Written by: Kevin Williamson (characters), Ehren Kruger (screenplay)
Directed by: Wes Craven
Starring: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette
Reviewed by: Brett G.
"What do you know about trilogies?"
"All I know is that in the third one, all bets are off."
"All I know is that in the third one, all bets are off."
While all bets may indeed be off when it comes to horror sequels, another thing you should bet on is that they often become more convoluted as they trudge on. Even something as elegantly simple as Halloween became bogged down by contrived bloodlines and ancient Druid curses. Having already embraced many of the horror tropes in its previous outings, it seemed inevitable Scream too would become a bit unwieldy and bogged down by series-altering twists and turns. Thatís exactly what happened when Scream 3 hit theaters a couple of years after the second film made its debut; it did so having been plagued with numerous script re-writes, which perhaps contributed to its schizophrenic nature.
In a case of art imitating life, the fictional Stab series has made its way up to the third installment; gone are the A-list stars that populated the original film, and weíre left with what is essentially a cheap B-movie production. Things get interesting, however, when someone begins murdering the cast in the order in which they die in the script; this naturally draws the attention of Gale Weathers and Dewey (who is actually working as the technical advisor on the film). The killer also cryptically leaves photos of Maureen Prescott at the scene of each crime, which lures Sidney out of hiding from her shut-in existence, where she lives under a false name.
After satirizing horror films and the media for two films, I suppose Scream was always bound to go to Hollywood. In many ways, the shift in setting is emblematic of everything that went wrong with the third outing; whereas the first two films were a couple of simple, intimate affairs, taking place in small towns and college campuses, Scream 3 simply feels too big for its own good. Itís sort of like that clever, witty kid on the block who begins to believe in his own hype and ends up trying too hard, only to become a parody of himself. Unfortunately, thatís just how this entry plays out, as it not only resembles the parodies it inspired (Scary Movie), but also the films mocked by the first two Screams. Instead of jabbing you with its tongue in its cheek, Scream 3 smacks you with its obvious silliness (look no further than the bewildering and gratuitous cameo by Jay and Silent Bob as proof).
This all starts at the script level, where the plot finally becomes too convoluted even by this franchise's standards; while the first two might have had some giallo-like twists and turns, this third entry ratchets up the insanity by introducing elements that extend back beyond the first film and radically alter the franchiseís story. While itís always fun to see some inter-connectedness between entries, the reveal here feels tacky and contrived, not unlike the fictional B-movies featured within the film. Such intricate and wild franchise plotting sort of anticipates what would happen with the Saw series, which similarly became too encumbered with hidden secrets and twists. For every positive step Scream 2 made in advancing a believable saga, Scream 3 takes a few hops back, as itís all just a little too outrageous.
Indeed, this represents the first time the films completely embraced B-movie territory, which was perhaps intentional. After all Lance Henriksenís Milton character is an obvious stand-in for Roger Corman (who redundantly also shows up in a cameo, perhaps to signify that all subtlety has been gutted), and the film is littered with touchstones of the 50s and 60s AIP era. In fact, the filmís climax takes place in a cavernous mansion, full of secret passageways and B-movie props, which gives the film a distinct kitsch feel. Itís all much more House on Haunted Hill than it is Halloween or Friday the 13th. Oddly enough, these sparse references represent the extent of the filmís winking and nodding back to the genre itself, as the clever jokes that lined the previous scripts are scarce; instead, part 3 turns its satiric eye towards the Hollywood business in general, and itís not quite as fun or clever. It also uses Stab 3 to poke fun at its own script problems, as, like its fictional coutnerpart, the film was literally being written on set; the joke, of course, is on us.
Ehren Kruger takes over scripting duties from Williamson (who supposedly did outline the story) here, but his writing lacks the tight cohesiveness and witty dialogue that became the franchiseís hallmark. The film is also not especially plotted well, as Dewey, Gale, and even Parker Poseyís actress character (by far the best of the otherwise forgettable newcomers) do more in the film than Sidney. She spends most of the time either locked away in her own house or at a police department before showing up for the last act. Itís perhaps fitting that the filmís best moment comes when Randy makes a videotaped appearance from beyond the grave, as itís arguable that his geekdom was somehow always the heart of the films. I do, however, question his wisdom regarding horror trilogies, considering there really arenít many (and no, series that just happened to peter out at the third entry donít qualify).
As a slasher, Scream 3 is still decent funóthe kills come early and fairly often, though none of the murder sequences are particularly memorable. There is a fun chase scene mid-way through that takes us back to the set of the original, which has been reconstructed for Stab 3, and it briefly recaptures the brilliance of previous efforts. Craven also employs some nightmare sequences and imagery (something he knows a thing or two about) to further move the film into standard horror clichťs. Though itís not quite the wrap-up youíd want, Scream 3 is still worth a look, so check out Dimensionís Collectorís Series DVD, which was released back in 2000 and has seen no significant upgrades until the recently-released Blu-ray. The standard-def presentation is solid enough, and the 5.1 surround track is especially dynamic and makes great use of directional sound. Special features include outtakes, behind-the-scenes footage from all the Scream films, deleted scenes, an alternate ending, TV spots, trailers, a Creed music video, and a feature commentary with Craven and crew. Thankfully, Scream 3 isnít a wrap-up at all; itís perhaps fitting that the final shot of the film is an open door because, as we all know, a horror franchise can never be considered dead. Hopefully Scream 4 will get back to the basics that this overly-plotted entry missed out on. Still, itís probably a good idea to brush up on this one before Ghostface returns on April 15th. Rent it!
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