Scream 3

     Some people seem to think the Scream movies are just horror movies. Sure, Scream gave birth to a horde of hideous mutant clones that tried to take over the film industry (I refer you to the putrid Urban Legend, the loathsome I Know What You Did... movies, the return of Michael Myers in Halloween: H20, and the general resurgence in the popularity of slasher films), but every successful Hollywood film does that. Scream and its sequels, these people think, are nothing more than slightly more successful versions of your typical horror movie, with slightly bigger budgets, and slightly bigger name stars.

     "Wrong answer, Sidney!" In fact, the Scream movies aren't really horror movies at all. In my opinion, they make up their own separate sub-genre of horror which I would like to dub meta-horror. They're not so much scary movies as they are movies about scary movies. They have always been extremely postmodern and reflexive--each Scream movie is a clever, funny and insightful examination of, and comment on, the conventions of the horror film, even as they are also films which enact those very same conventions. Thus they also toy playfully with the distinction between reality and fantasy--they have films within films within films, actors playing actors, actors playing themselves doing the things they did in real life, actors playing people who survived horrible real experiences in an earlier movie, and who now themselves are going to go through similar horrible experiences, and so on. The killer in Scream 3 even kills people according to the script of a scary slasher movie. What's the movie called? What else? Stab 3. Now I think you see my point (no pun intended), which is that Scream 3, the new edition to Wes Craven's series of meta-slasher films, is a worthy successor to its brethren and the perfect conclusion to this trilogy.

     Before Scream, Wes Craven was known for his numerous "straight" horror movies, including such beloved horror classics as Last House on the Left, Nightmare on Elm Street, and The Hills Have Eyes. Working on these films gave Craven the practice and the knowledge he needed to make the great Scream trilogy. I'm not really quite sure what working on Music of the Heart gave him--probably nausea and regret.

     Anyway, it's clear that Craven has really hit his peak with these Scream movies. Which is too bad, since Scream 3, with the quiet finality of its conclusion, has now put a definitive end to them. In fact, if Craven did make another Scream movie now I'd be very disappointed in him.

     After all, Scream 3 basically takes the meta-horror and reflexivity aspects of these films to their limit, and their obvious conclusion, by moving the setting to Hollywood itself. Here Craven gets the chance to examine horror while in the middle of the making of a horror film (Stab 3). Thus he's making a movie about movies on movie sets within movie sets. It makes for a lot of clever irony and fun gags. Actors playing characters from the earlier films get to meet the actors playing the actors playing them. There are also numerous hilarious cameos from famous stars: renowned horror schlock director Roger Corman appears, apparently as himself; Carrie Fisher plays washed-up actress Lynn McCay, whose curse and claim to fame is that she looks like Carrie Fisher (she didn't sleep with George Lucas, so she didn't get to play Princess Leia); and, in the funniest cameo of all, Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith appear in character as Jay and Silent Bob. (Jenny McCarthy, former Playboy model and MTV VJ, and Lance Henriksen, former star of Chris Carter's now defunct TV show "Millenium," also have small parts in the movie.)

     As for the story itself...well, the producers are asking critics not to give anything away, so I'll just tell you a few little details and let you see the rest on your own.

     Vicious, heartless reporter Gale Weathers (played by actress Courtney Cox) is back and, because of her knowledge of the people involved, she is called in by the police to help them in their investigation of a new series of killings that have begun in Hollywood. Weathers, with her regular tough, no-nonsense style, immediately stalks right onto the set of Stab 3 and is horrified to meet Jennifer (darling of the indie scene Parker Posey), the rather goofy actress who plays none other than Gale Weathers in Stab 3. She is also rather horrified (though also rather amused) to discover former police officer, and her former squeeze, Dewey Riley (David Arquette) on the set of Stab 3, working as a technical advisor. Ironically enough, Dewey is now in a relationship with the woman playing the woman he once loved. Dewey has grown up a bit since Scream-- he's a lot less clumsy and bashful--but he's still pleasantly silly. After the events of Scream 2, he helped Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), target of the other killers, to disappear into a hermit- like, rural existence so that no one could ever get at her again. But this new bloodthirsty murderer is determined to find her, and will stop at nothing.

     One other character from the previous movies makes an appearance, despite the fact that he was killed in Scream 2. It turns out Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy), veteran video store employee and geeky expert on horror films, used a home video camera to make one of those "If you're watching this I'm probably dead" messages. In it, he gives helpful pointers to the survivors on what will happen to them when the killer strikes again--he warns them that in the final installment to a trilogy, anything can happen. Sure, it's kind of a corny device to get a dead character back into the sequel, but I didn't mind that much--Randy was always one of my favorite characters.

     "But who's the killer?" you ask. Hey, what kind of a critic do you think I am? I'm not going to tell you that. I will tell you it's almost impossible to guess the killer's identity. In other words, you have to see it yourself.

Jim Genzano

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