney (Neve Campbell) to avoid becoming a madman’s victim at college, where – naturally – Randy (Jamie Kennedy) is enrolled in a film studies class debating the merits of sequels. A host of familiar and new faces appear in order to aid in Sidney’s quest as well as be fingered, at one point or another, as the potential villain. But just as the specific rules governing horror sequels are less inspired than those for originals, so too is Williamson’s script unable to generate the same giddy meta-twisty verve of his earlier work. Still, its self-awareness has a brashness that can be enlivening, and its dialogue with the first Scream is at times subtly inspired, even if its stagebound finale – in which the narrative pointlessly attempts to tie up its myriad strands while still tweaking and replicating slasher-movie formulas – lands with a resounding thud.