Yes, I am aware I seem to be reviewing a lot of more modern horror recently. It is not really intentional, and trust me when I say that this is not turning into an examination of the mise en scene of slasher films. It simply make sense to review this so soon after posting a review of Scream 2; for that matter, so soon after posting a review of Toy Story 3 where I discussed how it was impossible for any trilogy (excluding ones that were planned) to maintain their momentum throughout the course of the works. Looking at Scream 3 is a way to see if this claim stands up under close scrutiny.
The film opens with the murder of Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber), who had been accused of the murders in the previous. Ghostface, the killer from the original films, is back on his killing spree. On the set of Stab 3, the latest film based on the murders (where Cotton had filmed a cameo) the death has affected many of the actors and the director, Roman Bridger (Scott Foley) who fear the film will not go on. Gail Weathers, once again, starts investigating the murder after a picture of Sidney Prescott’s mother is found at the scene. On the set of the movie, actors are killed off in roughly the same order as they are in the script by Ghostface; it is believed that the next one will be actress playing Gail Weathers, Jennifer Jolie (Parker Posey). Sidney (Neve Campbell) is contacted by the killer again, and all of the main characters are tricked into going to John Milton’s (Lance Henrikson) house where the killer can finally murder everyone left untouched by his original massacres.
Yes, the film has the same self referential humor. The film Stab 3 contains actors playing the same characters in the film (including Parker Posey playing Gail Weathers) while Lance Henrikson essentially playing the Weinstein brothers. There is also the reach for Generation X humor (the film features a cameo from Jay and Silent Bob as well as Carrie Fisher complaining that the person who got the role of Princess Leia was given to “the one who sleeps with George Lucas.”) All of the elements that made the first one (and the second one) so successful are retained.
What is not kept is the energy. The film does not bring anything original with the material; no references to the fact that this is a sequel, no new “rules,” nothing of the sort. We do get some interesting in jokes about Hollywood; Bridger thinks that the murders mean he is doomed in Hollywood, not because people are dying but because his production has been shut down. We also get some Psycho references (the killer taunts Sidney with her mother’s voice). But nothing like the rib ticklers present in the other films. This is the equivalent of someone telling a joke we’ve heard before but forgetting the delivery of the punchline. We certainly remember why we laughed, but it will no longer be funny.
The approach that the film takes in deconstructing the typical Hollywood script is admirable. Often, the characters are able to predict what will happen next by reading the script to Stab 3. Also, rewrites are mercilessly satirized. The killer is remaking the movie, but the people are not sure what he will do next because there are so many versions of the script in existence. Plus, a videotape that shows a killer who had previously died….well, it tries re-establish the whole “rules of surviving” idea that was cute at first but here there is not really a pay off.
What about the rest of it? So far I have only compared it to other films in the franchise, but how does it compare to horror films in general? It’s hard to say, considering that this is meant to be funny. Still, Wes Craven has always been a master horror director and that same skill is used here. There are plenty of shocking moments in the film that never become obscenely graphic (as is sometimes the temptation). But those looking to be truly frightened will not be satisfied with this film. Then again, that is not the selling point of the Scream films so such a complaint is something that is barely worthwhile.
Well, here is hoping that Scream 4 will be able to revitalize the franchise. This is not one that fell mightily, but it is one that desperately needs reexamination in order to recapture its prominence and its audience. Of course, if any franchise can properly re-examine itself, it is the Scream franchise.