VOD film review: Scream 3
James R | On 13, Jan 2022
Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Neve Campbell, Liev Schreiber, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Patrick Dempsey, Emily Mortimer, Matt Keeslar, Parker Posey
All bets are off. Those are the words of Hollywood Detective Kincaid (Patrick Dempsey) in Scream 3, the concluding part in what was (at the time) a trilogy. That the LAPD are involved in Wes Craven’s self-aware series – and a film-obsessed detective at that – gives you a sense of the tone that Scream 3 is going for. Taking us from Scream 2’s cinema-set opening to behind the scenes on a studio lot, it isn’t just a parody of horror sequels but a parody of the business of making horror sequels as well. It’s a logical progression for a franchise this meta, and Scream 3’s strength lies in the affection and understanding it has for both its own franchise and the film industry at large.
We pick things up with Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber) now living a successful live as a talk show host in LA – a far cry from Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), who is now living in isolation on a remote country estate. But when somebody starts trying to track down Sidney, she ends up drawn back into the real world – and, with Dewey (David Arquette) serving as a consultant on “Stab 3” (the latest in the film-within-a-film franchise, it’s only a matter of time until Sidney is in Ghostface’s orbit once more, along with Gale (Courteney Cox).
This time, though, they’re accompanied by all the actors playing them on screen – including a brooding Matt Keeslar as a fictional Dewey, a waifish Emily Mortimer as a fictional Sidney and (in a scene-stealing turn) a hilariously over-the-top Parker Posey as a fictional Gale. The result is a wonderfully silly string of set pieces that involve Ghostface targeting each character – only for them all to panic about which version of the character is being targeted. The cast are game for the post-modern pandemonium, including Patrick Warburton as a straight-faced bodyguard, Scott Foley as petulant director Roman Bridger, and a sinister Lance Henriksen as veteran producer John Milton.
Craven has a lot of fun with the set-up, from costume rooms full of Ghostface outfits to a Hollywood mansion with secret rooms behind bookshelves. There’s even an explosion at one point, just to add to the silver screen gloss of it all. If that doesn’t a lot like Scream, you’re not far wrong, with screenwriter Ehren Kruger stepping in after creator Kevin Williamson wasn’t available. The result is a horror-comedy that’s more comedy than horror.
That’s not a problem in itself, but it’s a notable change from the precise balance of horror and comedy that made Scream and Scream 2 so effective. A cameo from Carrie Fisher and even an excuse for Randy (Jamie Kennedy) to appear keep the tone surprisingly light – a shame, in a way, given the inspired horror riffs on display elsewhere, including a voice changer that can imitate other people, turning every phone call into a tense maze of uncertainty. It also undermines some of the more thoughtful character work, as Campbell once again sinks her teeth into Sidney’s struggle to process and move on from her trauma – one recurring nightmare involving her mother feels like a misstep pushing too far to re-establish the movie’s emotional themes. If that balance is off, though, it’s a minor quibble for a sequel that is often less than frightening but never less than entertaining.