Scream 3

With veritable franchise founder Kevin Williamson AWOL from the project, Scream 3, the final installment in a hugely popular series, has completely lost the edge of its two predecessors. Not that I have anything against replacement Ehren Kruger; he wrote Arlington Road, one of my very favorite films of 1999. But he doesn’t have what it takes to write a Scream movie. Maybe that’s a good thing, I don’t know, but his script completely misses the point of the franchise.

Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is a supporting player now; she lives an isolated life in the mountains and works part time from her home for a women’s crisis hotline. The main characters this time are reporter Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) and Deputy Dewey (David Arquette). The action takes place on and around the set of “Stab 3,” the movie within a movie based on the “Woodsboro” murders depicted in the first Scream.

Of course, there’s another weird dude making creepy phone calls and chasing people around in a ghost mask (scary the first time) and wielding a knife. Miramax has gone to great lengths to conceal the identity of the killer so out of courtesy I won’t hint at who it is. Not like it matters: this isn’t a mystery and it’s impossible to figure out whodunit short of lucky random guessing. If you see the movie, take my advice: milk their thrills for all they’re worth and don’t worry about playing the guessing game.

Wes Craven, who faithfully helmed all three movies as well as slasher classics like A Nightmare on Elm Street, still knows how to stage good jump scenes. There are some very effective sequences here and I was startled more than a few times but nothing could match the utterly disquieting Scream 2 scene where Sidney had to climb over an apparently unconscious killer sitting in the driver’s seat of a car or the downright terrifying opening sequence of the original. We never get that sense of overwhelming dread that glues us to our seats.

The whole idea of the Scream franchise has been that the characters have seen other horror movies and thus consciously avoid the clichés and stupidity that plagued (and often killed) previous slasher movie heroes. But in Scream 3, the powers that be suddenly decided that all the characters would start acting like retards. People go into a dark basement where they have just heard a noise and shut the door behind them. A guy leaves a girl alone in a room while he goes to investigate another strange sound. This is the kind of movie where you want to yell obscenities at the screen; something it definitely was not meant to be.

Perhaps my disappointment with Scream 3 stems from high expectations. I loved the first two films; the second even more so than the original and was hoping the finale would surpass them both and the franchise would become another Star Wars. Well, it was not to be. Nothing like an abysmal screenplay to make expectations go “poof!” I find myself hoping for a “Scream 4″ where Kevin Williamson makes a triumphant return and the series goes out on a high note.

From a technical standpoint, this is a very competent movie. Few will find themselves bored. Much of the action is exciting, if frustrating, and a hilarious performance from Parker Posey as a “fake Gale Weathers” livens things up tremendously. But this is not a Scream movie. It’s far too average and typical of slasher flicks past. No, I hope to forget about this one’s existence quickly. It pains me to think of a superb franchise hitting relative rock bottom.

-- Eugene Novikov

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Screening Log

Snitch

Ric Roman Waugh, 2013

Score: C

Side Effects

Steven Soderbergh, 2013

Score: C+

10 Years

Jamie Linden, 2012

Score: B-

The Place Beyond the Pines

Derek Cianfrance, 2013

Score: B+

Warm Bodies

Jonathan Levine, 2013

Score: C

Beautiful Creatures

Richard LaGravanese, 2013

Score: B-

The Window

Ted Tetzlaff, 1949

Score: B+

The Chase

Arthur Ripley, 1946

Score: B

Street of Chance

Jack Hively, 1942

Score: C

The Taste of Money

Im Sang-Soo, 2013

Score: C+

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