WE CAN'T TELL YOU the ending, because we haven't seen the movie. Not yet. But a full review will be posted to this Web site on Friday, February 4, at noon.
In the meantime, let's consider why Scream 3—let alone any slasher film—should be taken seriously. First, there's the money: 1996's Scream and 1997's Scream 2 each earned more than $100 million in US theaters. Second, there's the now-iconic character of the knife-wielding maniac: Films from Psycho to Halloween have made it our favorite movie villain (supplanting pass頷erewolves and vampires). And third, there's the wit—that's right, the ironic intelligence the first two Kevin Williamson scripts brought to the franchise.
directed by Wes Craven
with David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox Arquette, and Parker Posey
opens February 4 at area theaters
Having enriched himself with Dawson's Creek and many recent screenplays, however, Williamson has departed the Scream cartel, leaving horror vet Wes Craven in charge. After the sappy uplift of his Music of the Heart, Craven's probably ready for some pull-out-the-stops bloodletting, abetted by the screenwriter of Arlington Road and forthcoming Reindeer Games. If they respect filmgoers as Williamson did, they'll make the third and supposedly "final" Scream installment as self-reflexively funny as the preceding pair.
In those first two chapters, you'll recall, the humor and tension came from the encyclopedic slasher-movie knowledge of its young characters, who analyzed their own predicament as they would a cheesy video. We loved film geek Randy (Jamie Kennedy) for his authoritative recitation of slasher flick "rules"—as other victims reluctantly broke said rules while fleeing Ghostface. Both pictures rewarded young viewers similarly well-versed in screen logic, who saw their movie-savvy doubles projected in the Scream cast, then in a third level of hall-of-mirrors reflection in Stab—the movie shown in Scream 2 that's based on the original Woodsboro murders.
Now, of course, there's another sequel: Stab 3, being made in Hollywood, where surviving heroine Sidney (Neve Campbell) has moved in Scream 3. She finds herself portrayed by an actress (Parker Posey), as does Gale (Courtney Cox Arquette), the shrewish TV correspondent. Even the amiable doofus Dewey (David Arquette) is transformed into a matinee idol. Naturally there's a killer loose on the set of Stab 3, with Sidney and Dewey's investigation ultimately leading them back home to Woodsboro.
Again, we can probably expect to laugh along with characters who say what we would say were our lives—and imminent deaths—so suspiciously cinematic. Yet unlike silent movies where the telephone brought rescue, the 8860s and Startacs mean something different in the very '90s Scream series. Telephones once protected the stable home; now the cell phone generation lives in an unmoored, rootless environment of information overload—where snickering psychos call to ask, "What's your favorite scary movie?" The phone becomes an instrument of invasion and assault.
That's the thrill and the fun of the Scream franchise (or any ambitious scarefest)—to dissolve the old lines between spectator and actor, complacency and fearful awareness. You get to walk out of the multiplex alive, and enlivened to the possibilities of life self-consciously viewed as if it were a movie.
OK, now we've seen it. Read our Scream 3 review.