Format: DVD from Kankakee Public Library through interlibrary loan on rockin’ flatscreen.
Put a gun to my head and ask me who is the best horror director, and you’re going to get a question back from me. All time? Still living? Of the people currently directing films, Guillermo del Toro would be my favorite, and honestly, he’d probably be my pick of all directors. But if we want to talk about influence, my pick is going to be Wes Craven. He might not be the most common pick (my guess is most people would pick John Carpenter), but Craven is responsible for so many important films and franchises, and he’s almost purely a horror director (Carpenter is responsible for a lot of science fiction and comedy). The Hills Have Eyes, The Last House on the Left, The Nightmare on Elm Street, The People Under the Stairs, The Serpent and the Rainbow…and, of course, Scream. But, like any franchise, there’s a low point. For the Scream franchise, it’s Scream 3.
This doesn’t mean that Scream 3 is a bad movie by any stretch, but it doesn’t really rise to the level of the other films in the series. I’ve maintained for years that Alien3, for instance, isn’t the terrible movie everyone remembers it to be. It’s not great, but it’s not terrible, but it’s a huge step down from Alien and Aliens, two of the greatest films in their genre. The step down isn’t as big here, but it’s definitely a step down.
Going meta has been the stock in trade of the Scream franchise, and this time we’re going to go even more meta than we have in the past. We start with Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber), the man originally accused of the murders in the original Scream. In the fashion of the franchise starting big, Cotton and his girlfriend (Kelly Rutherford). Naturally, the murder of Cotton sets of shockwaves amongst the survivors of the first two movies. Reporter Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) heads to the scene where she encounters her old love interest, Dewey Riley (David Arquette), who is serving as an expert for the latest film in the Stab franchise, the in-movie movie series about the murders that everyone has survived.
Because we’re going to go full meta, the plot of Scream 3 is going to feature the return of Ghostface on the set of the third installment of the movies about the murders that happened in the first Scream. Our murderer, we are soon going to realize, is killing people associated with the movie. This becomes evident when our next victim is Sarah (Jenny McCarthy, and for what it’s worth, one of the pleasures of this film is watching that anti-vax whack job get knocked off). Of course, the goal here is to get to Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), the final girl of Scream and as much the franchise as the Ghostface killer.
Scream 3 is going to continue exploiting the idea of the “rules” of horror movies, giving us a lot of connection to the first two films. There are basic rules for surviving a horror movie, of course, and in the sequel, things get bigger. But for the third part of a trilogy—both the Stab film within the film and Scream 3, we are told that all bets are off, and that the story is going to revolve around resolving the conflicts from the first film. In this case, that means discovering the real truth behind Sidney’s murdered mother Maureen Prescott. And so that is where we will dutifully go.
One of the major selling points of Scream 3 is the cast. Jenny McCarthy being cannon fodder is just a part of the fun here. Lance Henriksen, Parker Posey, Patrick Warburton, Roger Corman, and more are going to make an appearance here in roles of varying sizes. There’s even a truly meta moment where Carrie Fisher appears as someone who works at the movie studio, looks like Carrie Fisher, and tried out for the Princess Leia role. There’s also an appearance of Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith in character as Jay and Silent Bob.
The problem with Scream 3 is that it is far more interested in this kind of fan service than it is being a good slasher movie. It still has some movies, it’s got the shocker ending that works relatively well, and the story builds nicely and doesn’t actually go against how the characters have been established in the previous films. But it is far too focused on wanting to have its audience point at the various elements and people on the screen than it wants to do anything else.
I like the Scream franchise in general and as I said at the top, I’m always going to stump for Wes Craven when it comes to directly, but Scream 3 is a dip in the franchise. There has to be one movie that lets the franchise down, and it’s this one for a franchise that is generally a lot better on the average than most horror franchises. A weak Scream movie is better than the middle-rated film of a lot of other franchises.
Why to watch Scream 3: Three’s a charm, right?
Why not to watch: It’s the least of the Scream franchise.