Movie Review – Scream 3 (2000)

Scream 3 (2000), again directed by Wes Craven but with a script by Ehren Kruger, continues the story of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), and former-deputy Dewey (David Arquette). Due to public sensitivity about media violence resulting from the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, the kills, which are noticeably less bloody, are moved out of small-town America to Hollywood, California. This time the victims are the actors of Stab 3, the metafictional movie-within-a-movie that dramatizes the tragic events surrounding our principal characters.

Scream 3 opens strongly but peters out quickly, and it never quite lives up to the two installments that came before. In Scream 2 the horror references were present, but they were beginning to be overshadowed by references to the stars’ other projects and pop culture. Scream 3 continues that trend and amplifies it by focusing on Hollywood culture, but in doing so it continuously threatens to cross over from being self-referential to being self-parodying. In some scenes the film definitely crosses that line, such as with the cameo by Jay and Silent Bob – not Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith, but the drug dealing characters they portray. Such scenes are little more than farce and can be taken as an indication that what made the Scream franchise fresh has grown stale.

Even though it posits itself as an examination of horror trilogies, even having the obligatory scene of Randy (Jamie Kennedy) giving us the rules, the movie never really feels about that. It instead goes off the rails and become a spoof on Hollywood rather than an examination of horror. As Stab takes over more of the narrative, the tone becomes decidedly comedic and the wit and tension are lost. At times it’s more Scary Movie, which was released the same year, than horror, and it hardly feels like it resides in the same universe as the first two Screams. Likewise, the series which was founded on exposing and upturning horror clichés falls into these dusty traps again and again in this outing. We get tired fake jump scares and characters who should know better making absurd decisions. The kills, too, are unimaginative and forgettable.

This being said, the acting is still solid, particularly Campbell’s portrayal of Sidney. She is able to convey strength and vulnerability in equal measure. Nevertheless, Sidney as the victim gets tiresome and I feel the writers lost a golden opportunity to make Gale the target, as they readily establish how disliked she is by the people about whom she writes. Due to Campbell filming another movie, Sidney gets less screen time and Gale and Dewey take up most of the plot. Making Gale the object of murderous intent could have taken advantage of this and we could have had Sidney come out of hiding to help Gale. Alas, Scream 3 sticks to its own franchise trope.

Despite the tired cameos and pop references, Craven films the lackluster script with the high quality filmmaking we’ve come to expect from the series, and even though it’s retreading old ground it always remains entertaining to watch. Nevertheless, this film was meant to close the trilogy and I imagine that anyone who saw it must have felt that there was nowhere else for the franchise to go.

Of course, Scream 3 would not be the last. After a decade Craven would return to the franchise for Scream 4 (2011), which I believe is actually a stronger film than this entry, if only by a small measure, and manages to successfully comment on Hollywood in a manner which this movie ultimately attempts but fails to do.

Grade: C

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