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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

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Review by MrBrown
2 stars out of 4

As _Scream_ was still raking in the dough at the box office in early 1997, its first sequel was rushed into production, seeing the inside of moviehouses by December of that year. Despite its quickie slasher sequel nature, _Scream_2_ hardly felt like a rush job; it had all the genuine scares and--crucially--the sharp, self-effacing wit that distinguished the original film. Conversely, a little over two years separate the release of _S2_ and the arrival of the horror franchise's third and final installment, but despite the longer lead time, _Scream_3_ feels like it was sloppily slapped together--a pale, watered-down shadow of what had been a clever and highly enjoyable franchise.

The drop in quality is undoubtedly a result of the absence of writer Kevin Williamson, whose funny and genuinely scary scripts for the first two films were every bit as, if not more, responsible for their success as the taut direction of Wes Craven, who is back on board for _S3_. Craven has had enough triumphs in the genre to justify his reputation as a master of horror, but his rather uneven body of work (_Vampire_in_Brooklyn_, anyone?) proves that his filmmaking skill cannot overcome a lacking script--and that's exactly what new _Scream_writer Ehren Kruger has provided _Scream_3_.

The diminished luster of this go-round is suggested the film's opening. Like the first two films, the Hollywood-set _S3_ begins with a killing. Following in the footsteps of name brand actresses Drew Barrymore and Jada Pinkett Smith as the sacrificial starlet? Kelly Rutherford, best known as doormat ex-hooker Megan during the forgettable final seasons of _Melrose_Place_. Her character's murder is but the first to be linked with the production of _Stab_3:_Return_to_Woodsboro_, the latest installment of the horror series inspired by the events that took place in the first two _Scream_s. Of course, the murder springs ever-inquisitive TV news reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox Arquette), whose books inspired the first two _Stab_ movies, into action. Naturally, her investigation leads to a run-in and reluctant reteaming with ex-flame (yes, they once again broke up between films) and former Woodsboro police deputy Dewey Riley (David Arquette)--who, as it happens, is working on _Stab_3_ as a technical consultant.

So where does this leave our long-suffering heroine, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell)? Contrary to what had been reported by some media outlets, _S3_ does _not_ have Sidney settled in Tinseltown and actively pursuing a career in acting; instead, she is quite understandably living in quiet seclusion in Northern California, working out of her home under a false name as a phone-in crisis counselor. It goes without saying that the ghost-masked killer's antics eventually force Sidney down to SoCal and the scenes of the crimes, but what is surprising is how long she is left on the sidelines. With so little given to do, it's almost understandable that Campbell phones in her performance.

Campbell isn't the only _Scream_3_ principal who appears less than interested. The newlywed Arquettes' performances also have a been-there, done-that air about them; their characters' increased time in the spotlight does not equate with fresh directions for them. (I take that back--vain glamourpuss Gale's new wrinkle is her inexplicably dowdy appearance.) Then again, Kruger fails to take the _Scream_ franchise itself in any new directions. Although the hyper-reflexive, inside-Hollywood premise opens up even more possibilities for self-parody, the satirical in-jokes disappear within a half hour. (The mid-film exception is the brief return, by way of videotape, of film geek and _S2_ victim Randy Meeks, played with usual--and sorely missed--spark by Jamie Kennedy.) For the most part--aside from a laugh or two provided by Parker Posey, quite amusing as the bitchy actress who plays Gale in the _Stab_ films--_Scream_3_, while never boring, isn't all that funny, nor is it all that scary. No "suspense" scene comes close to touching the first _Scream_'s stunner of an opening or _Scream_2_'s nailbiting car escape scene. It's quite telling that the one scene in _Scream_3_ that is remotely spooky is the only one that survived from Williamson's original outline for the film: Sidney wanders onto the _Stab_3_ set, and she is confronted with the spitting image of her former home--which, in turn, brings to mind all the ghosts of her past.

To be fair, Craven's work here feels watered down itself. In an apparent reaction to the Columbine murders, the violence and gore is significantly toned down; there's nothing in _S3_ that comes close to the bloodbath that closed the first film. While the amount of blood is not necessarily proportional to the amount of excitement generated, in putting a damper on the violence, Craven seems to have also put a damper on his reckless, anything-for-a-scare abandon. He appears to be walking on eggshells throughout the entire film, making extra sure that he doesn't so much as nudge the envelope. With Craven always holding himself in check, it's little wonder that many of the intended shocks don't.

During the course of _Scream_3_, it is mentioned more than once that in the final act of a trilogy, all bets are off. The suggestion is that all the previously set rules will be broken, and that any surprising twist and turn is possible. _Scream_3_ indeed boasts a big twist, but the dismaying turn has nothing to do with the story: the film turns the franchise into the type of conventional slasher saga that the first two films so effectively lampooned.

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