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Scream 3   C

Dimension Films

Year Released: 2000
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Ehren Kruger
Cast: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, Parker Posey, Deon Richmond, Liev Schreiber, Patrick Dempsey, Scott Foley, Lance Henriksen, Matthew Keeslar, Jenny McCarthy, Emily Mortimer.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

I wanted to like this one so much, I really did. The first Scream (1996) was an instant classic, practically inventing the post-modern, self-referential horror film -- and its opening with Drew Barrymore ranks as one of scariest sequences in slasher film history. Its sequel was a fun ride, too, even if the ending sucked. I wish I could say the same about Scream 3, but I'm afraid the last act of this trilogy is merely a lame imitation of its predecessors.

Things have changed since we last saw our heroine Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell). Now out of college, she's moved away from Woodsboro and out of the public eye, taking an at-home job as a counselor on a woman's crisis hotline. Her peaceful little existence is once again shattered by a series of bloody murders, though, and she's throw back into a fight for her survival.

This time, someone is knocking off the cast of Stab 3 (the Stab films are based on the events and characters in the Scream films, but you already knew that, didn't you?). They're being butchered in the order in which they die in the script -- but there are three versions of the script, each with the characters getting knocked off in a different sequence. Oh my God, who will die next? The truth is, we don't care. All the supporting characters are paper thin and only have 10 to 15 minutes of screentime each before they're systematically knocked off. In fact, even the returning characters (David Arquette as lovably goofy cop Dewey and Courtney Cox as super-bitch reporter Gale Weathers) are nothing more than cartoon-character reincarnations of the characters we loved in the previous films.

Neve Campbell gives another solid performance as Sydney, but she doesn't even have enough screen-time to be called the lead anymore -- Dewey and Gale are the clear stars of this one. Whenever Sydney does appear in the film, she's having disturbing hallucinations of her dead mother (the first clear indicator that the killer's motive has something to do with her mom). Sydney's hallucinations are kinda creepy, but they seem to belong in a different film altogether, since everything else in Scream 3 seems like such a joke.

Perhaps the reason why everything seems a bit askew here is because of screenwriter Kevin Williamson's departure. Due to other projects, Williamson couldn't deliver a script in time, so the studio got another hotshot screenwriter named Ehren Kruger (Arlington Road) to pen this one. Kruger (if you can't see the irony in that name, you should be shot) had to spit out a script very quickly to meet the deadline...and, frankly, it shows. Williamson's witty dialogue, clever self-referential winks, sense of pacing, and firm grasp of the characters are all but gone. What's left is a mess, but at least it manages to be entertaining on a purely superficial level.

Indie queen Parker Posey is funny as the actress playing the part of Gale in Stab 3, and the conflict between the two of them is amusing. Most of the time Scream 3 seems more like a straight-up parody of its predecessors than a true sequel, but other parts of the film (Sydney's hallucinations, the lame and arbitrary revelation of the killer's identity) strive for seriousness, making everything very uneven. I'm telling you, only Williamson knows how to make self-referential horror work.

Some scenes almost manage to achieve the deliciously fun and scary suspense of the original. The opening with the killer playing mind games with Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber) and his pretty girlfriend was really exciting, but there are few other scenes in the movie that reach that level. My favorite part was actually the cameo appearance by Randy (Jamie Kennedy) -- and I'm still pissed about them killing him off in Scream 2. Fortunately, Randy left one of those "If you're watching this, I must be dead" videotapes, so we get to hear him ruminate on the rules of a trilogy, and it's damn refreshing to have him back on-screen -- if only for a few minutes. Randy said something in one of the earlier Screams about horror movies being killed by cheesy, third-rate sequels. In that case, I bet he's glad he didn't live long enough to stumble through this one. Rest in peace, Randy.

Review published 02.11.2000.

Follow Michael Scrutchin on Twitter or Letterboxd.

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