Scream 3 [DVD]
Screenplay : Ehren Kruger (based on characters created by Kevin Williamson)
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 2000
Stars : David Arquette (Dewey Riley), Neve Campbell (Sidney Prescott), Courteney Cox Arquetter (Gale Weathers), Patrick Dempsey (Detective Kincaid), Scott Foley (Roman Bridger), Lance Henriksen (John Milton), Parker Posey (Jennifer Jolie/Gale in "Stab 3"), Matthew Keeslar (Tom Prinze), Jenny McCarthy (Sarah Darling/Tatum in Stab 3), Emily Mortimer (Angelina Tyler/Sidney in "Stab 3"), Deon Richmond (Gabe Tucker/Joel in "Stab 3")
All throughout "Scream 3," there is the constant emphasis that this is the final installment of a trilogy, as if the filmmakers are scared to death that it will be mistaken for simply another sequel in a marketable franchise that bears no relation to the original outside of its title. Of course, this is how most sequels are made in the course of American film production, and it is only the rarest of film series (for instance, "Stars Wars" or "The Godfather," both of which are prominently mentioned in "Scream 3") that actually form coherent, meaningful narratives over the course of several films.
The problem with "Scream 3" is that, even though a strong argument could be made that all three "Scream" films do come together to form a singular narrative, in the end that complete narrative is not particularly intriguing, and it certainly didn't need three films to bear it out. Kevin Williamson, who wrote the first two films, outlined the three-part trilogy before he wrote the original screenplay--in other words, the "Scream" series was always meant to be a trilogy. Unfortunately, this final installment, while answering some lingering questions, still doesn't feel essential. And, in turning over the screenwriting reins to Ehren Kruger ("Arlington Road"), this final installment lost some of the edge that Williamson gave the first two films.
Of course, it's not that Kruger doesn't try. In fact, the screenplay for "Scream 3" is filled with good dialogue, throw-away jokes, and at least a half-dozen genre-compliant scare scenes that always have some kind of postmodern, self-reflexive twist that is essentially a cinematic wink-wink to the audience (my favorite was when a victim finds herself in a wardrobe closet filled with rows of costumes exactly like the one the killer is wearing, giving a dizzying hall-of-mirrors effect). Of course, we've seen this before in "Scream" and "Scream 2," and you can almost sense Kruger's desperation in coming up with new scenarios that both pay respect to and mock the conventions of the slasher genre.
To make up for this, Kruger has turned "Scream 3" not only into a semi-parody of slasher films, but also a semi-parody of the filmmaking process itself--sort of like "The Player" (1992) with a high body count. Most of the film takes place at a Los Angeles movie studio where production on "Stab 3"--the film-within-the-film that is the third part of the film-within-the-film introduced in "Scream 2," which was based on the Woodsboro murders of the original "Scream" (follow that?)--has been shut down because cast members are being knifed to death in the order that they die in the screenplay (this allows for a few humorous comments about movie scripts being surreptitiously released on the Internet, which was the actual filmmakers' primary fear while making "Scream 3"). Some new characters are introduced, most of whom are familiarly slimy Hollywood types like the aptly named "Stab 3" producer John Milton (Lance Henriksen) and the jittery director, Roman (Scott Foley).
The three surviving members of the first two films return. Intrepid reporter Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox Arquette), who got rich writing a salacious book about the Woodsboro murders, is now a sleazy entertainment reporter after "60 Minutes II" failed ("I was going to be the next Diane Sawyer!" she complains). Dewey Riley (David Arquette), the goofy-lovable deputy from the first film, is now working as a technical consultant on the set of "Stab 3." And poor Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), the young woman who is always the center of the murders, has changed her name and moved to a secluded house in the woods where she carefully locks every door behind her.
Events conspire to bring Sidney out of seclusion, namely a police investigator (Patrick Dempsey) who wants to know why the killer on the set of "Stab 3" is leaving behind old pictures of Sidney's mother (who was raped and murdered one year before the events in "Scream" took place). In fact, this is, more or less, what the whole trilogy has been building up to: a final, irrefutable answer to who killed Sidney's mother. When the answer final comes, it is plausible, but somehow doesn't feel like the grand revelation necessary to justify a trilogy of films. I kept expecting the rug to be pulled completely out from under me, yet the conclusion is somehow banal, even though you would never guess it. It's surprising without being gutsy.
That's not to say, of course, that there isn't some fun to be had along the way to the overlong concluding moments. Director Wes Craven, who also helmed the previous two installments, once again does a solid job behind the camera in terms of both chills and laughs. He constructs an especially surreal sequence with Sidney being pursed by the killer on a movie set of her house from the original film. It works as a kind of bizarre re-enactment of a familiar scenario that is also a sly commentary on the very movie-ness of the scene--the set-within-a-set from a movie-within-a-movie. Craven also brings the requisite humor to the film, especially in Parker Posey's Jennifer Jolie, the narcissistic actress who is portraying Gale Weathers in "Stab 3" and is in constant fear that she will be next. Posey and Cox Arquette have some funny moments together as they both vie for who is the best Gale Weathers, which is essentially a contest in pushiness.
Craven also manages to work in some interesting cameos that I won't reveal, with the exception of the painful mistake of casting the always obnoxious ex-Playmate, ex-MTV host Jenny McCarthy as a second-tier actress in "Stab 3" who gets offed early on. McCarthy's acting is so wooden and so unfunny that she renders her entire sequence impotent with her overwrought annoyance at being cast as a dim-witted blond who spends most of the film naked.
Perhaps the best thing that can be said about "Scream 3" is that it does what it promised: it ties up all the loose ends and provides a justifiable (if not entirely satisfying) conclusion to the popular series. There is always the fear, though, that "Scream 3" will do too well at the box office, and greedy producers simply will not be able to resist making a fourth installment. After all, one only has to look as far as "The Phantom Menace" and the reports of Francis Ford Coppola's tentative plans for a fourth "Godfather" film to realize that trilogies don't always end after number three.
16x9 Enhanced: Yes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Languages: English, French
Extras: Running audio commentary with director Wes Craven, producer Marianne Maddalena, and editor Patrick Lussier; outtakes; montage of behind-the-scenes videos from all three "Scream" movies; deleted scenes with commentary; alternate ending with commentary; two theatrical trailers; TV spots; Creed music video; cast and crew bios
Distributor: Dimension Home Video
Video: "Scream 3" is the first of the "Scream" series to be transferred in anamorphic widescreen on DVD, and the additional resolution makes a noticeable improvement. The image is consistently sharp and clear with good detail, impressive contrast (especially in the night scenes), and solid black levels. The only downside is that the colors seemed a tad oversaturated (flesh tones seemed a little too pink) and there were a few, minor instances of pixel break-up. Overall, though, this is a good, clean image that will look impressive on any quality monitor.
Audio: The 5.1 Dolby Digital surround soundtrack is particularly good, with consistently inventive uses of imaging and the surround speakers. The low frequency effects channel has a nice, solid rumble during the suspenseful moments, and the left and right channels are used to spread the sound environment across the entire room, sometimes having a character's voice move all the way from the front soundstage to one of the rear speakers.
Extras: As it was released under the Dimension Films' Collector's Series banner, "Scream 3" has also been given a better treatment than the first two "Scream" movies in terms of supplements. First up is a screen-specific running audio commentary with director Wes Craven, producer Marianne Maddalena, and editor Patrick Lussier, all of whom provide interesting background information on the production (they also aren't shy about pointing out the many continuity errors). There is also a too-brief montage of behind-the-scenes footage from each of the "Scream" movies, as well as roughly six minutes of outtakes. One of the nice additions to the DVD is a series of deleted scenes, including two alternate versions of the opening murder sequence, as well as a slightly different ending that was rightly reworked in the final version (these deleted and alternate scenes also have a running audio commentary with Wes Craven, who explains why he didn't keep them). The only problem with the deleted scenes is that they are of terrible image quality--they look like bad streaming video on the Internet blown up to larger proportions. The supplements are rounded out with cast and crew biographies, a domestic and an international theatrical trailer, more than a dozen (!) TV spots, and a Creed music video.
©2000 James Kendrick