If the originality was already wearing thin in Scream 2, it’s completely absent in Scream 3. The film, which wants to be a satire of trilogies in general and trilogies in slasher films in particular — if there actually are any that didn’t get further cash-in sequels — falls into many of the trappings that the previous two Screams criticized, and ends up feeling like just another generic slasher flick, albeit with a few characters we’re familiar with. That, unfortunately, ends up hurting this film, as the characters presented here are hollow selves of those we previously saw.
Take Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), the protagonist of the first two films. Here, she’s basically absent for the first half of the film, and when she shows up in the second, she mostly just sits around before finally getting to do something in the final few scenes. The leads this time around are still returning characters, the reporter, Gale (Courteney Cox) and the former Deputy, Dewey (David Arquette), who end up in Hollywood after some of the cast of in-movie Stab 3 get killed.
Yes, the Stab series, which got started in Scream 2 with the Scream-parody Stab, is still going, but Ghostface, the serial killer we’ve all grown to … feel indifferent about, really, has other plans. He’s started going through the cast list and checking off the names of the people he wants dead, which, as it turns out, is all of the cast members. Gale and Dewey are investigating along with Detective Kincaid (Patrick Dempsey), as someone else has decided to put on the Halloween costume and bring back terrible memories.
Of course, there are new rules because this is now a trilogy. At least, that’s what we’re told. All bets are off this time around, as even the main character — Sidney, although this film forgets that for a large portion of its running time — can be killed. The villain is also going to come with a back story that we won’t see coming, and there will be a lot of exposition near the end in order to fill us in on something we could not have possibly guessed.
True to form, you won’t be able to guess who’s behind the costume this time around. Even after learning about it, I struggled to understand why it mattered and why the film treated it with all the seriousness in the world. Yeah, it’s a kind of neat twist, but it ultimately serves no purpose when it comes at the last second, cannot be guessed, there are no clues hinting toward it, and it doesn’t actually impact anything.
Basically, don’t spend your time watching Scream 3 and hoping to be able to figure out everything about the villain. You won’t be able to, as the film cheats, and is happy about cheating; it rubs it in your face, as a matter of fact. In the last two movies, it was possible that you’d be able to at least figure out who’s behind the mask, even if you might not have been able to get the motive. This one won’t be like that, so don’t even try. You’re better off being occasionally frightened and laughing a fair bit. That’s more what Scream 3 cares about anyway, so indulge it in that.
This Scream is more focused on the laughs than the scares or the satire. It’s a different direction, and I don’t think it worked as well, in large part because the humor was never the best part of these things; that was the balance between satire, comedy, and horror. The only scene that I can remember audibly laughing was at the beginning, where Liev Schrieber briefly reprises his role as Cotton Weary, and begins the film talking on his phone, talking about a cash-grab cameo — like the one he was doing by being the opening kill.
The rest is mostly just dull. Parker Posey, playing the in-movie version of Gale is kind of fun to watch, especially when the two Gales get together and tag-team in order to try to solve the murders, but mostly, there just isn’t a lot of fun here. Nobody seems to be bringing a lot of energy, there’s a noticeable lack of originality, and, like the first two films before it, Scream 3 is way, way too long. These things should be staying at 90 minutes, but all have been over 110, with Scream 3 clocking in at 116.
It’s surprising to see some of the actors making appearances in this movie. You’ve got the likes of Jenny McCarthy, Patrick Warburton, and Emily Mortimer in supporting roles, but the filmmakers don’t give them anything of value to do. Actually of the three, the only one I can remember is McCarthy, if only because her death scene — Spoiler alert: she dies — comes around while she was talking about how her character dies in Stab 3, and it was kind of funny. Don’t ask me about the other deaths, as they pretty much all come via the end of a knife.
Scream 3 is a moderately enjoyable film if only because it continues the trend of making fun of the genre it’s trying to be a success in. It doesn’t come close to the first film and is still worse than the second one, but it’s not a terrible watch. You will already like these characters and you’ll want to see their story play out, and that was enough for me. It needed to take the same direction as earlier installments, though, as being more comedic didn’t work.