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Movie Review: Scream 3 (2000)

Updated on February 13, 2013

Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox Arquette, David Arquette, Liev Schreiber, Patrick Dempsey, Emily Mortimer, Lance Henrikson, Parker Posey, Scott Foley, Deon Richmond, Jenny McCarthy, Patrick Warburton, Jamie Kennedy

Scream 3
is a staggering miscalculation, a witless example of the very thing the first two movies parodied so well: a run of the mill hack-n'-slash. Wes Craven is once again behind the camera, but whatever mojo he brought to the first two films is now gone this time. There's just no joy or life to any of this. By the time the identity of the killer is revealed, you've lost all reason to care.

The movie opens up promisingly enough, with Cotton Weary (Liev Schrieber), now a sleazy TV talk show host, stuck in traffic and arguing with his agent on the phone. Suddenly he receives another phone call from a flirtatious woman claiming to be a fan. During the conversation, the woman's voice changes, and the caller turns out to be the infamous Ghost Face killer, who demands to know the location of Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell). When Cotton refuses to spill the beans, both he and his girlfriend are brutally murdered.

We learn later on that Cotton had a small role in the new film Stab 3, which is still in production. Because of this, the authorities believe the killer will strike again against the other actors in the film. "He was making a movie called Stab," says one of the cops. "He was stabbed." Detective Kincaid (Patrick Dempsey) hypothesizes that the killer will target the actors in the order they die in the film. The problem is, there were three different versions of the script released to keep the ending from leaking out all over the web, and no one seems to know which version the killer read.

Series regulars Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox Arquette) and Dewey Riley (David Arquette) return, the former being hired by Kincaid once it's revealed the killer leaves pictures of Sydney's mother at each crime scene, and the latter working as a technical adviser on the new Stab movie. Meanwhile, Sydney lives in isolation, working from home, under a false name, as a counselor on a woman's crisis hotline. Sydney seems content being cut off from the outside world. "Psychos can't kill what they can't find." Unfortunately, the killer somehow discovers Sydney's location, forcing her to come out of hiding and reunite with her old friends to put an end to the mayhem, once and for all.

Even the screams feel phony here.
Even the screams feel phony here.

Scream 3 features the usual horror movie clichés, including characters who behave foolishly when running from the killer. For example, when Sydney is attacked on the set of Stab 3, she runs inside the recreated set of her old home and up the stairs, much like she did in the original film, instead of running outside to safety. During the climax, Dewey and Gale are constantly finding reasons to split up. "Stay here and call for help," Dewey says at one point. "I'll go check the basement." The first two movies had fun poking at clichés like this, and what Scream 3 lacks is its predecessor's satirical edge. It's all played straight this time, and it all feels formulaic and boring.

And like a lot of bad horror films, the characters receive little to no development here. They all have cute names like Jennifer Jolie (Parker Posey) and Angelina Tyler (Emily Mortimer), but they are given neither depth or interesting personalities to keep us involved in them. Even Sydney, Dewey, and Gale feel like pale imitations of their former selves. In the previous films, they played characters who felt human and who we cared very much about. This time, they seem to be going through the motions, although the fault lies more with screenwriter Ehren Kruger than it does with them.

Replacing Kevin Williamson, who penned the previous films, Kruger manages to score two amusing scenes, one involving a posthumous video tape of Randy (Jamie Kennedy) explaining the rules of trilogies, and the other featuring a cameo of Carrie Fisher as a receptionist who lost the role of Princess Leia because she refused to sleep with George Lucas. Other than that, his work here is so maddeningly uninspired that even a Jay and Silent Bob cameo falls depressingly flat. Scream 3 just feels like a number of other slasher films you've seen. It's predictable and dull, and features some of the worst dialogue in the franchise. For example, when Sydney asks Kincaid what his favorite scary movie is, he leans in and whispers, "My life." It makes me cringe to even recount it.

Even the killer is a big disappointment. While some of the plot revelations answer some of the questions left over in part 1 (ie How did Billy Loomis find out about his father's affair with Sydney's mom?), the killer in this movie is almost hilariously whiny. Prior to their violent battle, the killer actually screams and pouts to Sydney about why he kills. When she calls him out for being such a whiny little pansy, it takes every ounce of strength not to scream at the screen, "Thank you!"

The actors do commendable jobs, given the shallow material they've been given. Campbell is especially strong as Sydney, although her character is given so little screen time that the movie barely profits from her performance. Director Wes Craven directs the proceedings as though he's as bored by the material as the audience, and there is not a moment of the film that is even sort of scary. The movie concludes with the promise that there was no need to continue with the franchise any longer. Unfortunately, Hollywood isn't known for keeping its promises, as they proved that back in 2011 with the release of Scream 4.

** (out of ****)

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