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
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