Scream 3 (2000) Review – The End Of a Great Trilogy

There seemed to be a touch of hesitation surrounding the cast and crew when it came to the idea of making ‘Scream 3’. It’s not that no one wanted to do it, the fact was that in the two years since ‘Scream 2’, almost all involved had become incredibly busy. Kevin Williamson was writing movies left and right and writing for ‘Dawson’s Creek’, whilst Wes Craven was writing a novel, ‘Fountain Society’, and making ‘Music At Heart (1999)’ right before he signed on to do ‘Scream 3’.

Kevin Williamson remained on the crew as a producer but ‘Scream 3’ was written by Ehren Kruger whose most renowned hit before landing the ‘Scream 3’ gig was ‘Arlington Road’, starring Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack. When Ehren Kruger was dragged away on other projects, another writer, Laeta Kalogridis, was brought in. Ms Kalogridis would later go on write ‘Shutter Island’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio and become the executive producer of ‘Avatar (2009)’.

Neve Campbell had also become much more recognised as she was starring in ‘Party Of Five’ which had become very successful in a short space of time and was also starring in ‘Drowning Mona (2000)’ alongside Danny DeVito, Bette Midler and Jamie Lee Curtis. Speaking of Jamie Lee Curtis, it should also be noted that Kevin Williamson also co-produced ‘Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)’ in the intervening years between ‘Scream 2’ and ‘Scream 3’. As a result of her busy schedule, Neve Campbell could only work on ‘Scream 3’ for three weeks. With the story being centred around Sydney, there was no doubt that they wouldn’t do the movie without her and so worked around the scheduling difficulties. This is the primary reason for the first half of the movie focusing on Dewey and Gale investigating a new set of murders from a brand new Ghost Face.

As with ‘Scream 2’, Kevin Williamson had written an outline for what he wanted the third Scream film to be and it’s dramatically different to what we see on film. Mr Williamson’s version was set in Woodsboro although the production of a third ‘Stab’ film remained the same and the killer seeking out Sydney was kept in although the reasoning was to bring her back to Woodsboro. Matthew Lillard (Stu, ‘Scream’) was also hired to return in some capacity in ‘Scream 3’, possibly as the actor playing Stu but it was generally understood that he would be the killer. Sadly, nothing involving Matthew Lillard was filmed.

The ‘Scream’ movies have already been brilliant at ‘keeping their finger on the pulse’ as it were of important issues when it came to horror films. In ‘Scream 2’ for example, Mickey became a serial killer for the fame of being a serial killer and intended to blame ‘the movies’ for his horrific actions. Also in ‘Scream’, Billy and Stu claimed to have engineered the murder of Maureen and the framing of Cotton Weary with the help of movies.

It’s unknown where the direction of ‘Scream 3’ was going or whether it would continue to reflect these aspects, but the course of focusing on graphic violence as the first two films did with a degree of irony would be changed when one horrific event that shocked America.

Whether or not anyone thinks that a film that depicts violence such as horror films should be held accountable when it’s linked with a real-life atrocity, it’s a debate for a another time. Needless to say, in an effort to reduce the level of graphic violence, ‘Scream 3’ took on a more comedic tone but before we get into that, a quick plot rundown.

Sydney (Neve Campbell) is in hiding in the Hollywood hills. She’s been given a new identity and is working from home as a women’s crisis councillor. Unbeknownst to her, a new Ghost Face is in LA and looking for Sydney, focusing on the cast and crew of ‘Stab 3’ beginning with a familiar face.

The ‘Scream’ films always have memorable opening sequences and this time, there were many to choose from. The original, original opening that was never shot had to do with Sydney being attacked by a fan in the ‘Ghost Face’ costume which is the reason for her going into hiding but the real opening sequence was quite different.

Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber) returns and since his survival of the events of ‘Scream 2’, he’s reached the very bottom level of ‘has-been’ territory and has become a ‘controversial talk-show host’ on his very own show, ‘100% Cotton’ which is an almost laughably bad title for a show. The hilarious title apparently came from a joke in the cutting room during ‘Scream 2’ about what would happen to Cotton in the future. Nevertheless, Cotton’s living it up in LA and also living with his girlfriend, Christine (Kelly Rutherford).

One night on a drive back to his apartment, Cotton gets a phone call from a mystery woman who of course turns out to be Ghost Face. The killer is enquiring as to the whereabouts of Sydney and threatens to kill Christine if Cotton doesn’t comply. Cotton races home and is attacked by Christine who’s already been attacked by Ghost Face using Cotton’s voice. Christine is killed by Ghost Face and although he puts up a good fight, Cotton is stabbed in the chest by Ghost Face. Near death, Cotton is told that he should have given up Sydney’s location and he’s then stabbed apparently in the face although it’s not shown on screen. I read that on a ‘Wiki’ site. Whether it’s true or not, I don’t know but Cotton’s dead. Boo.

I have a bit of a problem with the reasoning for the death of Cotton Weary. The point of the killer going after Cotton was that he thought Cotton knew where Sydney was but she’s in hiding. Again, the whole point of being in hiding is that no one knows where you are. We find out later that Dewey knows where Sydney is but why would Cotton know where she is? I seriously doubt that Syndey and Cotton were in regular contact after the events of ‘Scream 2’. Having said that, lets flip the whole thing on it’s head. The killer must have some reasoning for thinking that Cotton knows where Sydney is. There’s also some conjecture on the fan sites that Cotton knew where Sydney was and presumably out of some loyalty to her, refused to tell the killer, resulting in his death.

I like to think that Cotton isn’t really dead and he somehow survived being stabbed in the chest and head. He stayed in LA and changed his name to ‘Ray Donovan’, becoming a fixer to the rich and famous, staying out of the limelight to avoid any future confrontations with Ghost Face. I’d like to think that but of course it’s not true. ‘Ray Donovan’ is an amazing show. I fired through all five seasons in a week and a bit. Haven’t seen the new episode. Apparently it’s out. New episodes on the 4th November on ‘Showtime’. What was I talking about? Oh yeh, ‘Scream 3’.

Cotton’s death brings Gale Weathers (Credited as Courtney Cox-Arquette) back into ‘investigation’ mode as she’s helping the ‘hunky’ division of the LAPD, Detective Mark Kincaid (Patrick Dempsey). The killer left a picture of a young Maureen Prescott on Cotton’s body which leads her to the set of ‘Stab 3’. Whilst investigating, she encounters Dewey (David Arquette) who’s now working on the film as a consultant and has befriended, Jennifer Jolie (Parker Posey), the actress playing Gale Weathers in the ‘Stab’ films.

After the murder of Sarah Darling (Jenny McCarthy), who plays Cotton’s ill-fated girlfriend, Candy, a bizarre pattern is emerging. The actors are dying in the same order they die in the script and a case of life imitating art enters the frame. It’s revealed that Gale Weathers is the third character to die but Detective Kincaid reveals that there are three different versions of the script which was orchestrated to keep the ending off the internet. Those with good memories will remember that is exactly what happened with ‘Scream 2’.

I haven’t found very many endings for ‘Scream 3’ in terms of different killers like with ‘Scream 2’. I’ve found that different characters die but the killer always remains the same which I can definitely see because it ties into the rules. Speaking of the rules.

Since there was such backlash after the death of Randy in ‘Scream 2’, an idea was kicked around that Jamie Kennedy would reprise his role as Randy where in he survived his vicious attack and is in hiding with his family. This idea was deemed too unbelievable and so the writers opted to bring Randy back in a different way.

After the actor who plays Dewey, Tom Prinze (Matt Keeslar) is murdered, Sydney is contacted by the killer and so heads straight for the LAPD for protection. With each murder, the killer leaves a picture of Maureen that look like publicity stills. Sydney demands to be taken to the set where the pictures were taken and runs into a familiar face. A familiar face for Sydney anyway, we’ve never seen her before. It’s Randy’s sister, Martha Meeks (Heather Matarazzo) and she’s got a little something for Sydney, Gale and Dewey. It’s a video of Randy circa ‘Scream 2’ in a kind of ‘If you’re watching this, then I’m dead’ type thing.

Making the tape in the event of his death and if the killer returns then he gives the rules for the concluding chapter of a horror trilogy.

  1. The killer will be super human. We’ll get to this later.

  2. Anyone including the main character can die. Again, more later.

  3. The past will come back to bite you in the ass. In fact, all of these rules mostly apply to the ending to let’s just go straight for it.

With the director of ‘Stab 3’, Roman Bridger (Scott Foley) out of a job after his film is shut down due to all the murders, he consoles himself with a birthday party which occurs in if not close to the third act and so of course turns into a blood bath. Angelina (Emily Mortimer), Tyson (Deon Richmond and Jennifer are all killed and Gale and Dewey are captured by Ghost Face. Sydney is summoned by Ghost Face to Roman’s house to rescue her friends and find out who’s behind all of this carnage once and for all. Detective Kincaid shows up and is wounded by the killer before Sydney draws his attention and is chased into a private screen room where she is trapped with the killer.

Let’s start with trilogy rule number 3. The grand unmasking. Of course the killer is Roman, you all knew that and you know his motivation. His mother was Maureen Prescott who at the time was an actress in Hollywood performing under the name, Rina Reynolds. Roman was the illegitimate son of Maureen after she was attacked at a Hollywood party. Roman was given up for adoption but by the time he’d found Rina, she’d become Maureen Prescott and Sydney was her only child. Roman followed Maureen and taped her various affairs including Cotton and Billy’s Father, Hank. Roman used this footage to convince Billy into conducting the events that lead to the first ‘Scream’ film.

Time for trilogy rule number 2. With the killer revealed, it’s time for the obligatory fight sequence between Sydney and Roman whilst Gale and Dewey are closing in. They knock each other about a bit and seemingly wear each other out. Detective Kincaid shows up again and is knocked out rather easily by Roman. In fairness though, that chair that was smacked over Kincaid’s head did look pretty sturdy. Roman uses the tiny gun that looks like a lighter to shoot Sydney in the stomach and then the chest, seemingly finishing her off. Of course she’s not dead. She’s wearing a bullet-proof vest that she nabbed from the LAPD because she’s a smart heroine.

And we’ll finish with trilogy rule number 1. Sydney’s not dead and gets the better of Roman by stabbing with an ice pick, twice in the back and a third time in the heart to complete a clever pun involving ‘Stab 3’. Gale and Dewey burst in, shocked to find the killer to be Roman. In his last moments of consciousness, Sydney holds his hand. I found that to be a nice little touch. She could have done that for a number of reasons. I think it was because she feels guilty that her own mother abandoned him in favour of Sydney and her father and that caused Roman so much pain to the point that he lost his mind. As explained in the first film, ‘abandonment can cause serious deviant behaviour’ and so in his final moments, Sydney shows a glimpse of solidarity for her brother in that at the end of his life, there would be someone there.

Of course that whole notion is spoiled when moments later, he leaps back up screaming like a prat and is finally shot in the head by Dewey.

The last scene is the nicest of all. Dewey proposes to Gale and she accepts which is what we were all waiting for. We all know Gale and Dewey were meant to be together and we were just waiting for them to work it out. But the best bit comes when Sydney returns, throwing open her gates which were previously locked, bolted and alarmed for her own protection. She comes inside where the hunky Detective Kincaid is waiting for her with a bowl of popcorn. She goes to sit down with her friends when the door blows open behind her. She stares at the door and smiles, leaving it open.

The thing I like about this ending is that it’s a happy one. Gale and Dewey are going to get married and Sydney is finally free and shacking up with the hunky detective. Happy ending.

‘Scream 3’ opened on the 4th February, 2000 at 3,467 theatres across the United States. The film made almost $35 Million in it’s opening weekend and went on to gross $161.8 Million worldwide.

Whilst the previous two films held high ratings Rotten Tomatoes, the rating for ‘Scream 3’ was just 36% with critics claiming that it had lost it’s originality and had become what the first film was parodying. Personally, I like the third film. It did get a lot sillier and very ‘Californian’ in it’s portrayal but ultimately, ‘Scream 3’ offered a satisfying end to what was a great ride.

The last sentence of that last paragraph may have given you the impression that this series was over. But you’d be wrong. What does any successful series get when it’s been gone for a while? It’s gets a remake. Kind of.

Want a good read for Halloween? Try this…

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