Welcome to Script to Pieces, a recurring feature at Wicked Horror where we look at the best, most interesting and at times most unbelievable horror movies that never happened. Sometimes these will be productions that never came together at all, other times, they will be original incarnations that were completely different from what we wound up with. Each should be fascinating in its own way, because the stories of movies that never see the light of day can sometimes be even more interesting than the stories of those that do.
When Kevin Williamson sold the script for Scream to Dimension, he also gave them treatments for Scream 2 and 3. Unlike almost every movie trilogy, Scream was planned as a trilogy from the very beginning. Neither sequel went according to plan, however. The original script for Scream 2 was stolen and leaked online, which led to some last minute rewrites to change the identity of the killer in order to keep the audience surprised. Scream 2 luckily survived these radical changes, having Williamson along for the ride every step of the way.
Like Scream 2, the plan was to roll into production on Scream 3 very quickly after the previous movie’s release. Williamson’s script for the concluding chapter of the trilogy was much more ambitious. It would reveal that one of the original killers, Stu Macher, is actually alive and in prison. But he’s communicating with a very loyal fan base and orchestrating attacks on Sidney from behind bars.
This movie would be much wider in scope, but there’s enough there for it to truly feel like the end to a trilogy. I think it would have been a fascinating final chapter. Matthew Lillard was eager to return, especially to play such a more driven, serious version of his character.
Movies like Idle Hands and hit shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer suffered the fallout from censorship backlash post-Columbine, but the impact it had on Scream 3 was huge. Dimension suddenly decided that they were no longer interested in even making a movie like this. Teen slashers were suddenly in bad taste and they needed an alternative.
The Weinsteins not only wanted to take out the younger characters and shift to an adult focus, they also didn’t really want Scream 3 to be a horror film. After Columbine, they felt that they still needed to make a third Scream after the huge success of the first two. But they felt it would be in bad taste to make a realistic slasher film as the first two had been.
The only way to really sell Scream 3 to an audience would be to do it as a more lighthearted comedy. At one point, they even told Craven that they wanted absolutely no blood in the film or even any kind of on-screen violence at all. Craven fought back hard against that, insisting that it needed to have the same violence as the first two or it needed to be called something other than Scream.
The only problem was that they were six weeks away from shooting the film, and had decided that they wanted to make something completely different. So Dimension ordered a total, top-to-bottom rewrite within weeks of the scheduled shooting date.
In essence, Scream 3 was nearly ruined by a need to stick to the schedule even though everything in the universe was pointing to the fact that they should probably wait. They brought in Ehren Kruger to create a brand-new story in just a few weeks and basically had to shoot the first draft because there was no time for anything else. The script had to be rewritten to focus on the production of a film because there was no time to schedule new locations, so the movie needed to be shot on their own back lot.
Kevin Williamson couldn’t return to tweak the script due to prior commitments. Perhaps worst of all, franchise star Neve Campbell was filming Wild Things at the time and it was beginning to look like she would not be able to appear. Eventually, she did manage to return, but only for a couple of weeks out of a shoot that took place over several months. Because of this, there was a shift away from Sidney as protagonist to instead focus on Dewey and Gale—an area where the film definitely suffers if it is supposed to be the concluding chapter of a trilogy.
While the movie did not bomb at the box office, it did not do nearly as well as the first two, nor did it meet anything close to the same critical reception. Wes Craven would return ten years later to make Scream 4, which performed even worse at the box office, but was more well-received by critics and fans, by and large.
Kevin Williamson may not have gotten to tell the final story in his perceived trilogy, but he did eventually get to do something with the idea. Williamson’s original treatment for Scream 3, in which a surviving killer communicates with his fans from inside prison to target a protagonist he has a vendetta against, would evolve into an original idea and eventually became the TV series The Following.