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Is It Just Me Or Is Scream 3 A Decent Sequel?

In this new, monthly series, a Wicked Horror writer presents an unpopular opinion about a particular genre offering and asks the oft-repeated question, “Is it just me?” In this installment, Joey Keogh argues why Scream 3 doesn’t deserve the scorn heaped upon it by rabid fans and critics alike.

Wes Craven‘s four Scream movies are probably the closest we’re ever going to get to a perfect horror series. The first installment changed the genre forever, kick-starting a period during which every director working out of his mother’s basement tried (and, in most cases, failed) to replicate the formula. Scream 2 turned the scares, shocks and frights up to eleven and 4 did the unthinkable by loosely rebooting the franchise for a whole new generation.

Scream 3 is different. People have attitude about Scream 3. Even if someone claims to “love” Scream, he/she will always over-state how Scream 3 doesn’t count. On every single “definitive” list, ranking the films (of which there are far too many considering there are only four of them), 3 predictably comes last. Every single time. Comparatively speaking, it probably is the weakest entry, but considering the four films as a unit are impressively, and consistently, strong, is it really that bad?

Objectively speaking, the Halloween, Friday The 13th, and even Craven’s own Nightmare On Elm Street, series boast far worse entries than Scream 3. In fact, Halloween 3, although a cult classic nowadays, isn’t considered canonically correct, while Friday The 13th Part VIII isn’t exactly Jason’s finest or most memorable hour.

Neve Campbell David Arquette Scream 3
The issue with Scream 3, aside from Courtney Cox’s disgraceful bangs, is that series stalwart Kevin Williamson didn’t handle the script-writing duties. Rather Ehren Kruger (who later “edited” Williamson’s Scream 4 script) took over, meaning that, for a lot of fans, the third film didn’t feel like a Scream movie in the same vein as its predecessors. Approaching it with this in mind, it’s difficult to appreciate the sequel for what it is: a fast, funny and frequently scary, self-referential slasher movie.Scream is famous for its openings, after the first film made history for killing off its most well-known actress (Drew Barrymore) in the first twenty minutes. Scream 3 carries on this fine tradition by not only offing Westboro survivor Cotton Weary, but simultaneously introducing a new, and terrifying, addition to Ghostface’s litany of tools: a voice-changer that can perfectly replicate the family and friends of his victims.The killer uses this to convince Weary’s girlfriend that he’s on the other side of the door, wearing the mask and intent on murdering her. When Cotton arrives home, she mistakenly attacks him, wondering desperately why he wants to kill her as he, equally confused, assures her he doesn’t. Although the idea of a voice-changer is still slightly, er, futuristic, it does elevate the killer’s potential and, considering Ghostface tends to look a bit silly, this can only be a good thing.

His murder method of choice is stabbing, but in Scream 3 the scope is widened to encompass a big-budget, action movie style explosion when Ghostface blows up an uppity film star’s house with some poor guy still in it. As the flick is set on the set of the third Stab movie, wonderfully titled Stab 3: Return To Woodsboro, Scream 3 is incredibly meta, even by the series’ standards. For instance, Jenny Mc Carthy delivers a terrific monologue questioning why she has to die naked, before adopting a sexier voice to run lines with who she presumes is her director, lamenting the stupidity of horror heroines before falling victim to Ghostface herself.

Scream 3Many commentators have an issue with Jay and Silent Bob’s cameo, a nod to the Weinstein Company’s long-running relationship with director Kevin Smith. It may seem slightly out of place to some, but considering the rather clever reference to the Scream series in Smith’s hilarious Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back (during which Craven himself cameos, directing Shannen Doherty in a sequel in which Ghostface is played by an orangutan) it’s kind of fitting. Funny and on the nose, it fits within the greater Scream universe and the bizarre movie world that Craven, Williamson, Kruger and indeed Smith so brilliantly lampoon.The movie set also allows for a succession of recognisable, yet disposable, stock characters for Ghostface to pick off. Aside from McCarthy, who participates in one of the coolest, most tense sequences in the entire franchise when she finds herself hiding amongst racks of Ghostface costumes (one of which houses the real killer, knife at the ready), Parker Posey is fantastic as the actress playing Gale in the flick. With the wonderful Patrick Warburton playing her burly security guard, and Gale’s paramour Dewey as her suitor, Posey is hilariously relentless as she pursues her inspiration, who resists at virtually every turn. Even by Scream standards, Scream 3 has an incredibly strong cast, with Dr. McDreamy himself, Patrick Dempsey, giving it loads as a (yes, dreamy) cop with his eye on Sid, Lance Henriksen as a Roger Corman-like movie producer (Corman himself has a nice little cameo as a studio exec), Kelly Rutherford as Cotton’s doomed girlfriend and even Carrie Fisher as a bitter archivist who’s sick of hearing about that actress she really, really looks like. Possibly the weirdest casting choice, though, is Dawson’s Creek alum Scott Foley, who plays the director (and Ghostface), Roman.

Later revealed to be a scorned bastard child of Sid’s mother, Maureen, Roman is never quite believable as a cold-blooded killer. The family angle is clever, and it wraps up the trilogy (as Scream 3 was originally set out to be the final installment) quite nicely, but it’s slightly contrived and Foley takes to the frustrated director role better than he does the Ghostface costume. However, having said that, his reveal leads to a succession of quick, swift kills in the final act, during which he also takes Dewey and Gale as hostages (the first and last time Ghostface has done so) which, again, ups the scare factor.

Scream 3 GhostfaceEven the best cast can’t distract from the fact that the Scream series is all about the central trio (or foursome if you count Randy, who shows up posthumously here to deliver some sage advice). And in 3, they’re each rightfully given their own arcs. Sidney has taken up residence in the middle of nowhere, her new home fortified by a million locks and alarms as, under a false name, she remotely contributes to a women’s crisis centre. The moment when Ghostface locates her is blood-curdling, especially as it leads to a cool, if slightly hokey, dream sequence during which her mother’s ghost appears to her before turning into the killer and attacking.Sid’s arc is realistic, because any normal human being would cut herself off following the trauma she’s endured thus far. The mother angle taps into her fear of turning out like Maureen and this, too, is another believable aspect of her arc, especially as the film set location allows her to relive her fractured past in the replica of her very own bedroom where, of course, Ghostface attacks. However, as Sid is the ultimate survivor and Final Girl, she subsequently rises to the occasion and kicks Ghostface’s ass, setting her up nicely to return as the author of a self-help book in the following film. The central relationship between Gale and Dewey (which blossomed into a real-life marriage) is handled well here, too, as they are thrown together again and, for the first time ever, it’s Gale who has to prove her worth as Dewey’s affections seem to lie elsewhere. They’re clearly meant to be together and, in the end, they make it work even as they both admit they’re totally wrong for each other. Their relationship could’ve been thrown to the side in favour of more jokes, more kills, and more silliness but instead it remains front and centre, just as it did in every other installment. It remains the heart of Scream, while Sid is the guts.

Scream 3 gets a lot of hate, most of it unwarranted. What are the fans biggest issues with it? Is it the script being written by someone other than Kevin Williamson? The incredibly meta film-set setting? An abundance of new characters? The fact that it’s the funniest, as opposed to the scariest, installment in the series? Den Of Geek suggested in their series ranking that the humour was ramped up out of fear of any connection to the Columbine massacre, a crime that had only recently shocked the world at the time of the movie’s release. This would account for the change in tone, but Scream 3 still feels like a Scream movie.

Neve Campbell Scream 3The majority of pieces suggesting Scream 3 is the weakest installment in the franchise argue that, when watched in succession, it falls short of the other three. However, I would argue that Scream 3‘s strengths are more obvious than its weaknesses when judged immediately before and after the accompanying films. It is weaker than the other three; the script isn’t as punchy, the killer’s reveal is slightly anti-climactic and the comedy is a little more over the top than we’re used to.However, Scream 3 is funny, fierce and frightening in its own way also, and although certain commentators suggest Sid shouldn’t be holed up all alone for so long, I think it adds layers to her character. If she were simply living in the real world, we’d be questioning how she managed to survive such horrible events and whether she was just waiting around for the next opportunity to kick some Ghostface ass. Sid isn’t Buffy, she’s a regular chick with a difficult family history who’s just trying to find some happiness for herself. Likewise, Gale and Cotton’s newfound fame makes sense for their characters while Dewey’s reluctance to leave Woodsboro and his subsequent position as a technical adviser on the new Stab flick ring true, also. When it comes down to it, none of them can resist their fate or deny their shared history and Scream 3 exploits this reality to great effect. The cast of supporting characters don’t always hit their marks, but they’re not supposed to, the central trio are the real stars here and they emerge victorious.

It might not be perfect but Scream 3 does not deserve the amount of vitriol that is consistently aimed its way. We judge it harshly because Scream, Scream 2 and Scream 4 are so exceptional but, whether taken as a part of the franchise or as a standalone film, 3 is smarter, scarier and more fun than the majority of slasher movie fare. Revisit it with an open mind and you might just surprise yourself.

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Written by Joey Keogh
Slasher fanatic Joey Keogh has been writing since she could hold a pen, and watching horror movies even longer. Aside from making a little home for herself at Wicked Horror, Joey also writes for Birth.Movies.Death, The List, and Vague Visages among others. Her actual home boasts Halloween decorations all year round. Hello to Jason Isaacs.
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