Synopsis: The most terrifying scream is always the last.
Stars Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courteney Cox Arquette are back for more in the chilling final chapter of this phenomenally popular and frightfully entertaining trilogy! While Sidney Prescott (Campbell) lives in safely guarded seclusion, bodies begins dropping around the Hollywood set of Stab 3, the latest movie sequel based on the gruesome Greensboro killings! And when the escalating terror finally brings her out of hiding, Sidney and other Greensboro survivors are once again drawn into an insidious game of horror movie mayhem! But just when they thought they knew how to play by the rules, they discover that all the rules have been broken! Featuring hot newcomers Parker Posey (The House Of Yes) and Jenny McCarthy (Diamonds) in another stellar ensemble cast, Scream 3 offers an unmatched mix of thrills, laughter and suspense that brings this spine-tingling saga to an unforgettable conclusion.
Scream 3 8.25
eyelights: its diverse and superb cast. its layers of humour. the inside references. the pace. the resolution.
eyesores: its minor lapses in logic.
“Well, all I know about trilogies is that in the third one, all bets are off.”
A lot changed in the four years between ‘Scream‘ and ‘Scream 3’. For starters, Kevin Williamson’s career took off and he was working on many projects at once, including ‘Dawson’s Creek’, ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ and his directorial debut ‘Teaching Ms. Tingle’. Secondly, there was the tragedy of the 1999 Columbine High School shootings, which shook up not only everyday folks but the movie industry as well.
By the time production began on ‘Scream 3’, Williamson was unavailable to write the screenplay. Ehren Kruger (who had just come off of ‘Arlington Road’) was hired to write the picture, based on some outlines that Williamson had put together. The studio became concerned about the violence in the series and asked to focus on comedy and cut out the violence, something which director Wes Craven simply refused to do.
But the pressure was on and ‘Scream 3’ was shaped in a slightly different way than the previous installments had been. For starters, Williamson’s original idea for the picture had to be jettisoned because it involved a group of high schoolers; after Columbine it would have been in poor taste. Secondly, the humour that already pervaded the series was ramped up to such a degree that elements of screwball comedy seeped in.
‘Scream 3’ finds Sid drawn to Hollywood after a series of murders take place on the set of ‘Stab 3’, the second sequel to the movie based on the events of what she experienced in ‘Scream’. Although she’d been in hiding for years, the killer had finally tracked her down and she realized that she needed to come out in the open to find him. Naturally, when she arrives on the set, Dewey and Gale are already there, working the case.
Unlike its predecessor, which spoofed sequels, ‘Scream 3’ jabbed at trilogies. With the help of a pre-recorded video by Randy, the characters and audience are briefed on the rules of a trilogy, setting the stage for what’s to come. The film not only pokes fun at trilogies, it also pokes fun at horror films, the industry and even itself, with the characters intermingling with their ‘Stab’ counterparts to hilarious effect.
The best of all these interactions is the one between Gale and Jennifer Jolie (played brilliantly by Parker Posey), who incarnates her on screen and who is deluded enough to believe that her version is better; they wind up tied at the hip and competing to prove themselves the better Gale. Too funny. It’s one of the most clever parts of the whole series, and it was one of the things that made me relish this final entry in the series.
I also really liked that the picture increased the pop cultural references, which made sense given that it’s set in Hollywood, in and around the studio. There are plenty of cameos, including notable ones by Roger Corman as a studio exec, Carrie Fisher as a former actress who failed to get the part of Princess Leia even after sleeping with George Lucas, and Jay and Silent Bob on a tour of the studio, mistaking Gale for Connie Chung.
Then there’s the inside-inside references, with Sid visiting the set of ‘Stab 3’ and reliving some of the moments she experienced in the first picture – including an attack by Ghostface. It serves two purposes, the first of which is the afore-mentioned inside baseball, with the second being to show us how much Sid has changed since she was that small town girl. Now she’s extremely guarded, in hiding – physically and emotionally.
There’s an extra dimension that I really enjoyed about ‘Scream 3’ and it’s that it questions Sid’s sanity. Since she is having nightmares and sometimes having a difficult time distinguishing between what’s real and what’s not, it makes you wonder if maybe she’d lost her mind and is 1) imagining what she’s seeing/hearing, 2) the instrument of the very terror that she fears. She could very well be the killer in ‘Scream 3’.
After all, she’s smart and tough enough. And the filmmakers have made it clear that there are no rules.
The other characters have also changed to some degree, but not nearly as much. Of course, Sid was always the core of the series, without whom the films would fall apart (as evidenced to a small degree in ‘Scream 2‘). Sidney Prescott is our connector, the person we relate to the most. The others are merely interesting and/or amusing secondary characters whom we all know could be dispatched at any time. And have been.
Even though Kruger was new to the series, he put together a credible follow-up and entry to the series. I was so impressed with it (and still am) that I would have expected big things from him; it’s not an easy fit to take the place of the original writer, to get the tone right and understand the characters. Unfortunately, after ‘Scream 3’, Kruger went on to do remakes of ‘Ringu‘ and sequels to the ‘Transformers’ films. Ouch.
Perhaps he had used up all his savvy on this picture, or perhaps the better bits came courtesy of Wes Craven, who it is said provided guidance and helped shape the material. In any event, ‘Scream 3’ is nearly as good as the original. Nearly. There are countless lapses in logic, such as Sid bumping into Randy’s sister, the killer faxing threats into the house he’s stalking, or the use of a voice emulator (which is utterly impossible).
But these are easily overlooked due to the fast pace of the picture, which jumps from one character to the next, one thread in the investigation to the other (in a sort of whodunnit fashion), and the frequent and unrelenting attacks from the killer. I was surprised to see just how quickly a 110-minute movie could fly by when we got to the end and I realized that it was nearly over. ‘Scream 3’ is an incredibly well-constructed picture.
And speaking of the ending… unlike ‘Scream 2’, which was a real disappointment, ‘Scream 3’ delivers an ending that feels right, totally in keeping with the series and that brings all the players to the end of their personal journeys. One gets a sense of closure. Finally. And that’s quite a coup because not all series end as well as this one did; there was thought and intention in the crafting of its final entry in the trilogy.
Which leads me to wonder what the story with ‘Scream 4’ is. It seems to me that the story that needed to be told has been told, and there’s not much else to explore. I thought that it was a cynical attempt to make more money, but I’ve been told that it’s actually quite good and that the second trilogy that was originally planned was off to a great start. I am very curious to see it now, although I will adjust my expectations.
To me, ‘Scream’ is and always will be a trilogy. And perhaps the best of all the horror film franchises for its overall quality and consistency. Sure, it has its weaknesses along the way, but few trilogies in any genre are as solid as this one has been. And, in the horror genre, it’s simply impossible to find a peer. Some individual horror films are greater than any of the ‘Scream’ films, but as a whole no series bests this one.
Date of viewing: August 8, 2015