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'Scream 3': Going In for the Overkill

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 4, 2000


    'Scream 3' Neve Campbell and David Arquette return – again – as potential victims in "Scream 3." (Dimension)
"Scream 3" like Parts 1 and 2, skewers the slasher genre with the skill of a Ginsu chef at Benihana. The knife's grown a little dull, it's true. But the trilogy's campy last act still isn't afraid to taunt the boogeyman.

This chapter – the last, vows director Wes Craven – follows the now-familiar formula that took audiences by surprise in "Scream," sending up cobweb-covered horror conventions while faithfully adhering to them. In this world, women can no more resist a dark basement than a giveaway from Estee Lauder (free with $20 purchase).

Though writer Kevin Williamson, who wrote the first two, passed on this installment, Ehren Kruger (no relation to Freddy) brings the same cutting-edge humor to the story, which grapples with the same dilemma: Is art imitating life? Or is it the other way around? Or what? As in "Scream 2," our story involves a horror movie within a horror movie. This brings sequel survivors Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox Arquette) and Dewey Riley (David Arquette) back together, soon to be caught up in a harrowing game of parry and thrust with yet another maniac in an Edvard Munch mask.

TV reporter Gale and former lawman Dewey are in Hollywood for the filming of "Stab 3: Return to Woodsboro," which is based on the gruesome events that first terrorized that small town. Gale is snooping around the studio when she runs into Dewey, who's become a technical adviser on "Stab 3." Clearly the old chemistry is still there, but Dewey has become involved with Method actress Jennifer Jolie (hilarious Parker Posey).

Gale, not Jennifer's biggest fan, is appalled to learn that the actress is playing her in the movie-within. Jennifer, on the other hand, believes that her Gale is far superior to the real woman. Meanwhile, in the real world, Mr. Munch has already struck twice, and one of the victims was to have played a role in "Stab 3."

The director takes the latter personally. "Does this have anything to do with my movie?" he asks.

"The guy's in a movie called 'Stab 3' and he gets stabbed," retorts a cop. "What do you think?"

In a short time it becomes clear that the fiend is murdering cast members according to the script. But the studio has leaked several versions (as did Wes Craven in the case of "Scream 3") to guarantee the secrecy of the plot. Now, nobody knows which version the villain is following. One thing's apparent: This all goes back to trilogy heroine Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), who has gone into hiding in Northern California. And so is another thing: The cutlery collector is looking for her. And so is one more: He's going to find her.

Though it's not especially suspenseful, the movie does provide a couple of good jolts and a few surprises. It also takes a satisfying stab or two at the film industry, deftly represented here by Lance Henriksen and Scott Foley in the roles of "Stab 3's" producer and director. Carrie Fisher makes the most of a cameo as a bitter studio archivist who prides herself on never forgetting an actor's original name.

By the time it bogs down in excess plot, "Scream 3" has built up plenty of goodwill. It's plenty entertaining, but the ending is disappointing, given the buildup. We're expecting a brilliant stroke, but all of the sudden Craven's playing it straight. And who among us has not learned not to go down there?

Scream 3 (116 minutes) is rated R for gore, profanity and chicks in the shower.

© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company


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