Well, what do you expect? Scream, the self-promoted “different” type of horror film is going the path of all those that came before: churning out numerous unnecessary sequels. The film promises that this will be the last (and that would be a good thing for the moviegoing audience), but we’ve seen that trick before…and we’ve seen this movie before. A tepid rehash of horror cliches, Scream 3 doesn’t even bother with the pretense of wit that saturated the earlier two films.
The stalwart heroine, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), is back. And, wouldn’t you know it, the ghost-faced killer has returned once again. Strangely, Sidney is on the sidelines for most of this episode, as the action here is centered in Hollywood. A horror sequel, Stab 3, is being made, and ghostface begins slaughtering the cast one by one. Of course, this is an attempt to find Sidney. Wait a sec, she’s not even involved with the film! Oh, I’m sorry, logic intruded there for a moment.
In any case, other familiar faces pop up here and there. Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber) is now a talk-show host, and bit player in the film. Dewey Riley (David Arquette) is a technical advisor on the set. And intrepid reporter, Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox Arquette), is once again on the trail of the masked murderer.
Of course, to feed that body count, there are plenty of new faces around. Emily Mortimer is the young ingenue who has taken the Stab 3 role of Sidney Prescott. Parker Posey is a driven actress trying to capture the spirit of Gale Weathers, and Patrick Warburton is her bodyguard. Jenny McCarthy is yet another actress on the set. Lance Henriksen is the producer who has struck it rich with the Stab franchise, and Scott Foley is his anxious director. Also making an appearance is Patrick Dempsey, as a police officer who may know more than he lets on.
The gimmick behind Scream (and Scream 2, for that matter) was that the characters were aware of all the various cliches that abound in the horror film genre. The flaw in the gimmick is that these characters foolishly simply repeat those cliches. The result is the appearance of wit without the substance. However, Scream 3 can’t even get that far. It makes a failed attempt at explaining the importance of “trilogies”, but the conclusions are baffling, irrelevant, and mostly untrue. Meanwhile, the action onscreen proceeds as a generic [Insert Horror Franchise Name Here] sequel, with few thrills and no surprises.
An obvious target for the blame is screenwriter Ehren Kruger, who takes over from the overlauded Kevin Williamson. Kruger is the new player in the pot, but making him the scapegoat is simply too easy. The truth is, there never was that much of a spark in the Scream franchise, and this third stale entry is yet more proof. Heck, director Wes Craven has even played this horror-movie-within-a-horror-movie trick once before with Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (a.k.a. the 7th Nightmare on Elm Street film). It worked better there.
Scream 2 at least had a few tense sequences to relieve the tedium. No such luck here. The film’s best moments, a chase through the Stab 3 set, is coated with a “been-there, done-that” feeling that robs it of most of the excitement. The film’s “big” finale feels completely hollow. Even the film’s expected loud-noise “scare” moments are a let down.
The problem with horror movies is that even when you kill them, they don’t stay down. The true horror is having to sit through the same formula over and over again. Scream promised to change that formula. Scream 3 proves we’re back to the same old story, and it’s not all that good.