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Scream 3 Is the Best Worst Sequel of Any Horror Franchise

on February 04, 2020, 12:00am
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Joe: Oh, let’s be clear: the main reason to watch Scream 3 is Parker Posey. Sure at the time most of us were excited because we assumed that this was the end of a trilogy, but with twenty years perspective, it has become increasingly obvious that casting Posey as a more ridiculous version of Gale Weathers is the one truly inspired contribution that this film makes to the franchise. The sheer comedic line delivery of “My lawyer liked that”? <chef’s kiss>

In retrospect, despite the disappointing revelation of Roman, the farcical tone, the too on-the-nose cameos and wink-wink, nudge-nudge Hollywood jokes, my biggest issue with Scream 3 is the supporting cast. Aside from Jennifer Jolie and Patrick Warburton’s bodyguard, Steven Stone (woof on that name, too, Jenn), none of the other new characters manage to make an impression. When you consider the time and energy that Williamson and Craven spent on characters like Tatum and Randy in Scream, and to a lesser extent Halle and Derrick in Scream 2, there’s a noticeable drop-off in the character development in the third entry. I can’t even remember these characters names, for crying out loud!

For me, Scream 3 is where the franchise becomes just another rote, lazy slasher (evocative of later entries in the second Slasher Cycle) and that hurts my heart a little.

Michael: Same, Joe. Looking back, the subversions, the mystery, and the horror trivia weren’t what won me over with Scream. It’s always been the characters, and how they all demand mini-subscriptions. Growing up, I adored Randy — as I exhaustedly addressed to middling effect a couple of years ago — and not just because I saw myself in the rental store nerdery, but the self-aware humor. I loved how he acknowledged he was a total fucking loser, but I also loved that Williamson allowed him to have an air of slacker swagger akin to Daniel Waters’ rogues gallery. The same goes for Stu. Or even Mickey. Hell, let’s drag Neal Prescott in there, too! (It’s that boomer smile of his.) They all have nuance to them in ways this subpar supporting cast of no-names don’t.

You’re right. I can’t for the life of me think of a single name other than “Oh, wow, Emily Mortimer!” or “Oh wait, that’s not the guy from The Last Kiss.” They’re all so loosely introduced and crudely framed and downright shallow. Good god, have you ever met a cast that’s so fucking miserable? All they do is complain about scripting issues, on-set dramas, media backstabbing, and the list goes on. Sure, it’s emblematic of the industry — one of the reasons why I loathe Hollywood movies set in Hollywood — but Kruger could have given them something. Then again, none of the stars ever rise above the material, either, and with the exception of Supreme Being Parker Posey, who, yes, is MVP of this final entry, they’re useless, worthless, forgettable.

Are we wrong Trace? Or do you think there’s an argument to be had for Tom Prinze?

Trace: The only positive thing to be said about Tom Prinze is that his is arguably the only inspired death sequence in the film. With the exception of the explosion (in my slasher movie?! Fuck you, Kruger), the whole setup with the killer faxing(!) pages of the script to the cast is quite excellent. The most egregious death to me is actually Posey’s. Her banging on the one-way, sound-proof glass doors is actually quite suspenseful (a quality that Scream 3 is sorely lacking), but that she is killed off-screen with a single stab to the gut? Again, fuck you, Kruger. The first time I saw this movie I didn’t even realize she had died!

Y’all are missing the most important supporting character, though: Emily Mortimer’s Angelina Tyler. She is is Scream 3’s biggest missed opportunity. We are told that this woman won the chance to play Sidney in Stab 3 via a contest(?!). Of course, the truth is revealed shortly before she is unceremoniously murdered by Roman: she had sex with Stab 3 producer John Milton (Lance Henriksen, in a role that can now be viewed as a stand-in for Harvey Weinstein) to leverage her way into the role when Tori Spelling opted out. This is the interesting subplot that could have something important to say, but it is played for a laugh! One of her final lines of dialogue is telling Gale and Jennifer “I did not fuck that pig, Milton, to get a leading role just to die here with second-rate celebrities like you two!” Um, care to elaborate on that?! Nope, she’s dead less than a minute later. It just comes across as so thoughtless. As you said, Jenn, I imagine this would play out differently if it were made today (check out Apple TV’s The Morning Show for a much more scathing and complex look at the #MeToo movement).

Scream 3 Revisited

Scream 3 (Dimension Films)

Honestly, as many problems as Scream 3 has (and it has a lot), the biggest problem is Roman’s faux-death in the basement. It doesn’t seem like it’s that big a deal, but his off-screen death fakeout is a cheap tactic that the first two films would never have employed. Part of what makes Scream and Scream 2 so successful is the whodunnit aspect. You really don’t know who the killers are until they are revealed. This fakeout is an immediate tell. What’s the old saying? If you don’t see someone die, don’t ever assume they are dead? That’s not a saying? Oh, well it should be.

The other part of the film that I have trouble suspending my disbelief for (and hear me out) is that Stab 3 is apparently going to theaters? With the overall quality of the script (or at least what we’re told about it) and the many re-castings going on, this has “Straight-to-DVD” written all over it. Would that not have been an interesting segment of Hollywood to satirize? I’m simply positing a “what if” scenario here, but it seems like a(nother) missed opportunity.

Jenn: Ah, Creed. I remember blasting this soundtrack in my car before I knew any better.

I do get the straight to DVD vibe. There’s so much to love about Scream 2, but the Stab scenes and cameos really make it sing. They perfectly reflect Hollywood’s tendency to dumb down and sex up. And the stunt casting feels fresh and exciting. The “what if” Kruger must have posed to himself is, “What if we make this the whole movie? What if we make this way longer and squeeze out any ounce of fun?” And isn’t that the actual Hollywood commentary? I’d like to think it’s so meta, it’s earnest, but I think that’s also giving the script too much credit. We’ve gone from “not in my movie” perfection to “He was making a movie called Stab … he was stabbed.”

And is it any wonder that the side characters feel empty? They’re not even stock characters, they just play them in the movies. They exist as grumpy versions of characters we’ve already fallen in love with, then they die. Although I do enjoy seeing the contrast between Parker Posey’s “Gale Weathers” outfit and her “crazy actress” outfit — and that hairstyle was all over my senior prom. And you are right, Trace, Emily Mortimer’s character is a missed opportunity, but it’s emblematic of the care female characters are shown in this movie. And if Weinstein is your producer, how seriously can your movie actually take sexual predation? I’m actually kind of amazed that it ended up in the movie at all.

Scream 3 Revisited

Scream 3 (Dimension Films)

Then again, I’m also not crazy about the way Gale is presented. Her first scene ends with a man asking her if her willingness to break the rules and going against the status quo was worth it. And she doesn’t even get to answer! She’s callous and ambitious in the first two, but here she’s vilified in a way that feels demeaning. If anything, Scream 3 seems to revel in her personal and professional downfall. And I love Dewey, but he proposes to her by literally cutting the heart out of her work and replacing it with a ring. Not my Gale!

Still, I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for Scream 3, mainly because I just love Sidney, Gale, Dewey, and even Ghostface. It does feel like a cash grab, but on the plus side, we can probably credit it with bringing back Patrick Dempsey, and maybe even the trend of reemerging teen heartthrobs (you can’t buy that kind of dreamy aging). All joking aside, Scream 3 doesn’t hold up like I hoped it would. But overall? My. Hangover. Liked. That.

Joe: I completely agree with all of love/hate feelings, but like you folks, I still really enjoy Scream 3.

Following Columbine, it seemed very possible that we might never see these characters again. At the time, it was hard for me to divorce my overhyped excitement at seeing the trio again with my deep, deep disappointment with the changes in tone and character as a result of Williamson’s absence. Over time, however, part of me has really grown to respect and admire Scream 3 — it’s a messy, imperfect film, but its willingness to tackle systematized sexual assault and power hierarchies makes it a surprisingly risky film for 2000. I literally can’t think of another contemporary horror film of that period that dared to fly so close to the sun with its political agenda.

Did it nail the landing? As we’ve discussed, it’s a resounding no. But you have to give the film props for trying and, if nothing else, the narrative has only made the film more culturally relevant after the events of the last few years.

Out of the glare of sky-high initial expectations and comparisons to its predecessors, Scream 3 plays a lot better. It may be Scooby Doo with an entry-level approach to #MeToo, but as Trace and I have repeatedly stated over the years, even the worst Scream is still a fucking great film.

Trace: Holy crap, Jenn. I had never thought to read Dewey’s proposal as “cutting the heart out of her work,” but you’re totally right! Even though the scene serves as a way to condemn her motivations behind writing it (and her description of the Dewey character as explained in Scream 2), it does seem like it’s in poor taste. This is an instance in which a woman’s ambitions are viewed as evil and negative, so the film has to de-fang the character in order to make the ending more audience-friendly. But hey, Scream 4 partially remedies that by showing us that a simple life of domesticity just doesn’t suit Gale, so at least we have that!

Joe, I didn’t even consider the hype factor involved in Scream 3’s release. This is a franchise whose first two installments each grossed over $100 million domestically. This wasn’t a niche horror franchise. It was mainstream to the point where everyone knew about it. That there was a 26-month gap between the release of Scream 2 and Scream 3 (as opposed to the 12-month gap between Scream and Scream 2) only added to the anticipation. The marketing team at Dimension clearly knew this, because all of it centered around the fact that this was the end of the trilogy. The trailer is also remarkably spoiler-free, a rarity nowadays. This should have been a slam dunk box office success, and it was, but it “only” earned $89 million at the domestic box office in 2000. It’s a drop, albeit a slight one, but you have to assume that poor reviews and negative word of mouth contributed to that lower gross. But hey, it claimed the No. 1 spot two weeks in a row. How often does that happen for a horror film?

I confess, the fact that we have Scream 4 (a much better film whose poor reception can be attributed to the fact that its central commentary on social media addiction and Internet fame were a few years ahead of their time) makes all of the sins of Scream 3 somewhat forgivable. Had we not gotten Scream 4, I might look back on 3 with a more unforgiving eye. There are a lot of flaws here, as we have all rightfully pointed out, but there’s enough good spread in there to merit a recommendation, albeit with a few caveats. I’ll always be the one to “well, actually” someone when they immediately dismiss Scream 3 as a terrible film. It’s not a particularly good Scream film, but as Joe said: Even the worst Scream is still a fucking great film.

Scream 3 Revisited

Scream 3 (Dimension Films)

So after all of this, what would we say is the legacy of Scream 3? I’m honestly not quite sure. It’s never brought up favorably in conversation. Any time the franchise it’s mentioned, it’s usually like this:

Scream is a classic that saved the horror genre.

Scream 2 perfects the formula that Scream created and is one of the best horror sequels of all time.

Scream 3 is the bad one.

Scream 4 is currently undergoing a reappraisal similar to that of Jennifer’s Body, with more and more people giving it a second look and realizing that it actually is a good film.

Is Scream 3 doomed to be forever described as “the bad Scream film?” I certainly hope not, as that would diminish all of the things it does have going for it. But that seems to be the way it’s going to be, doesn’t it?

Michael: At least until the inevitable Craven-less fifth entry comes rolling around. But chew on this: Scream 3 isn’t skippable. In other words, it’s no Halloween Resurrection, it’s no New Blood, and it’s certainly no Freddy’s Dead. Maybe I’m overlooking another franchise, but out of all the horror institutions, this is easily the greatest “worst sequel” out there. So, it’s got that going for it, which is pretty remarkable when you consider that the film came out in the middle of the worst era for pop culture — 1999-2000 — and sports a soundtrack by Creed. All things considered, Scream 3 could have been a whole lot worse, and had it been, we probably wouldn’t have spent all this time talking about it… ::door opens::

scream 3 final shot Scream 3 Is the Best Worst Sequel of Any Horror Franchise

…and I can live with that.

Looking for more horror-related chats? How about some podcasts? Subscribe to Horror Queers featuring Joe Lipsett and Trace Thurman; The Horror Virgin featuring Jenn Adams; and both The Losers’ Club and Halloweenies featuring Michael Roffman.

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