February 4, 2000
Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott
Courteney Cox as Gale Weathers
David Arquette as Dewey Riley
Parker Posey as Jennifer Jolie
Patrick Dempsey as Detective Mark Kincaid
Lance Henriksen as John Milton
Scream 3 was supposed to be the end of the trilogy… but could Wes Craven close on such an underwhelming note?
How in the world have we not covered this infamous clunker of the Scream franchise? We’ve got every picture in director Wes Craven’s up-and-down series covered sans this unbelievably out of place third installment, or supposed final chapter. Yes, at one point Wes Craven was savvy enough to know that moving beyond a trilogy would be unnecessary for Scream. Why we ended up with a fourth installment is beyond me, but hey, I’ll take a few more Ghostface slayings, even if productions have gradually begun to feel pretty substandard.
Scream 2 was a solid followup, Scream 3 was a disaster that committed so many fouls it should have been disqualified from existence and Scream 4 just exists… falling somewhere in between the greatness of 2 and the nauseating edge of 3. No sequel has come close to eclipsing the brilliance of Craven’s first film (Scream 2’s soundtrack is insanely wicked though, just for the record), although Wes clearly gave his all for Scream 2. As for Scream 3… well, Craven may have slept through the majority of the shoot. This one is just bad. Really, really bad.
If you’ve ever wondered just how pivotal a quality screen writer really is, throw the first threeScream films on. Watch them in succession and note the wit of the first two, and the subsequent derailment of all things clever and likable showcased in Scream 3. That’s what happens when Kevin Williamson (who wrote the first, second and fourth installments) gets squeezed from the production and Ehren Kruger gets pulled in to work some late rewrites. Kruger isn’t even a bad screenwriter, he’s just a bad fit for this specific franchise, especially when brought aboard without lengthy advance notice.
Williamson’s satirical self awareness is deeply missed here. The depth of the typical Scream flick has been filled with hot air, and this third installment functions as a one-directional vehicle with no flare or intellect invested. No one is trying too hard to confuse viewers and keep the suspense alive, no one is incorporating the respectful nods (there are a few tidbits here and there but they feel cheap and recycled) to past installments or bringing the meta approach to the forefront. And, it’s extremely evident that no one gave a damn about writing quality dialogue. Seriously, there are so many cliche, tired over the top lines in this 116 minute production it borders on lunacy. Maybe someone forgot to tell Kruger that the Scream franchise is about the protagonists, not the masked killer running about. Scream has always been fueled by awesome characters and the unique connections they share… until you approach the third installment.
Even Scream 4 – which isn’t likely to be remembered as a particularly great horror film, despite the staggering amount of praise initially bestowed the picture (it’s good, but nowhere near as enjoyable as the first two films) – remembers to put our adorably quirky trio (Sidney, Dewey and Gale) directly under the spotlight first and foremost. Probably because Williamson once more has control over this wild world of terror.
Is there reason to dive into the plot of this one? At this point, if you’re reading this, you’ve more than likely seen at least one Scream film. The truth is, they’re all the same (I still enjoy the majority of them quite a bit), as Ghostface pops up, makes some phone calls and ultimately targets Sidney Prescott and her unfortunate friends. The only intrigue rests under the elongated ghostly visage, and if you look beyond the first two films, the killers have been fairly predictable. If you failed to identify the villains of Scream 3 and Scream 4 inside of 45 minutes, you may want to tweak your horror radar, because you’re slipping!
Scream 3 doesn’t attempt to do anything different (other than drop viewers in Hollywood rather than Woodsboro) or create anything new. It doesn’t even really attempt to remain faithful to previously established personas. Dewey’s numerous idiosyncrasies are barely touched down upon, Sid is no longer all that sympathetic and Gale’s gone from certified spitfire to a dull uninspiring attachment, just clinging onto the story, despite playing a very prominent role in this specific chapter. The gore we’d all hoped would seep through the screen is also sorely missed. Hell, if you clean the language up on this one it’s almost fit for family night! That’s not the Screamwe’ve come to know and love.
I think what we all wanted from Scream 3 was an intriguing plot and a long look at the characters we learned to love over the course of the first two films. What we got is a rushed story that doesn’t fit Sidney Prescott, Dewey Riley or Gale Weathers. Sadly, it doesn’t fit Wes Craven’s contemporary directorial style either. This one just doesn’t fit, anywhere.