Scream 3 (United States, 2000)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

They say the third time's a charm. In the case of the Scream movie series, the Wes Craven/Kevin Williamson collaboration credited for having revived the slasher genre in the '90s, this cliché proves to be a falsehood. The most recent (and hopefully final) chapter in the comedy/horror trilogy comes across as a lame regurgitation of material already presented. There are no real surprises, and the whole affair has the feeling of something left too long in the pot to stew. The life and energy is gone. What began as a lively, intelligent series suffused with self-referential humor has turned into just another slice-and-dice-by-numbers affair. Scream 3 isn't just the weakest of the movies, it's the kind of thing that the original Scream lampooned with affectionate glee.

All of our old friends are back - even one who didn't survive the second installment - although virtually everyone looks tired of the project. Even director Wes Craven doesn't seem to have his heart in it. (He agreed to direct this movie only after Miramax allowed him to helm the non-horror l">Music of the Heart.) Neve Campbell's screen time as Sidney Prescott has been dramatically reduced - she hardly appears during the movie's first half, which concentrates on the exploits of Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox Arquette). They are in Hollywood, on the set of the movie Stab 3, where members of the cast are being eviscerated in the same order that their characters were offed in the screenplay. The killer leaves behind a picture of Sidney's mother at each crime scene. An LAPD homicide detective named Kincaid (Patrick Dempsey) wants to bring in Sidney for questioning, but she's in hiding - until the killer finds her and she decides that seclusion is no longer the answer. So the whole group is united in Tinseltown for another round of mayhem and murder in which just about every supporting character ends up with a knife in his or her back.

Scream 3 features three good moments, but they're hardly enough to save the movie from the tedious spiral of repetitiveness it is trapped in. The first is a from-beyond-the-grave video lecture by Randy (Jamie Kennedy), who offers up the "rules of the trilogy." For example, "events in the third segment always go back to the beginning" and "even the hero can die in the final chapter." (One that he doesn't mention, and which proves true in this case, is that the final installment of any trilogy is usually the worst. The examples Randy cites, Star Wars and The Godfather, are classic examples of this.) Then there's a brief cameo by cult heroes Jay and Silent Bob, who are given a couple of lines (well, at least Jay is. Finally, Carrie Fisher appears as a receptionist who bemoans not having gotten the part of Princess Leia in Star Wars because she wouldn't sleep with George Lucas.

When it comes to storyline, character development, and pacing, Scream 3 strikes out. The movie drags along from one predictable slaying to the next, and the only real scares along the way are the "boo!" moments when something innocuous jumps out of the shadows just before the real killer strikes. Meanwhile, the level of humor in Scream 3 is way down. Parker Posey (as the actress playing Gale in the Stab series) has a few amusing lines, but the ironic dialogue and cute references to other horror films, which were wearing thin in Scream 2, are now positively threadbare.

The protagonists - Sidney, Dewey, and Gale - who actually seemed like real people in the other movies, are reduced to cookie cutter impressions of their previous selves. They look the same and sound the same, but there's no depth. And they're always finding new ways to get separated from each other and trapped in dark places. We get a lot of backstory on Sidney and her mother, but it's all pretty pointless. And, for those who like to play the killer guessing game, there isn't any purpose. Despite numerous red herrings, there's no way to logically deduce the culprit's identity. Once the unmasking occurs, the story is forced to go through a number of improbable gyrations to make things sound vaguely plausible. But, by then, I had lost interest. I was beginning to wish the masked murderer would dispatch everyone who was still alive, including herself/himself, so that the movie could end.

Once, I wrote that Scream 3 would have to do something radical or inventive to avoid becoming tiresome. Unfortunately, there's nothing here that even the most inexperienced horror film fan would call innovative, and the predictable result is a movie that pales in comparison with its predecessors. Thus far, 2000 has been a very bad year for films, and Scream 3 does nothing to reverse the trend.

Scream 3 (United States, 2000)

Run Time: 1:56
U.S. Release Date: 2000-02-04
MPAA Rating: "R" (Violence, Profanity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1