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IN SHORT: A fitting successor to, and consistently more terrifying than, Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho
Director Wes Craven promised that, by the end of Scream 3, that all loopholes would be closed and all mysteries would be revealed in a story whose roots predate the first Scream flick. That is probably the case, if you've taken the ride from the beginning. I can't stress this enough . . . we do not compare to Source Material. You shouldn't have to read a book to appreciate a movie. You shouldn't have to see a movie to appreciate the sequel.
As far as Scream 3 goes, you don't have to know a damned thing.
Unlike the standard slice 'n' dice flick, a genre which I despise, Wes Craven's work is not a special effects fest with ultra- close-up shots of sharp, pointy things piercing human flesh. Alfred Hitchcock set the standard in Psycho (and I've heard people swear that they saw the knife tear into Janet Leigh in the shower scene . . . or that the flick -- or the shower scene only -- was filmed in color. None of that is true). Hitchcock was also the first, to my knowledge, to use sudden bursts of unexpected violence to scare the crap out of you. At least Hitchcock allowed you time to breathe during the long stretches of story between blasts of Bernard Herrmann's all-violin score and the slashing of Norman Bates' knife. Within four minutes of the start of Scream 3, Craven has grabbed you by the short hairs and doesn't let go until the final R.I.P.'s (i.e. credits) run an hour and forty five minutes later.
We start in the lovely state of California, where Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber), once jailed for murder, is now the host of a phenomenally successful talk show dealing with legal issues called 100% Cotton. On a different network you can find cutthroat reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox Arquette), anchor of Total Entertainment, an Entertainment Tonight clone with the reporting standards of the National Enquirer. (It's her second big gig. She was bounced off of 60 Minutes II). Hiding in the northern part of the state, behind double locked doors and high tech electronic security systems is Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), who works as a women's phone counselor under an assumed name. Her father (C.W. Morgan) worries that her current lifestyle is "like you don't exist". Sidney's simple reply, "Psychos can't kill what they can't find" pretty well sums it all up.
All three of the young 'uns (plus one more, below) have survived two encounters with a psycho murderer lovingly nicknamed "Ghostface," and they've all moved away from the killing zone and put the past behind them. To a great extent, they've lost contact with each other. But the story of the original murders refuses to die. Down in Hollywood, on Sunrise Studios Stage 16 is a perfect recreation of the town of Woodsboro, site of the original killings and shooting set for the third movie in the "Stab" franchise, a movie within the movie bit that's run through all the movies in the trilogy. It's gonna be deja vu all over again, by the time this flick is through.
The start of filming for Stab 3: Return to Woodsboro is reason enough for Ghostface to reappear. The robed figure, with a mask lifted from an Edvard Munch painting, is still carrying a murderous jones for Sidney and is thoroughly frustrated by her disappearance off the face of the earth. To lure her out of hiding, one by one, Sid's friends and the cast members of Stab 3 meet their Makers at the end of a very large kitchen knife. Hot on the story, Gale is astounded to discover that the ex-love of her life, Dewey Riley (David Arquette), is not only in charge of security for the set of Stab 3, but heavily involved with Jennifer Jolie (Parker Posey), the actress who portrays Gail in the flick. Sid will emerge from hiding, bodies will fall like rain, and all questions are answered, as promised.
Half the fun of Scream 3 is watching the "actors" that have been hired to portray the "real characters" interact with each other: besides indie God Posey, whose interaction with Courteney Cox Arquette is just begging for a major hair pulling catfight, you get Angelina Tyler (Emily Mortimer) as Sidney; Tom Prinze (Matt Leeslar) as Dewey; plus Sarah Darling (Jenny McCarthy) as the bimbo, Tyson Fox (Deon Richmond) as vid clerk Tyson Fox -- an homage to the Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy) character who got snuffed in an earlier film. Kennedy makes an appearance via an "if you're seeing this it means I'm dead" video tape delivered by his sister Martha (Heather Matarazzo) to brief his surviving friends that in the third film in a trilogy, anyone can die and all the rules are off. Even from beyond the grave, he's right.
As for the rest, Kelly Rutherford plays Cotton's girlfriend Christine; John Milton (Lance Henrikson) is the very wealthy producer of all three Stab flicks; Roman Bridger (Scott Foley) is the music video director getting his first shot at the big screen director's chair; Steven Stone (Patrick Warburton of Seinfeld) is the "pro" Hollywood bodyguard hired to protect Jennifer Jolie and Patrick Dempsey plays Detective Kincaid, the man who's supposed to figure it all out.
Potential slabs of meat, every single one of 'em, and most of 'em will be ready for the local cannibal sushi bar by the time all is said and done. There are a pair of too obvious to be true (still, they're very interesting) "clues" to mislead you to the identity of this Ghostface. The explanation of the how and why that concludes the flick is already pissing off fans of the Trilogy (who caught a sneak in LA last week) on the Usenet. They're looking at three movies. I only look at this one. All the elements that refer to the earlier movies are easily ignored while you eagerly anticipate the next slash.
With a whole bunch of cameo performance filling out the small parts (you'll be pleasantly surprised by 'em, 'cuz I ain't spilling) Scream 3 is chock full o' killing, only a little of which will require deletion if it ever makes it to teevee (!); the story moves quickly, the background is clear as a bell and it's been (literally) years since I've squirmed in my seat from the tension of the moment.
To those bozos out there who were frightened last year by a bunch of sticks and stones in a Maryland wood, who dissmailed Cranky wanting to know what scared me, you now have an answer.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Scream 3, he would have paid...
The perfect $8 means I'd run back in and see it again. I'm not fan enough to do that, but I will admit that I was stuck to my seat writhing in fear and anticipation of ghastly developments. Thank God for extra-large and super comfortable screening room chairs. Scream 3 becomes the third scare/thriller flick to hold my attention all the way through. Psycho came first. Marathon Man (starring Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier) came second. Scream 3 is a damned fine scareflick. Considering that I don't particularly care for scareflicks, what more would you have me say?
Oh, yes, of course. Final credit goes to Roger L. Jackson, who delivers the Voice of GhostFace.
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