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What’s more difficult: being a character in a teen slice-and-dice horror flick who survives to see the end credits? Or being an actor in a teen slice-and-dice horror flick who survives to have a career? The cast of Scream 2, many of whom made it out of the original 1996 Scream alive, may think they’re on the road to Hollywood glory: Both films made pots of money and refashioned a tattered, campy genre for the ironic ’90s. But it’s worth noting that this series’ one great gimmick — gruesomely dispatching a previously established young starlet in a set-piece opening scene — bodes ill for the rest of the players. We’ll know Neve Campbell is a major draw if, like Drew Barrymore and Jada Pinkett Smith before her, she gets offed in the opening sequence of Scream 3. If not — well, does the name Adrienne King ring a bell? No? See what surviving the first Friday the 13th does for you?

On the other hand, one of the pimply-faced hordes butchered by Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street was a kid named Johnny Depp. Then there’s the workaday middle road traveled by Heather Langenkamp, star of the first Nightmare and last seen in the 1996 actionless action flick The Demolitionist. In that spirit, here’s a look at the young idols of Scream 2 — and the possible career blueprints that await them. Careful, now: This gets bloody.

— DAVID ARQUETTE The next Bill Paxton? Or the next Bill Pullman? As Deputy Dewey Riley, Rosanna and Patricia’s kid brother is both a nebbish and a believable romantic partner for Courteney Cox’s newswoman Gale Weathers. And, gimpy leg or no gimpy leg, he’s way too nice a guy for audiences to suspect he’s the crazed killer chopping up students at Windsor College in Scream 2. If Arquette, 25, stumbles into action-oriented roles next, he could turn into the He-Man Next Door in much the same way that Paxton rose from supporting roles to ”star” in Twister and Titanic. Or he could stray onto Pullman turf, playing cookie-cutter nice guys a la While You Were Sleeping. A Ralph Bellamy for the 21st century? What a comforting thought.

— LIEV SCHREIBER The next Dustin Hoffman? Or the next Eddie Deezen? Schreiber’s amassed a dandy filmography in the past two years, bouncing from smart little indies (Big Night, The Daytrippers) to studio bloat-o-ramas (Sphere, Ransom). As Scream 2’s Cotton Weary — no longer unjustly imprisoned but unquestionably armed with motive, means, and opportunity for bloodletting — Schreiber, 30, teeters between nerd charm and creepy malice. Give this guy a role that speaks to his generation and he might still be a new Graduate (hey, Hoffman was 30 when he played Benjamin Braddock). Or, with the wrong agent and more movies like this winter’s awful Phantoms, he could look like Deezen, the cartoonishly geeky comic relief of WarGames and Grease.

— JAMIE KENNEDY The next Denis Leary? Or the next Dennis Hopper? For my money, Kennedy’s the best thing about both Screams — the source of their smartmouthed, movie-crazed kicks. As Randy Meeks, video drooler extraordinaire, the actor, 28, has carved out the most distinctive persona of the two movies’ casts, and it’ll be interesting to see where he takes it. He could tighten up the act, hone the invective, and sell himself as Leary does: a hyper-articulate cynic who also happens to be an actor. But if Kennedy’s career or his on-screen rants lose focus, he could end up to the ’90s what Hopper is to the ’60s: a colorful footnote.

— JERRY O’CONNELL The next Harrison Ford? Or the next Sam Neill? As Campbell’s campus honey, O’Connell evinces qualities rare in a heroine’s boyfriend: Gracious, handsome, and funny, he’s earnest without being a stick. For the fat kid from Stand by Me, this is definitely progress. He may not have the roles yet, but O’Connell, 24, has some of the sober spark that Ford has turned into a franchise. If he doesn’t catch the right breaks, though, he could be likable, skilled, and faintly dull, a la Neill.

— NEVE CAMPBELL The next Jamie Lee Curtis? Or the next Jamie Lee Curtis? Behind one door is the Curtis who stepped from Halloween to a fascinatingly offbeat career playing unpredictable, take-charge women in A Fish Called Wanda, A Man in Love, Blue Steel, even James Cameron’s True Lies. Behind the other door is the Curtis who stepped from Halloween to a curiously muted career playing wives, girlfriends, and moms (Dominick and Eugene, My Girl, Forever Young, even…James Cameron’s True Lies). The least you can say for the stalwartly winsome Campbell, 24, is that after two Screams, she knows what happens when you open the wrong door. Scream 2: B

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Scream 2 1997 DIMENSION $106.99 RATED R

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