Scream 3: Collector's Edition Review
Several years after the events of Scream 2, Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber), now a successful talk show host who got rich as a result of the events of the previous two films, gets a call from good old Ghostface (again voiced by Roger L. Jackson). Turns out our favourite raspy-voice killer is in the home of Cotton's girlfriend (Kelly Rutherford) and is planning on a little slice and dice fun. Predictably, it isn't long before both Cotton and his girlfriend have been dispatched. The news that the killings have begun again doesn't exactly fill Sidney (Neve Campbell) with joy. Hiding out in an isolated house in the mountains, Sidney has had her name changed due to fears for her safety, but when the killer contacts her by phone, she has no choice but to return to the limelight. This time, the killings are made all the more personal by the fact that the killer is leaving photographs of Sidney's mother with the corpses of every victim. Further complicating matters is the fact that the killer's victims are all members of the cast for "Stab 3", the latest in a series of slasher movies capitalizing on the events depicted in the original Scream... and, being an inventive fellow, Ghostface has decided to kill them in the order in which their characters die in the script. So, Sidney, along with fellow survivors Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale (Courteney Cox), prepare to face off against the mysterious killer one final time.
The lengthy prologue featuring Cotton Weary continues the trend of a gimmick that has featured in all three films. However, while the prologues in the first two films were at well thought-out and tense, this one is over-stretched and, while solid from a technical standpoint, fails to ignite any sense of interest. This turns out to be pretty symptomatic of the film as a whole. Throughout its running time, it is a glossily-photographed and well-acted, but at practically no point is there any real connection between the audience and the characters on the screen. This is surely down almost entirely to the quality of the writing, which constantly feels distant and impersonal, rather than the acting. Neve Campbell, Parker Posey, Scott Foley, Emily Mortimer and Lance Henriksen are all talented actors, but, with very few exceptions, they can do nothing to liven up the proceedings. The overriding impression I got was that the various players on both sides of the camera were simply showing up for work every day because they were contractually required to do so, rather than out of any devotion to the material.
Indeed, it would seem that Wes Craven had little interest in making this film, only agreeing to do it when Miramax presidents Bob and Harvey Weinstein decided to hold to ransom his pet project, Music of the Heart (a feel-good vehicle for Meryl Streep). The fact that Neve Campbell was only available for 20 days obviously limits her screen time here, which is in itself a major problem, given that her character was always the central focus of the series. Instead, the film's focus, especially in its first half, is the relationship between the Dewey and Gale characters played by real-life husband and wife David Arquette and Courteney Cox, which by this stage has reached the depths of the very worst soap opera storylines (not to mention the fact that Arquette spends most of the film staggering about and looking shit-faced). Whenever Campbell is in the frame, the quality is raised ever so slightly, in part because Sidney has remained a likeable character despite now being a veritable pariah, and also because Campbell is an extremely talented (and somewhat underrated) actor with an ability to add extra depth to the somewhat superficial subject matter.
Based on a treatment by Kevin Williamson, writer of the first two Scream movies, Ehren Krueger (scribe of the excellent Arlington Road) plays everything by the books and, in doing so, falls prey to many of the problems most commonly associated with the horror genre. The cast is large and, for the most part, uninteresting. Indistinctive characters are quickly introduced and seem to be little more than slabs of meat to be dissected. This problem was apparent in Scream 2, in which Sarah Michelle Gellar's character had absolutely nothing to do with the central plot and was included simply so she could be killed after padding out the film's running time by a good 15 minutes, and exactly the same thing happens here, only on a much larger scale. Worse still, Krueger cheats the audience by showing the villain in a situation that makes him/her appear to be dead, only for him/her to reappear in a later scene, with no explanation. What made the first Scream work so well was that the identities of the killers could be worked out, and indeed made complete sense, but here the villain's reveal only creates a "so what?" reaction.
One thing that Krueger definitely does get right is to dispense with the wink-wink satire of horror conventions that pervaded in the first two films. While successful in the original Scream, the genre was, by 2000, filled with copycats, all milking the self-referential aspects of Scream to the limits, and as a result had become redundant. Scream 3's comedy comes more from the film's broader bit players, most notably the character of Jennifer Jolie, played by talented indie actress Parker Posey, and Sarah Darling, played by Jenny McCarthy, who turns in a surprisingly effective performance despite the wafer-thin character. The humour does at time verge on being overly sitcom-esque (with Courteney Cox providing a rather unpleasant reminder of that god-awful Friends show), but overall Krueger manages to keep himself in check and balance the comedy with the horror. A lot is also made of the fact that Sidney, Gale and Dewey now have doppelgangers in the form of the "Stab 3" cast. While with Dewey's equivalent, Tom Prinze (Matt Keeslar), the comedy comes from how different they are, the whole point of Jennifer is just how like the real Gale Weathers she is. Indeed, dressed in her lime green costume with highlighted hair, she actually looks much more like the Gale of the original Scream than Courteney Cox in either of the sequels.
I said that there were exceptions to the rule of mediocrity, and one of them is the performance Neve Campbell puts in during the climax. Despite the fact that the antagonist against whom she faces off is a one-note cipher with a dubious back-story designed to tack him on to the events of the original Scream, she is more than able to make the audience invest in her character's plight. Sidney finally gets to kick some ass, making use of all sorts of household props, including the ubiquitous plant-pots, to fight off her assailant. It's not particularly clever, but the sequence is well-choreographed and, more importantly, satisfying, which is more than can be said for the rest of the film. She also takes the opportunity to lecture her enemy about the reality of life, with a rebuttal that is sure to put a smile on the face of anti-censorship campaigners everywhere: "You know why you kill people? Because you choose to - there's no-one else to blame. Why don't you take some fucking responsibility?" At this point, it's as if everything comes together and the quality bar is raised ever so slightly, so if for a moment, however brief, you think the film is great, I wouldn't blame you.
Oh, and Jamie Kennedy's character speaks to us from beyond the grave, in the form of a video diary, lecturing our heroes about the rules of trilogies. Beat that.
Presented anamorphically in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1, this transfer is quite good, but suffers from some very noticeable aliasing brought about by edge enhancement. There is a fair amount of grain inherent in the source material, and the artificial sharpening accentuates this and makes it look more like video noise than natural film grain. The edge enhancement also leads to some unfortunate shimmering moiré patterns that crop up in a number of scenes. That said, the colours and contrast cannot be faulted, and there is overall a decent level of detail in the transfer.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is, like the image quality, good without being exceptional. The Scream trilogy has, as a whole, been characterized by strong bass and a wide range between the quieter elements and the louder ones. This one is no exception, and as a result the mix feels enveloping without having much in the way of noticeable rear speaker action.
The bonus materials kick off with a Commentary featuring director Wes Craven, producer Marianne Maddalena and editor Patrick Lussier. Clearly recorded very soon after production of the film wrapped, the trio have a lot to talk about and discuss matters such as script rewrites, casting decisions and the removal and modifying of a number of scenes after principal photography had been completed. All three are complementary enough about the film, but the commentary left me with the impression that the production of the movie had been an extremely slipshod affair, the results of which speak for themselves.
Outtakes - These outtakes are okay, but not great. We get the usual antics as the actors forget their lines (I think the idea is to laugh), and we also get to see David Arquette being an ass. We see a couple of things that never made it into the final cut as well. The image and audio quality are both very poor, seemingly sourced from editing equipment.
Behind the scenes montage - Although nothing special, this feature is reasonably enjoyable to watch. It shows several behind the scenes clips from the production of each Scream film, with music from the Scream 3 soundtrack playing over it.
Deleted scenes - Four different sequences are included. The first two are basically alternative versions of the tedious prologue, including a somewhat gruesome shot of Cotton Weary getting a knife through his calf. The third shows Jenny McCarthy's character driving to work, and the final shows some of the "Stab 3" cast discussing who the killer might be. Again, the quality is very poor throughout.
Alternate ending - This is basically a shorter version of the final showdown, with some moments rearranged into a different order and slightly different dialogue. It is a lot weaker than the one that was used, in that the fight between Sidney and the killer is much shorter and seems a lot less tense. Also included is an optional audio commentary in which Craven, Maddalena and Lussier explain the changed made. Again, the quality is poor.
Rounding off the package is are two Trailers (US and international theatrical trailers), several TV spots, and Cast and crew bios.
These extras are fairly enjoyable as a whole, but they are relatively lightweight and are unlikely to give you much of an insight into the making of the film itself.
Scream 3 is, without a doubt, the weakest of the trilogy and is clearly a film that the creative team had little real interest in making. An obvious victim of the worst aspects of the Hollywood movie-making industry, this conclusion to the saga is presented on a solid DVD with few major shortcomings.