Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Patrick Dempsey, Parker Posey, Lance Henriksen, Emily Mortimer, Scott Foley, Jennifer McCarthy, Patrick Warburton, Liev Schreiber
Plot: On the set of Stab 3, a brand-new killer stalks Hollywood, killing the cast and crew of the movie, perhaps in a vain attempt to recreate the Woodsboro killings.
Scream is the kind of film that arguably does not have the longevity of its horror movie counterparts. For one, Ghostface isn’t a supernatural killer, so the same murderer cannot be brought back from the dead each entry. And for another point, seeing as the movies revolve around Sidney Prescott and the world’s fascination with her, surely there is only a limited amount of time that Scream can remain going for.
Scream 3 works hard to disprove the theory that one sequel was enough. For a start, it references that the characters have learned from the previous two films. Sidney Prescott is living anonymously, manning a helpline for distressed women. Dewey has taken precautions to ensure that no copycat killers can track her down. It is refreshing to see that the same mistakes, at least for the opening half, are repeated. For a long time, Sidney is kept out of the picture, happily enjoying a life free of the wraith of the senseless media. It means that when a copycat Ghostface does inevitably emerge he has to make do with slaughtering the cast of Stab 3, the movie based on the Woodsboro stabbings, where the initial Ghostface reigned. There is still fun to poked at the post-modernism of Scream. As the fictional film series, Stab, struggles with the fatigue of a movie franchise on its third outing, it is impossible not to notice the self-parodying going on here. As plot points are rehashed, so are the original characters, as the red shirts here are actresses playing the likes of Drew Barrymore. It creates a sense of familiarity to extremes, mocking the horror franchise cliché of desperately clinging to their roots. At the same time, you have to come to terms with the fact that this doesn’t excuse Scream 3 of doing exactly that. There is a routine setting in now. An opening act stabbing. Courtney Cox and David Arquette are bitterly reunited, but grow fond of each other once again. Even Jamie Kennedy resurfaces (death aside), to point out the rules of the second sequel (or if the characters are really unlucky, the trilogy ending). The wheels of Scream are looking well-worn by this point. It also means that the actors are charged with the same old storylines, so they have little new to do other than coming across as vaguely charismatic. In terms of scares, Ghostface has always been a vaguely spooky creation, rather than a terrifying horror persona. By this point in the series, he barely causes a jolt. Freddy Krueger he is not! There are some fresh beats to make Scream 3 lively enough to keep the franchise fans pleased. Ghostface is now armed with a voice-changer, able to trick the character list into turning on each other. He is also apparently able to absorb bullets, following Jamie Kennedy’s suggestion that horror movie psychos turn supernatural in the third outing. But it must be said that as the movie hits its saggy middle, we could do with a few more scary jolts to put some life into the well-worn franchise.
But Scream always has a trick up its sleeve. Calling it a horror/comedy is selling Scream short. It is also a very decent mystery movie. It remains the one horror franchise, where the identity of the killer is new each time and the franchise is better for it. When they tried to swap Jason Voorhees for someone new, the world revolted. If the scares are mediocre and the acting isn’t breaking new ground, absorb yourself into a thrilling mystery. The first Scream was uber-intelligent with hiding the true killer. The second Scream was the perfect blend of red herrings and “just guessable enough” bad guys to keep things fun. Scream 3 could be argued to be less entertaining, but the mystery is hardly a dud. This Ghostface leaves pictures of Sidney’s murdered mother at each crime scene, suggesting that the killer is a face from Sidney’s past. But is it one of the several red shirts bumbling around the set, using these photos as a trick to throw the cops off their scent? There are suspicions aplenty from the intense cop in charge of the case to the film producer with skeletons in the closet. Even when the film is at its low points, you are so busy scrutinising every character, that the film’s pitfalls don’t register as much as they should. Scream is a master of genre-blending, probably the finest at providing the light comedy touches. Carrie Fisher gets an amazing cameo with an outrageous gag that will get you talking. Actors make for great targets to poke fun at. If this is a bad Scream, at the very least, it proves that it does mediocrity well.
Final Verdict: Scream 3 sees the franchise begin to look stale, but the fun mystery touches and solid dependency on what came before means that it holds itself together well.