Scream 3

2 out of 5

Director: Wes Craven

Scream 3 starts great – it has no pretensions about what it is, and goes even further overboard with the “film within a film” shtick from Scream 2 by having the in-movie Stab series being produced as a fictionalized sequel to the based-on-Scream-reality events of the first Stab movies, happily nattering about its recasting and taking self-aware snipes at the money-grubbing business of sequels along the way.  It’s silly, and director Craven and writer Ehren Kruger (the Ring) clearly have fun with it, which translates well to the view.  The formula of winding all the characters back together to deal with yet another iteration of the returning Ghost Face killer is done with less effort than the second installment, and less cleverness, and thus it feels a bit more shallowly vicious.  However, characters we’re actually familiar with do get offed early in the film – a nice ante up in a horror franchise – and the idea that actors from Stab 3 are getting murdered in the sequence of the “real” people they portray is inspired.  But this is all happening on a very thing precipe of intelligence that gives way to lazy plotting that’s lampshaded to excuse it, and by the time a legacy character show up to describe the rules of a trilogy, things are already stretched pretty thin.  Hereafter, Scream 3 derails into a sloppy and extended chase, stab, capture, stab chase sequence that has some cool set-pieces but feels like it’s trying too hard to keep the commentary layering thing going when the movie is really just a standard thriller, dragging on for too long and being too unbelievable to build any tension.  Initially fun, with the back half disappointing and dispiriting, but at least the movie tries to put a cap on the series. (At least until Scream 4…)

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