Neve Campbell - Sidney Prescott
Courteney Cox-Arquette - Gail Weathers
David Arquette - Dewey Riley
Patrick Dempsey - Detective Mark Kinkaid
Parker Posey - Jennifer Jolie
Scott Foley - Roman Bridger
Liev Schreiber - Cotton Weary
Jenny McCarthy - Sarah Darling
Lance Henriksen - John Milton
Emily Mortimer - Angelina Tyler
Deon Richmond - Aaron Banks
Genre - Horror/Slasher
Running Time - 116 Minutes
In 1996, director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson woke up the mainstream and revived the horror genre with SCREAM. Their homage to slasher films of the 1970s and 1980s caught the attention of teen audiences who started their love for horror, as well as older audiences who were sick of seeing their favorite franchises sink into self-parodies of their former selves. Since SCREAM made a ton of cash at the box office, it was inevitable that a sequel would be released. A year later, SCREAM 2 hit theaters. While not critically as successful as the first SCREAM, it was still commercially viable and making about the same financial amount as its predecessor.
Just like the classic slasher films the films had paid tribute to, SCREAM also suffered from a series of imitators that wanted to ride the bandwagon of its success. We had Kevin Williamson's own I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER [as well as the sequel, I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, that Williamson had no hand in], URBAN LEGEND, CHERRY FALLS, HALLOWEEN H20 [also written by Williamson], and many others that tried to replicate SCREAM's success. Just like SCREAM 2, they were all inferior [on different levels] to SCREAM and it started to tire the slasher genre again. This wasn't helped by the fact that 1999 saw two horror films that gave audiences something different - THE SIXTH SENSE and THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT - both films changing the horror genre in a different direction away from slasher vehicles.
However, Dimension Films signed Wes Craven to direct SCREAM 3 [he agreed only after Dimension/Miramax allowed Craven to direct the 1999 drama, MUSIC OF THE HEART] for a 2000 release, wanting to end the series [ha ha!] with a third film that would wrap up loose ends and give SCREAM some closure. Kevin Williamson wrote a draft for the film, but was unable to doing any rewrites due to his writing job on a short-lived television show called Wasteland on ABC [as well as writing on Dawson's Creek and directing KILLING MRS. TINGLE all at once]. Because of this, his draft was scrapped and Dimension hired Ehren Kruger [who has written screenplays for ARLINGTON ROAD, THE RING, THE RING TWO, and THE SKELETON KEY] to write a new script based on the skeleton draft Williamson had crafted. Instead of spoofing horror cliches and horror sequels, SCREAM 3 was self-referencing its own success as a horror force, as the main characters must deal with their counterparts on the set of STAB 3, where the murders take place by a new Ghostface. While the film was still commercially successful [grossing $161 million worldwide on a $40 million budget], a lot of critics and fans have really looked down on this sequel.
For a while, I actually preferred SCREAM 3 over SCREAM 2, only because more stuff happens in SCREAM 3 while SCREAM 2 takes a much slower pace with its storytelling. However, I've come to realize that while both films are decent follow-ups to SCREAM, SCREAM 3 is a pretty flawed film [more so than SCREAM 2] due to a number of reasons. Let's see why this film could have tied up loose ends a bit tighter.
Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) has now become a recluse, hiding herself under a new identity and working for a woman's crisis hotline from her new home. Terror starts happening for Sidney again when she learns that Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber), who Sidney once accused for killing her mother, Maureen, but is now a famous talk show host, was murdered along with his girlfriend (Kelly Rutherford). Realizing the murders have coincidentally started again with the production of STAB 3, Sidney knows that it's only a matter of time Ghostface would find her and try to murder her.
Meanwhile, Dewey (David Arquette) works in Hollywood [on the set of STAB 3] as a security guard for a quirky, spoiled actress named Jennifer Jolie (Parker Posey), who happens to be playing 'Gail Weathers' in STAB 3. When Cotton's murder spreads, the real Gail Weathers (Courteney Cox) arrives along with detectives Mark Kincaid (Patrick Dempsey) and Wallace (Josh Pais), hoping to solve the case before more victims turn up.
The new Ghostface, wanting to lure out Sidney to end this game with her once and for all, uses old photos of Maureen Prescott as souvenirs after each murder. Realizing she can't escape her past, Sidney arrives in L.A. to reunite with Dewey and Gail to figure out Maureen's true connection with the killer and with Hollywood [where she was once an actress]. Unfortunately, this distraction allows Ghostface to pick off each STAB 3 actor one-by-one, saving Gail, Dewey, and Sidney for last. I guess this dude has taken his love for trilogies a bit too far...
SCREAM 3 is considered the worst of the franchise [haven't seen SCRE4M yet]. It's obvious the feel and edge of the original SCREAM is long gone by now. SCREAM 3 also ends up what it was making fun of in the first two films: a cliche horror sequel that goes beyond what it needs to do in order to tie up the main story with a shiny red bow. The problem is while the bow is intact, the wrapping paper around the gift is torn, wrinkled, and doesn't hide what it's trying to rebel against. SCREAM 3 is definitely that horror sequel that makes you go, "been there, seen that."
The difference in feel is due to the fact that Ehren Kruger, instead of Kevin Williamson, wrote the bulk of the screenplay. To me, this ends up being a mixed bag of sorts. While it's good that we have a different take on the story and characters [keeps the series fresh], we also lose what made these films so special to many people.
Let's start out with the positives first. I really dig the concept/commentary of SCREAM 3. The fact that the script makes fun of Hollywood and the film industry is pretty ballsy for a mainstream horror film. It's especially meaningful when horror fans know how the film industry looks down upon these kind of films, even though horror films are the ones keep these major studios afloat for so many years while their blockbusters bomb at the box office. There are great moments, like when John Milton discusses Maureen Prescott's past as an actress - saying that she had to do sexual favors just to get parts - which I'm sure was/is pretty common in the film industry [just ask a certain GRINDHOUSE actress]. Just that alone, and how Maureen was forgotten after only 3 small roles in B-movies, shows how fickle, picky, and ugly the industry is. It's funny how Jennifer Jolie and Angelina Tyler also had to sleep with the director and/or producer to get their roles in STAB 3. I guess it's pretty common practice in Hollywood that not many people talk about.
I also love Sarah Darling's scene about why female horror characters get naked in a lot of these films for no reason other than to titilate male [and some female] audience members. I laughed when she questioned her character's motives as to why she would be naked in a shower right after a killer murdered her boyfriend. It just reminded me of 1986's SLAUGHTER HIGH, where that one chick bathed in a bathtub [that became full of acid once she went in] after her boyfriend exploded from a chemically-enhanced can of beer. It's one of the dumbest moments in horror history and to hear this character question that logic is pretty funny and kind of refreshing. Too bad she didn't know the difference between VERTIGO and PSYCHO [dumbass].
I also dug the homages to moments in Wes Craven's own horror filmography. The scenes where Ghostface hides under a bloody blanket scaring Sidney is taken right out of Tina's body bag scenes from 1984's A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. The great scene where Sidney revisits Woodsboro on the STAB 3 set reminded me of Heather Langenkamp/Nancy Thompson doing the same exact thing in 1994's WES CRAVEN'S NEW NIGHTMARE, as well as almost re-creating that first Sidney/Ghostface confrontation from the original SCREAM.
I also liked the character names. From Jennifer Jolie [Jennifer Aniston mixed with Angelina Jolie], to Angelina Tyler [Angelina Jolie mixed with Liv Tyler], and to Detective Kinkaid being named after the popular strong guy character from 1987's A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS and 1988's A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER - it's pretty clever and I'm sure a lot of people missed out on that bit of trivia. I also love Carrie Fisher's "I would have played Princess Leia if I had just slept with George Lucas" moment, and the cameos by Jay and Silent Bob, Roger Corman, and even Wes himself.
And I may be in the minority, but I really liked the Jennifer Jolie character. Yeah, she's sort of annoying with her big mouth and over-the-top mannerisms and personality. But I felt she's really the only character that gives the movie energy and life. Her portrayal as Gale is really funny, as well as the interaction between her, the real Gale, and Dewey caught in the middle. I know a lot of fans hate this character, but she's the main reason I enjoy this sequel more than I probably should.
Unfortunately, the rest of the characters get the major shaft here. Sidney, especially, isn't the same character from the first two films. One, she's barely in the film [really because of Neve Campbell's insane filming schedule at the time] and it feels like that strong character from SCREAM 2 just deflated into a wimp until the very end. It didn't feel as if Sidney progressed as a character. She was a mix of SCREAM and SCREAM 2, and we've already seen those characters. I think she should have been more offensive and tired of being part of this murder game, wanting to end it once and for all. I mean "Sarah Connor in T2: JUDGMENT DAY" mode. We don't get that here. Gale and Dewey are a bit improved from SCREAM 2, thankfully since they're really the main characters of this film. They still have great banter and chemistry, so at least Kruger gets that right. The other characters aren't deep enough for audiences to really care about them. These actors are playing horror characters that are only in the film to die, which is art imitating life for them. They're nothing but sheep to the slaughter and suspects for the mystery. And why build Cotton Weary in SCREAM 2 just to murder him quickly at the beginning of SCREAM 3? I hate when horror sequels do that! At least give him something meaningful to do before killing him off for good! While I expect this in horror sequels, it would have been nice for more added depth, especially when this film is close to 2 hours.
Also, Kruger's script suffers from too many plot points that end up convoluted as it tries to finalize matters. From Maureen's past, to this Ghostface being the true puppet master for all of these films, to making fun of the film industry, and justifying the reasons for this conclusion to the original trilogy - it's just too much. The revelation, itself, bugs me because it implies every killer in the other two films were nothing but lackeys to SCREAM 3's villain. So their reasons for going after Sidney seems to become less effective when they look like puppets to a killer whose only reason of existence is to add an unnecessary back-story to Maureen Prescott [which is really the only reason this film exists and moves forward to its conclusion]. The narrative is altering certain events that were already established to milk a story that doesn't need to be milked. It makes the reveal contrived and pretty tacky because of it. Even when I first saw this film, I got the killer right away - just didn't know the reason why. But you're never given a clue for the killer's motives until the end anyway. It just makes me go, "Okay. That it?" That's not good.
Also, the dialogue isn't as well-written as the first two, and the movie feels like two films in one. It just feels things happen because they can, not because they should be happening to move the story logically forward. I know it happens all the time, but that's not what great screenplays do. I guess what I'm saying is that the narrative lacked focus, which a lot of third parts suffer from, but that's no excuse. They had three years. They could have had a finalized script by production instead of rewriting scenes every day while filming [which Sarah Darling also complains about when it comes to the rewrites done for STAB 3 - witty or not? It depends on how you look at it].
The gore in SCREAM 3 is less than in any of the other installments. This was due to the Columbine murders in 1999, which forced film studios to cut back on the violence in their films out of respect and not to "turn people into killers" due to what they see in the movie. Because of that, you get standard slasher stuff - stabbings, gunfire, and one big explosion scene. By the way, how contrived was that scene? How did Ghostface know for sure that idiot would light a match in the kitchen just to read part of a script? And the gas had to have been on for a long time for that kind of explosion to occur? None of the characters who were previously inside moments earlier couldn't smell it? Does Los Angeles air smell like stove gas? I call bullshit.
The direction by Wes Craven is still pretty solid for the most part. It's nothing really new and he pretty much stays with the vibe he created in the earlier SCREAM films. However, I wish there was more tension and suspense in the film. The "scary" moments just seemed ho-hum and nothing really looked or felt fresh. I did like the ode to ELM STREET with those certain moments I mentioned previously, but they were a few and far between. Good visual work but nothing to tell your friends about.
The acting is pretty good as well. Neve Campbell plays the same character she's played in the previous two films. Since she's not really given much to do, she tends to go through the motions a bit. And she tears when there's no reason to, I guess to add emotion to a scene that doesn't have it. David Arquette is more likeable here than in SCREAM 2. No stupid Dewey theme, thank God. Courteney Cox plays a good bitch with a heart of gold. Unfortunately she looked terrible here. Who the fuck did her hair? Yeesh. Patrick Dempsey is cool as Kinkaid. Jenny McCarthy was likeable as Sarah. She's not in the film long, but not only does she carry her scenes really well, but looks hot doing it. I wish she were in the film more due to her charming performance. Scott Foley did a decent job as Roman. Liev Schreiber got wasted as Cotton, even though he enjoyed showing off his new muscles in his tight shirts. Best actor, for me, goes to Parker Posey as Jennifer. She's the life of the film for me. I'm not a big fan of hers really, but her comedic timing was top-notch. I would have loved to have seen that STAB 3 film with her as Gail. I'm sure it would have been a riot.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE REALIZING NOT ALL GREAT THINGS COME IN THREES
- Ghostface serenaded one of his victims with a song by Creed. No one deserves that type of torture. That's not taking me "Higher", dude.
- Ghostface killed Kelly Rutherford. Obviously he's not a fan of her work on Melrose Place or Gossip Girl. They do say the Power of Three will...set you...free? Shannen Doherty, is that you under there?
- What's up with Courteney Cox's hair in SCREAM 3? Obviously, her stylist is a straight man. "I'll be there for you" - I think not!
- Sarah is tired of being a 35-year-old actress playing a 21-year-old character. Funny, that's not stopping Sharon Stone...
- Sarah was targeted by Ghostface. She must hate being Singled Out by college students and serial killers.
- Jennifer wants to be reminded not to sleep with Roman, the director of STAB 3, again. She's the Rose McGowan of the early 2000s!
- Sidney keeps getting calls from her dead mother. Damn, that woman won't let that wire hanger thing go!
- Deon Richmond was brutally killed by Ghostface. That's what happens when you stop eating those Jell-O pudding pops, foo'!
THE FINAL HOWL
SCREAM 3 doesn't come close to matching the original, but it's still a decent watch for the most part. It's not scary, the story is convoluted for its own good, and they should have maybe murdered more main characters [the "anything goes" motto doesn't really live up here] - but it has funny moments, a cool subtext, and great production values. Watchable, but not a classic by any means. We'll see how SCRE4M stacks up this weekend.