A scene from 'Scream 3'
Courtesy Photo
** stars 116 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, Febraury 4, 2000
Directed by Wes Craven

Starring Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox Arquette, David Arquette, Parker Posey, Liev Schreiber, Scott Foley, Patrick Dempsey, Deon Richmond, Lance Henricksen, Emily Mortimer, Jenny McCarthy, Matt Keeslar, Josh Pais & Heather Matarazzo


Not very scary, but if you want to go through the motions, you know the routine: lights out, doors locked, popcorn to throw at the screen, etc.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 07/4/2000


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Self-aware 'Scream' gimmick is DOA in dull-edged trilogy finale

By Rob Blackwelder

The minute Kevin Williamson said no to writing "Scream 3," that should have been the end of it. The only thing that made "Scream" special in the first place was the writer's dark, self-aware wit regarding the conventions of the cheesy teen horror genre.

But then, Williamson had already run out of steam when he wrote the series' second installment, which was little more than an unnecessarily convoluted, workaday slasher flick with a couple well-placed sardonic remarks.

Continuing the decline, now comes "Scream 3," which Wes Craven -- the director of the whole series -- swears will be the last one. Good thing, too.

In "3," the gimmick is dead on arrival and the killer is apparently a Rich Little wannabe, as he spends most of the movie calling minor characters on their cell phones and imitating the voices of major characters to lure them into certain death down unlit hallways. The tell-tale metallic zinging sound of a knife blade follows, along with a couple shrieks and a little splatter. Then rinse and repeat.

Aside from such now-boring formula fare (this sequel has even less spirit than the regrettable imitators "Scream" has spawned), Craven relies mainly on under-written Hollywood farce subtext to keep the movie afloat.

The murders this time out take place on and around the set of "Stab 3," another installment of the movie-within-a-movie cashing in on the stalking of poor Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) by the Munch-masked killer.

It seems the real psycho is still out there and on the back lot of fictitious Sunrise Studios. He's following the shooting script for "Stab 3" and whacking the nobody actors who play our favorite characters, so Craven won't have to hack up familiar faces now that we've grown accustomed to them.

Besides Campbell, the returning cast included Liev Schreiber as Cotton Weary, now a celeb with his own talk show; Courteney Cox Arquette as ruthless tabloid TV reporter Gale Weathers; and David Arquette as dopey sheriff Dewey, who has succumbed to the temptations of show biz and become a consultant on "Stab 3." Dewey spends his days cozying up to a manic Method actress (indie princess Parker Posey, chewing scenery like bubble gum with delicious aplomb) who has the part of Gale in the movie.

Hired to write the "Scream 3" script probably based on his propensity toward twist endings, Ehren Kruger ("Arlington Road" and the upcoming "Reindeer Games") doesn't deliver. His few alleged surprises -- based on the feeble "rules" governing movie trilogies -- are easily sussed long before they happen, and the inevitable showdown scene in which Sidney finally gets to confront her tormentor just goes on forever.

In an attempt to convince us something scary is just around the corner, "3" exhausts its jumps-tinkles-and-strings horror soundtrack to the point that it soon becomes utterly ineffective. Even worse, Craven can't seem to overcome the fact that in order to maintain any air of danger, the returning characters have developed into dimwits, forgetting all the horror movie caveats they already knew (remember, being killed in spite of knowing the game was the whole point of the original "Scream").

Save two killer cameos that movie buffs will love, "Scream 3" has forsaken its clever legacy. Frankly, there ought not to have been any "Scream" sequels in the first place. Making them negates the underlying mockery of the original. But if there really will be no more installments after this one, at least we can look forward to that.

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