Scream 3

By the time “Scream” arrived in 1996, the teen-slasher genre had all but worn itself out. Started in the seventies by John Carpenter with “Halloween” and revived in the eighties by Wes Craven with “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” the genre had long been the staple of drive-in double bills.

scream3When the nineties rolled around, the core audience had abandoned the genre, as well as drive-ins. Because each new generation feels the need to reinvent themselves, it was only a matter of time before modern teens tired of their parent’s formulaic horror films. They wanted to watch characters as hip as they were.

Thanks to a referential script by Kevin Williamson, “Scream” changed all of that. Suddenly characters in horror films were smart, and hip. Instead of living in a celluloid vacuum, the characters in scream knew all of the horror movie do’s and don’ts. Gone were the days of dumb blondes entering a house even though the lights don’t work.

“Scream” was a huge hit, and like all huge hits, gave birth to an equally successful sequel. Success begets success, which brings us to “Scream 3.” Except for a couple of films, the third film in any series is usually made just to capitalize on the success of the previous entries. By then, the filmmaker’s have exhausted most original avenues and take the straight and narrow by delivering just more of the same.

No stranger to sequels, director Wes Craven does two things to make “Scream 3” a better film than the sequel, and almost as much fun as the first film. First, Craven replaces Williamson with scribe Ehren Kruger, who breathes new life into the series. Then he incorporates the plot device from “A Nightmare on Elm Street” into the proceedings, creating alternating plot lines that help place the audience off guard.

What Craven gets is a fun house attraction that is guaranteed to take fans of the series on a wild ride. The characters are still smart and hip, and now they’re in Hollywood for the filming of “Stab 3,” a film based on the events from the first two films. So what we have is a film within a film, with one group of actors playing characters in the real film, and another group playing their characters in the make-believe film.

It’s a nifty device that allows Craven to milk as much suspense from the formula as possible. When the killer can’t find Sydney (Neve Campbell), who is in hiding, he begins hacking up her friends and cast members of the film to drive her out. The ploy works, and it’s not long before Sidney and her friends face off one final time against the evil that has haunted their lives.

The plot device also provides Craven and Kruger with the opportunity to spoof themselves, which they obviously have fun doing. There’s more humor in this film than the first two, yet because of the parallel storylines, there is also more mayhem and murder.

Performances are inconsequential. Kruger sets them up and Craven knocks them down. Campbell, Courteney Cox-Arquette, David Arquette and Liev Schreiber look comfortable, having been down this road twice before. The rest of the cast is relegated to reaction shots, but they seem to be in tune with the spirit of the film. No one embarrasses themselves in “Scream 3.”

Is this really the end of the “Scream” series? It could be, and that wouldn’t be a bad thing. Craven and his gang justify the film’s existence with smart dialogue, genuine chills and some camp appeal.



Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox Arquette, David Arquette, Parker Posey, Patrick Dempsey, Liev Schreiber in a film directed by Wes Craven. Rated R. 116 Minutes.


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