Due to a 14A rating when originally released, I was actually able to go and see Scream 3 in theatres, the first time I was able to do that with this franchise. We went to see it opening night since the fear was that it would not take long for the Internet to spoil all of the big reveals. As with the second movie, I walked away unimpressed and had not gone back to this installment until now. Again I held out hope that maybe, just maybe, my heart had grown since then and I would be able to find a place in it for Scream 3. Nope, my heart still ain’t having it and told Scream 3 to vacate immediately.
Scream 3 takes place a wee bit after the events of the second movie. Sidney is living in isolation and doesn’t even really become a factor in the movie until the second half. This seems done not out of character growth but out of Neve Campbell’s diminishing desire to take part in these movies. Dewey and Gail are both back as well and go through almost the exact same character arc as the last movie where they haven’t seen each other in a while, they fight, and then eventually make up. They all eventually meet up in Hollywood where Stab 3 is being filmed and shit gets way more meta than the previous two movies combined. Because Stab 2 was presumably the events of Scream 2, Scream 3 is allowed to blatantly call out moments from Stab 2 as though it were actually Scream 2. It’s weird though because they specifically say that (spoilers again) people got pissed in Stab 2 when they killed Randy but didn’t that have to happen in the universe of this movie as it happened in real life, or at least the real life version of real life within these movies? Fuckin’ meta shit man. You also have characters as actors who are playing the other characters and they recreate the set of the first movie to run around in and I’ll be honest it’s kinda cute but most of it just doesn’t work for me. It’s trying so hard to be clever that it becomes almost obnoxious and also seems to forget that clever doesn’t necessarily equal funny, which is especially detrimental here as Scream 3 is clearly aiming to be a comedy first and a horror film second.
There are tons of silly bits and dialogue in this movie and none of them work particularly well. I feel it all starts to go south pretty early on when Jay and Silent Bob show up. Not the actors, the actual characters. There is zero point to their appearance and it immediately makes the movie nearly impossible to take seriously. There’s also a scene later where Carrie Fisher shows up not playing Carrie Fisher but they talk about how she looks like Carrie Fisher. This idea didn’t work in Ocean’s Twelve and it does not work here, though at least in Ocean’s they really took it and ran with it. It’s not even clever, it’s just lazy.
The three leads (Sidney, Gail and Dewey) are once again the strongest point here though even they are not done justice in this movie. As mentioned Sidney is only a factor in the second half of the movie though once again she makes an impression. Her scene with the killer is once again great as she refuses to take shit, here even interrupting his big motivation speech and telling him to shut the fuck up. The whole business where she keeps hearing and seeing her dead mother is weird though as while some of it is clearly being orchestrated by the killer, some of it clearly isn’t so I guess we’re supposed to think she really has lost her mind a little bit? Or maybe they were trying to make it seem like this was all in her head? I don’t know whatever the intent was it does not come across.
Dewey is the same character he has always been, providing some of the few successful laughs that the movie has. I wish he would stop falling for Gail in each movie as while he insists below her cold exterior she has a heart of gold, we rarely get to see that and mostly just see the bitchy stuff. Although Gail’s character seems a lot more wacky here than in past movies which I don’t like. She spends most of her time with Parker Posey, whose spoiled actress character is playing Gail in Stab 3. They aren’t funny together and although I think Posey is supposed to be the comic relief, it doesn’t work great as she simply refuses to do or say anything funny. Besides a comic relief is largely unnecessary in a movie that is this fucking silly.
Speaking of silly, that is how best I can describe the scene featuring another returning character. Obviously people were not pleased that Randy was dispatched in the second movie so the writer (who by the way is Ehren Krueger for this go around, not Kevin Williamson, likely another huge reason why this movie is vastly inferior to the previous two) wanted a way to get him into this one. So they have Randy’s sister show up (a character whose existence has never been mentioned in any way before), and provide them with a video tape he made before he died where he explains the rules of a trilogy. Then the sister immediately leaves and is never talked about again. Back when I first saw this I appreciated the scene because I did like the Randy character and was pleased to see him return in some form. Now though it’s completely ridiculous and adds literally nothing to the movie as most of the things he says have little bearing on anything, outside of I believe one call back line later on.
This actually leads into one of my biggest complaints of the movie in that it is all talk and no game. So much time is spent hyping up that this is the final trilogy chapter and how anything goes and how all bets are off and even the main characters can and likely will be killed. Except none of that happens. This movie plays it as safe as it possibly can. The opening scene where Cotton is murdered was surprising on first viewing but in retrospect, it was the safest risk they could have taken. Outside of that, they kill exactly who you would expect with little to no surprise.
The reveal of the killer had potential to be huge but instead it falls flat as well. They do meet their promise of going back to the beginning but the revelation that the mastermind behind all of this has been Sidney’s long lost brother is as contrived as it gets. It’s a clichéd story device that I’m sure was the subject of mockery even back then so it’s a little startling that’s what they fell back on. Again, it’s silly. Did I mention this killer also has the ability to replicate any character’s voice at any time? I guess it’s an interesting way to up the ante but they don’t do enough with the idea and it’s such a ridiculous concept that it is further evidence this movie is not intended to be taken seriously.
Wow I didn’t even talk about the supporting cast yet, but if you thought the characters introduced in Scream 2 were thin, just wait until you see what’s on deck for this movie. There are at least 10 new characters introduced in Scream 3 in order to create as many suspects as possible and no concern was given to making them actual, you know, characters. The first Scream was full of great characters no matter how large their role was but here, even the ones you already know are not interesting anymore (outside of Sidney of course) and the new ones have no personalities. They are here to be dispatched and nothing more.
Near the end of the Scream 2 review I dedicated a paragraph to listing some of the positive aspects of the movie but I’m having a far harder time doing that here. It’s not that I completely hated the movie, it was passable entertainment but nothing stands out that deserves a positive highlight that I haven’t already touched on (the Sidney character mostly). I guess the Randy scene does have a couple of funny parts even if its inclusion seems incredibly strained. Also Parker Posey has a couple of bad line deliveries that made me laugh. I will also give some credit to the sequence where Sidney wanders around the set that resembles her old home and starts reminiscing about events from the first movie. Though I may have only enjoyed that as it allowed me to revisit the first and much better movie, it’s hard to say.
Scream started as a franchise that was meant to both celebrate and poke fun at the horror genre, particularly slasher movies. By the third movie it has taken on all of the worst qualities of the slasher sub-genre with under developed characters, uninteresting kills and an almost complete lack of suspense. The focus is clearly more on humour in this installment which is unfortunate as the movie is not funny. It was a very weak note for the franchise to go out on so I can’t help but be kinda happy that they eventually did make the fourth installment, which I recall is quite a bit better than both this movie and the second. We shall soon see for sure!