Starring: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Parker Posey, Patrick Warburton, Lance Henriksen
“Is this simply another sequel? If it is, same rules apply. But if you find yourself dealing with an unexpected backstory and a preponderance of exposition, then the sequel rules do not apply. Because you are not dealing with a sequel, you are dealing with the concluding chapter of a trilogy.” (Randy, Scream 3)
“All I know about movie trilogies is that in the third one, all bets are off”. In a roundabout way, this single line of dialogue attempts to account for Scream 3’s plot but instead sums up everything that’s wrong with it. Gone are the clever references to horror films from the first Scream and the cheeky nods at sequel clichés in its follow-up, replaced by confusing plot points, tired fourth wall references and an ending that’s about as satisfying as using beehives as football boots, with the simple explanation each time that “hey, it’s the third one, we can do any old shite and it’s fair game”.
Taking place a couple of years after the events of Scream 2, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is now living out in the middle of nowhere. Along with her change of address comes a complete change of identity, her name and job altered in an attempt to avoid any more crazed killers who might want to call her up and give her hassle. Ironically, her new job is telephone counselling, in which she helps women over the phone who are suffering from sensitive problems. Guess what happens next?
The whole “film within a film” thing from Scream 2 is copied again in Scream 3 but it’s taken to the nth degree by setting the majority of the action on the set of the next Stab movie. All the ‘disposable’ characters are actors playing the real-life Sidney, Gail Weathers and the like, making for a silly sub-plot in which the killer is seemingly killing the actors in the same order the real characters died – a sub-plot that mysteriously disappears halfway through the film when the writers seemingly realise that most of the real characters aren’t actually dead yet.
It’s just a mess, really. The instances of humour are clumsy (look, it’s Jay and Silent Bob taking a tour of the film set! It’s real actors playing fake characters in a fake real film set of a fake movie based on fake real events! And look! It’s Carrie Fisher playing a woman who looks just like Carrie Fisher!) the secondary characters have as much personality as a stapler, the blatant shoehorning of Randy into the film – because he was the only interesting character in the previous two instalments – is unsatisfying and the whole thing in general is just underwhelming.
By far the most disappointing aspect, however, is the ending. The whole point of the Scream movies is trying to figure out the identity of the killer and their motive, but when it’s revealed to be one of the least interesting characters in the film and they then go on a boring rant about something or other that nobody really gives a shit about, then Scream 3’s status as a crushingly inadequate end to an otherwise great trilogy is cemented.
My advice is to watch Scream and Scream 2 back-to-back then pretend the third one didn’t exist. As for Scream 4? Well, that’s for another review…