So in the history of the franchise, Scream 3 is often looked down on. I can certainly understand why because it is by far the silliest of the movies, but having recently rewatched it, I think it gets a bad rep. I also think the very silliness that turned people off to it makes a lot of sense when you consider that Scream is meant, once again, to hold a mirror to the slasher flick and then challenge it. Although – and this is getting a bit ahead of myself – I do believe it’s the least successful in actually challenging.
We open with our cold opening, as per usual with Scream, with Cotton Weary getting what he wanted in Scream 2. He has his own talk show and is living a successful life. He is talking to what he believes to be a woman when the voice changes and it’s Ghostface. Simultaneously his girlfriend at home believes that she is hearing Cotton’s voice threatening her, but it’s not. I have to gripe a little about the voice tech. It makes for a compelling movie as far as keeping the audience guessing, but that technology is not even that flawless now, let alone in 2000. Gail is called in with the police, still uncertain if someone was just after Cotton or if this is actually connected to the Woodsboro murders. Cotton had been making a cameo on Stab 3, and when another actor from the movie is killed, people realize that it is in fact connected. Sidney, who has been living in isolation, also receives a threatening call and decides to join the others. Everyone tries to figure out who the killer could be as the people playing the “real life” Woodsboro people are picked off one by one. We get our Randy cameo via a tape he recorded before his death just in case, where he explains that trilogy horror often rewrites what we know of the plot and that anybody could die or be the killer.
That’s a basic overview of the plot because I don’t want to go into too much detail. If you’ve seen the movie, you know how it plays out. If you haven’t, it’s worth giving a go. This entry is often knocked because the humor is way up, and the plot is a bit… weaker than the others. In fairness, both of these critiques are pretty valid. There are often silly bits added in where it feels off, and the twist is a bit awkward. Combined with the fact that the story pacing is pretty weak, more often than not, scenes feel a little forced in rather than having a good flow like I believe Scream and Scream 4 were especially able to hit. I also feel, as mentioned above, that it really doesn’t challenge much in the way of horror like the others do. There is no real subverting the things we know or expect.
On top of that, we have a bit of “Sidney going crazy.” She starts to have visions of her mother, and the killer’s voice technology only furthers this problem. The issue is that this plotline is not fleshed out and so feels off rather than actually adding questions about Sidney’s sanity or whether she might even be the killer herself. It is also the movie I found her to be the least resourceful and intelligent in, which I guess you can blame on her isolation and doubts about her sanity, but again the lack of fleshing it out…
So this feels like a lot of complaints for an Impressions piece I opened by saying I think the movie deserves more love, and that’s because I still believe it does. The chase scenes are solid, even if the kills often lack the same punch we are used to. The movie also does an excellent job of playing with the “meta” thing on a new level. Scream is now not just meta because it is a horror movie that acknowledges other horror movies and the rules we are used to, but rather because we are watching people who are filming Stab 3 in Scream 3. So it ends up falling into the New Nightmare and Hellworld type movie in a way but in its own Scream way of doing it.
It also leans into what often happens with horror franchises. At a certain point, we are no longer there for the fear or to be surprised but rather for the enjoyment of it. Scream 3 doesn’t hold back. It’s filled with cameos, in jokes, and a lot of over-the-top moments. It’s absolutely ridiculous because long-running franchises are. True, this is only the 3rd for this franchise, but each movie was trying to fit a certain role, and this one is the “when horror movies start to become silly” one. It can be off-putting at times because when you are trying that hard, it just naturally happens, but if you go in with the expectation that it’s silly because it’s meant to be, it actually helps the enjoyment of the movie a lot more. Beyond that, Gail and her counterpart Jennifer, played by the insanely awesome Parker Posey, are just the best part of this movie full stop. They are hilarious, catty, and every time they are on the screen, I know something entertaining is going to happen.
Simultaneously while being silly, it’s still a decent horror movie. Some of the kills are a bit predictable, but a lot of them play out in pretty interesting ways. The voice technology, while unrealistic, is well used. There are enough real calls in the movie that you aren’t always sure if you are going to get a voice switch.
It is pretty weak as far as red herrings are concerned. I wasn’t sure who the killer was the first time, but I never bought who they tried to convince you it might be. As for the killer(s) and their motivation, it does, in fact, rewrite a bit of the canon but not in the best way. It’s not a bad storyline, but it is a bit weak and has a few gaps.
All in all, it is still, to me, the weakest of the franchise. I think it has more personality than 2, but 2 is still a better movie overall. I do think it’s a lot better than some genre fans give it credit for, and it does have its place in the overall story. Especially with Scream 4 being a bit of a reboot of sorts – in a weird, it is, but it is not way – having the silly entry makes the revamp stand out all the more.
Bottom line? If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend a watch of all four of these movies, especially if you want to get a snapshot of how horror franchises play out. If you have and find yourself disagreeing that it’s better than you thought, give it another go just with the idea that it’s a late Friday the 13th entry, but with more intentional humor rather than so bad it’s good. It’s a fun movie that doesn’t manage to have the same thrills the others did but is still entertaining.