Monday, December 31, 2012

Scream 3 review

     I was a huge fan of the original Scream and Scream 2 movies. Wes Craven and I don't always share the same taste but I loved the idea of a horror movie where the characters had actually seen a horror movie themselves. This, of course, lead to my fandom of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer but also to an unfortunate trend in horror movies where they felt being self-referential made them better.

    It doesn't.

    The trick to Scream 1 and 2's success was that the people involved had an extra layer of reality to them. Part of the recurring problem in zombie movies is that you always have to explain the rules of George Romero's movies to people who, in the real world, would have seen a zombie film. In Scream 3, the characters are aware the killings have become a lurid media phenomenon which superficially resembles a horror movie. So when they discuss the tropes of horror movies, there's some relevance to the so-called real lives of the characters.

Parker Posey and Courtney Cox have excellent chemistry together.
     The people in Scream 3 are attempting to act intelligently, not specifically like they're in a horror movie. If they attempted to act like they were they'd just be insane and this is a trap other franchises have fallen into. I'll address the other elements which make the other two films work in my upcoming reviews but I think Scream 3 comes close to replicating their success.

    Unfortunately, it drops the ball in the third act.

    Scream 3 has a lot going for it with memorable characters, a semi-interesting motivation, and some good laugh out-loud moments. Unfortunately, it lists the qualities of a trilogy and fails to mention one of the worst: excess. A trilogy frequently attempts to imitate what was successful about the first one with half of the passion. I could list some of the examples of this but I'd fall into the same trap as the movie.

    The short version of my feelings are there's too many bodies, too many contrived coincidences, and too much spectacle for a series which relied on dialing it down to greater affect. The first movie accomplished more with its initial victim's death than a half-dozen nameless extras. When people died in Scream 1 and 2 it meant something. Here, the finale of the final act reaches grand guignol proportions of bloodshed. It left me feeling "get it over already" as opposed to tight and tense.

    Part of the problem is, unfortunately, Neve Campbell. Neve's roll is purely perfunctory in the story and could have very easily been deleted without much effect. Which is surprising given the killer's motivation centers around her and she does her best with the material she's given.

Adorable but unnecessary.
      Bluntly, the actual stars of the movie are David Arquette and Courtney Cox. With some tweaking, the movie could have forgone Neve's presence and been the stronger for it. Which is terrible because I love Sidney Prescott and Neve Campbell both. A good part of the movie's plot also depends on a silly plot device I felt annoyed the movie had to resort to.

    There's some genuinely good moments in this movie: Parker Posey is tremendously entertaining, Carrie Fisher makes a splendid cameo, and the death scenes are spectacular. There's a particularly effective moment where Lance Henriksen's character talks about how young women were lured to the casting couch during the height of his career only to have it sometimes go "too far." Courtney Cox and Parker Posey manage to convey a lot with only a disgusted look.

    I could go on but, ultimately, I think the movie is worth watching but could have been much better. It's particularly frustrating because it comes within spitting distance of being a really-really good movie. Like a fumbled touchdown, it's more frustrating than a movie which never really approaches greatness.


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