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Scream 3

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Scream 3

Starring: David Arquette, Courtney Cox
Director: Wes Craven
Rated: R
RunTime: 115 Minutes
Release Date: February 2000
Genre: Horror

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Liev Schreiber, a survivor of the two opening films of the "Scream" trilogy, introduces us to the final episode of Wes Craven's series of slice-and-dice films in the only engrossing minutes of this closure-rendering offering. When you realize that this talented performer has been starring as the title character of William Shakespeare's "Hamlet" at New York's Public Theatre, you may think: "Scream 3" is about as comprehensible to the average Joe as "Hamlet" would be to a guy who had never heard of Shakespeare or read any of his plays. In a convoluted plot that might make a modicum of sense to those who have seen its pair of predecessors, "Scream 3" posits a killer whose identity--disclosed in the movie's penultimate scene as a wholly arbitrary choice that no one in the audience would have guessed--has been Miramax Films' reason for banning online reviewers in most of the country from advance screenings. To quote co- producer Marianne Maddalena as recorded in an issue of the San Jose Mercury, ``I can tell you this was no publicity ploy,'' insists Maddalena. ``We're afraid of the power of the Internet. That's where Miramax's fear comes from. They were just trying to keep the ending a surprise. They didn't want to spoil it for the fans.'' A big thumbs-up to Maddalena for her honesty. But since the munchkin could have been virtually anyone in the cast, what difference would it make if people knew the identity in advance? (Besides, what would have prevented an Internet critic from seeing the movie at its commercial opening on February 4 at 11 a.m. and posting a revelatory review by 3 p.m. before the vast majority of weekend moviegoers went to their favorite theaters?)

Horrormeister Wes Craven seems to have run out of chilling ideas and should have quit while he was ahead. His 1996 opener to the triple-play combo, which begins after the mother of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is murdered, highlights an obsessed murderer who slaughters teens in a small city, all of whom were known by the slain mom. Craven parlayed his knack for portraying well-drawn characters into "Scream 2," which opens during Sidney's college days as the movie "Stab"--based on the string of murders shown in "Scream"--is to be released. The killings continue with the usual shish-ke-bobbing of victims and the customary winks and nods and self-referential material. "Scream 3" locates in Hollywood.

One bright concept of "Scream 3" is that while the first two victims die in the same order that they are wasted in the movie within the movie, "Stab 3," the killer keeps the cast on their collective toes because no one can be sure of who the third victim would be. Again, the Internet comes into play, as art follows life: Just as Miramax kept most online critics out of the screening rooms, "Stab 3" is so coy about revealing the killer's name to any cybergeeks who might disclose the info on the 'net that the writer made up three separate versions. The murderer could have read any one of those three.

Many of the same characters are back in the final episode, with Neve Campbell in a more understated role as the central object of the killer's fantasies. She plays the girl most likely to be killed for reasons known only to the assassin--until the moment of truth near the conclusion of the film. The mustachioed David Arquette returns in the role of the vulnerable cop, Dewey, while Courteney Cox Arquette performs as Gale Weathers, the object of his affection. (Dewey should see either a psychoanalyst or an optometrist.) Some others serve as suspects in the minds of the audience, including Lance Henriksen as aging movie producer John Milton, Scott Foley as the young director Roman, and Patrick Dempsey as the hirsute detective Mark Kincaid, who flirtatiously and unsuccessfully petitions Sidney to call him by his first name.

The banal and redundant plot is not improved much by the silly dialogue, but writer Ehren Kruger dazzles with just one snappy one-liner. Carrie Fisher as Bianca complains that she was considered for the role of Princess Leia in the original "Star Wars," but that the role went to Carrie Fisher (the one who slept with George Lucas).

Despite the word on the grapevine that this movie would break from the usual conventions of the genre, the obligatory false alarms still scare the cast far more than the audience and the good guys are at risk of failure just at the point of nailing the killer (and the killer at the point of nailing the good guys) because they talk too much instead of checking on whether their intended victims are really dead. For the most part, the characters are unlikable, generic, and bland despite their occasional off-the-wall acting--at which Parker Posey excels.

Don't be too disillusioned. Try to see Parker Posey in the indies for which she was created such as "House of Yes," "Suburbia," and "The Daytrippers;" Liev Schreiber (easily the most interesting performer in "Scream 3") in "A Walk on the Moon;" and David Arquette in one of the real gems of 1998 that nobody saw, "The Alarmist."

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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