This year marks the 20th anniversary of Wes Craven’s Scream, so each Saturday in October, myself and a cadre of like-minded individuals will be re-watching the franchise one movie at a time. Is the series influential — and if so, positively or negatively? How does each installment reflect the time in which it appeared? What does the series’ reboot as an MTV television program indicate about the state of horror today? We’ll answer all of these questions and explore whether or not the franchise holds up as we go along.
Dimension Films, 2000
Nick Spacek is a writer and podcaster based in Lawrence, Kansas. He runs this website (obvs), as well as the From & Inspired By soundtrack podcast, in addition to writing for Cinepunx, Modern Vinyl, the Pitch, and the UK’s Starburst Magazine. He can be found spewing nonsense on Twitter @nuthousepunks.
It seems like the opening gave Scream 3 an opportunity to really be something different. Cotton Weary being a douchebag on a cell phone notwithstanding — which is evidently a way to set this in Hollywood even more than the sight of the iconic sign would have otherwise — using the Ghostface voice-changer in a new way, as well as killing off a franchise character is definitely new.
Unfortunately, from the moment they kick in with a Creed song, Scream 3 shows itself to be the tertiary film in every way: far too many character actors? Check. Unnecessary pop culture references? Check. Character actors making cameos and thus becoming living, breathing pop culture references? Check and fucking check. Thanks, Jay and Silent Bob. I mean, fuck: they even manage to bring back a popular dead character with a video.
Still, we do get the likes of Emily Mortimer in an early role, and Parker Posey being weird and funny is always a delight, to say nothing of a deadpan Patrick Warburton. All that can’t possibly make up for a plot which is even more self-referential than absolutely necessary. Not only do we have Stab 3, the film within a film, but we have the set of the movie being the set from the original Scream, thus making all the discussions of film and pop culture and cinematic violence ever so much more meta.
Downside to Scream 3 is that, unlike so many other sequels this point in a series, doesn’t ramp up the violence. I think that’s my big problem with Scream: for a slasher series, the kills peaked early. By this point, it’s all jump cuts and aftershots. This movie sleepwalks through its plot, which is so much a rip-off of Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, it’s basically a fucking remake. God. This makes Jason Takes Manhattan look like Shakespeare in the Park.
That Carrie Fisher cameo is fucking amazing, though. God, she’s amazing. It’s so wonderful to see a strong, take-no-shit woman who doesn’t get killed or beat the fuck up or punished in some way. The treatment of women in these films at the hands of abusive guys is pretty horrid overall, but Roman’s opinions and the story of Maureen Prescott is absolutely gross. So, yeah — thanks for being dope as hell, Carrie Fisher.
Liam O’Donnell is co-host and co-creator of the Cinepunx podcast as well as Editor in Chief of Cinepunx.com. He also co-hosts Horror Business and Eric Roberts is The Fucking Man. When not hosting, editing, or promoting so many damn podcasts, Liam works in higher education in diversity and equity programming and education, and lends his promotion and event planning skills to This Is Hardcore Fest and the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Fest. Find him talking all kinds of crazy shit on twitter at @liamrulz.
I cannot muster much to say about this movie that Nick did not already cover. It really is a painful exercise to watch it. The first film rubs me raw with the constant barrage of meta commentary and jokes, but shit at least it takes wit and insight to write that stuff. This film is lazy, boring, and offensively cliche. The worst part for me may be the arch to somehow “deepen” or “complexify” the story with some sort of pre-origin scenario for this mess.
First, I have watched a LOT of trilogies and I cannot even name how many third installments rely on this trope, but let’s take it as a given. The idea of adding some layer of narrative to this series is actually exciting. I would love for hidden layers to be revealed. Of course, the narrative would have to have the sort of ambiguity to support that, and Scream doesn’t. I guess that is why the final reveal is such a frustrating shit show. No, having some secret brother, and a rape narrative that somehow explains someone’s sexual identity, is not what I was looking for. Shit, this feels like some kind of grimey sex anxiety Giallo plot but without the charm, style, or sexiness for that matter. If anything, this is somehow the LEAST sexy of these films, which is saying a lot.
I could similarly rail about how uninspired the kills are, how the cameos other than Carrie Fisher are awful. Scream 3 is every sequel stereotype you can imagine, a warehouse of bad ideas that only greed and drugs can justify. Is it the worst sequel I have ever seen? No, of course not. Come on: this horror. It is though a reminder that, though they are better than this, the entire series seems a little ill-conceived at this point.