Who the hell thought this pooch might be better than Scream 2?
There's a lot I like about this movie, but most of it can be found in the box marked "wasted potential". The idea of going backstage on a Stab movie takes this series's reflexivity to yet another level, which is quite clever. Suddenly we've got people discussing their characters' motivations and raisons d'etre ("I am not a Randy substitute; I am my own character." "You're named Ricky. He works at a video store." "It's an homage.") And when fake Gail starts tagging along behind the genuine article, it's hilarious.
There's Lance Henriksen, though damn he looks old! Maybe they filmed his scenes straight after he'd first read the script. Still, he adds some much-needed weight to the Tinseltown world we get here. There's even a cameo from Jamie Kennedy (yes, that's right), which is funny. It's obvious but still affecting when Neve Campbell wanders around the Woodsboro set - and the follow-up sequence to that is wonderfully inventive. The Hollywood setting also gives free rein to the expected reflexive discussions of trilogies and the like. Deconstructive cops in LA. I can dig that, unlike deconstructive reporters and the like in sleepy li'l old Woodsboro in Scream 2.
Okay, that's about it for the stuff I like. Let's get on to the stinky garbage.
Scream 2 might have been by the numbers, but it was also clever and had stuff to say. Scream 3 is by the numbers and (wait for it) hideously stupid. The meta-discussions feel perfunctory and the "do movies make psychos?" question gets precisely one line before being dropped like a snarling, incontinent wolverine. And someone should have realised that you can't do a false scare in broad daylight with people everywhere. It's NOT going to be Ghostface. No one's in any danger.
Even the characters are dumb. No one ever phones the police, not even when they're driving to their girlfriend's house to save her from a killer. Everyone keeps splitting up. Look, Ghostface is just a guy with a knife! What is wrong with these people? Even when there's five of 'em together with a gun, they're still wetting their pants. Just go out on the patio, crack open a few beers and wait for some target practice! Best of all is the killer's plan for getting away with it, which overlooks the witnesses he carefully left alive upstairs.
But wait, surely at least the characters are fun? They were in the first two! Er... no. The inevitable romance all over again between Gale and Dewey isn't just annoying (Scream 2), it's dull and predictable as well. Maybe movies really do make psychos, since this film's last scene made me want to kill someone. What's more, the regulars' fates would be obvious to a blind moron. The script is desperate to make us afraid that Sidney, Gale and Dewey might get knocked off, this being the third in a trilogy, but we don't believe it for a second.
And the original characters! Spare me! The big joke about Hollywood pond scum is that they're all incredibly shallow, but this is also their problem. As characters, they're boring. It's no coincidence that the film's best new characters are people with real jobs (i.e. the cops).
There's lots of back-reference to the first film and rewriting of its history, which nearly (but not quite) makes me accept Neve Campbell's status as America's Number One Psycho Magnet. You buy it until the killer is unmasked, but your suspension of disbelief comes crashing down once the explanations start. Oh, and the film's Big Secret for why the killer's killing is visible half an hour beforehand.
David Arquette has been piling on the pounds, presumably to compensate for the skeletal Courteney Cox Arquette. Gal, eat a cheeseburger! Incidentally, Jay and Silent Bob show up for a ten-second cameo. Am I supposed to think this is cool?
Scream 2 was pretty formulaic, but at least it was clever. As Scream 3 spirals to its doom down the drain o' mega-suckage, you'll hear nothing but the clonk of empty heads. Well, that and you screaming "fuck off" at the television screen as the closing moments play. It has a few saving graces, but they're nothing to write home about and there isn't even a Matthew Lillard or a Jamie Kennedy in the guest cast to liven up a passing scene.
Not worthless, but pretty close.