Rated R for slasher movie violence. Again, Scream tends to stay away from the outright nudity, but the notion of sexuality isn't something it shies away from. If anything, the overall repeating motif of sexuality is central to the story, even if it doesn't quite seem like it. The language is pretty typical for a Dimension Films horror movie, so keep all of this in mind when watching.
DIRECTOR: Wes Craven
I don't regret watching this one for a second. I mean, I thought I was going to regret watching this one. Scream 3 was always the stinker in the series for me. For a guy who really dug the Scream movies as a doorway to horror movies, the third entry always seemed like a disappointment to me. I didn't realize that Kevin Williamson didn't write this one, but it definitely feels like someone else with some different sensibilities took over writing on this movie. Everything that made Scream special was somehow tacky in this one. The ending, with Roman being the sole killer, somehow read as stupid to me. And I'm not saying that Scream 3 is a genius movie. But I will tell you...Scream 3 might have been a gutsier movie than what I thought it was back in 2000.
I'm not sure what direction I want to take this blog. I think I'm going to talk about the elephant in the room, and then end on the disappointments that this movie presents as a movie in-and-of-itself. This movie watches so much better in 2022 because Ehren Kruger was writing something so darned confrontational that I can't believe that the movie was being made. It's a full-on attack on Hollywood that we took to be one big meta joke. The problem is, it kind of wasn't a joke? Please forgive me, because I'm going to be speculating quite a bit while writing this. I'm looking at Kruger's other credits and none of them stand out as original or particularly amazing. I mean, people really preach Top Gun: Maverick, but it's a direct knockoff of Star Wars. So what I will be writing may very well be an alternative history to what was going through Ehren Kruger's mind. (Sidenote: Wes Craven is directing a movie written by someone named "Kruger"?)
The movie is a full-on assault of Hollywood sex scandals, in particular Harvey Weinstein. Now, this is where we go on two different timelines. One read of the movie is tongue-in-cheek, laughing at the "boys will be boys" attitude of the studio system. That's the way I viewed it in 2000. I apologize. I was in high school and also living in 2000, a beacon for political incorrectness. I don't want to forgive a social sin, but everyone viewed this stuff as normal. But I'd like to think that Ehren Kruger saw the trope of the casting couch and really wanted to say something about it. I want to believe this reality because he brought it to the Weinsteins to make. Harvey Weinstein, the monster whose crimes inspired the #metoo movement, directly oversaw a film where a movie studio producer would rape girls in exchange for choice movie roles. His sexual assault on women led to lives being destroyed in its wake. Roman would never have been rejected, leading to the survival of Maureen Prescott. Billy Loomis may have had a normal life, under the caring parentage of both a mother and a father. All of the events of the Scream movies find their origin in the avatar for Harvey Weinstein and his sex dungeon.
Now, we can't use Scream as a documentary. It's clearly a work of genre fiction. But using John Milton (okay, that's a pretty lazy name) and his privilege as a starting point for a conversation works really, really well. It's the notion of fallout. From Milton's perspective, he's doing what Hollywood royalty has always done. Meeting Rina Reynolds / Maureen Prescott was borderline forgettable to him. If Maureen Prescott wasn't murdered in a public way, Rina Reynolds would have been lost to history. When Sidney confronts Milton, he's defensive because he doesn't really see how any of this has to do with him. While what he says is played up for a joke, Milton's pleading with Roman stresses his complete naiveté towards his culpability in the story. He offers Roman fame and creative control over movies. He can't imagine that his actions had led him to this moment. And maybe one of the reasons that we can't understand that is that the movie doesn't really let us.
This is where the alternate interpretation of Kruger's script comes in. Milton is a bit part in this movie. In all of the Scream movies, we have deaths that overall don't contribute to the overall narrative. They're often for the sake of body count and to keep the film suspenseful. I'm talking about Principal Himbry from the first film. Cece Becker in the second movie is there to connect dots to the first film, but she has nothing to do with the story. John Milton is there as a tertiary plot point. Kevin Williamson kept a lot of things to the background of the Scream movies. But Milton is key to the motivation of Roman to do all the things he does in the film. Because Milton is treated as almost a joke or a walking corpse, it makes Roman completely unhinged in that last sequence. Roman and Cotton Weary actually have a lot in common, acting as lost opportunities for storytelling. As I mentioned in my Scream 2 entry, Cotton Weary should really have a great story and characterization behind him. The same is true for Roman.
Roman is perhaps one of the more forgettable killers in the franchise. He's the first one who is a solitary killer. Okay. That's fine. But we're never really allowed to empathize with Roman, despite the hand holding in the final moments of the scene. (I'm going to go as far as to say Roman's final, predictable scare undoes what little sympathy Craven imbued to the character.) Roman grew up unprotected by the monsters around him like John Milton. If it helps, keep reminding yourself that John Milton is an avatar for Harvey Weinstein, the producer of the movie. He's an artist, albeit a troubled one. And he sees men destroy women and those women destroying families. I do want to criticize the portrayal of Maureen Prescott in this movie, but give me a minute. He begs for normalcy and the evil keeps on happening. I don't want to excuse a serial murderer, but from a fictional world, he should come across as nuanced and tired. Instead, Roman is a character screaming with gleeful sadism. He's killing Sidney, yes, out of jealousy. But he's also ending the legacy of Maureen Prescott. There should be something suicidal about Roman's march on the Prescott lineage.
When Roman is killing these people, he leaves behind pictures of a young Rina Reynolds. These are things that Gale Weathers never touched on. I really have to stress that I'm not defending Roman so much as forcing us to look at the character from his perspective. From his perspective, he's the hero of the story. He has this legacy in front of him. (Oddly enough, the sequels to his movie stay away from Roman's master plan because Scream 3 is considered one of the lesser Scream movies, but that would make almost no sense from Sidney's perspective.) If he's the hero of the story, he's shedding light on the monster factory that is Hollywood. He's fashioned his entire persona as director to try to shut down sex scandal after sex scandals. He's trying to stop future Maureen Prescott morality plays. Yes, he goes off the deep end, choosing the selfish narrative of destroying Maureen's actual legacy. But I find it odd that John Milton is not his primary focus. He understands the victimization that Maureen / Rina went through, and yet chooses to redirect that energy into Sidney? I mean, I guess. It does make him mighty villainous.
Okay, so I got that argument out of the way. It wasn't well done and I acknowledge that. But I do have to talk about why Scream 3, unfortunately, kind of sucks? In terms of actual genre storytelling, Efran Kruger and Wes Craven really like something that Kevin Williamson does not: ghosts. Williamson's entire treatise is grounding the slasher genre. Yes, it goes off the rails eventually. But if the Scream movies are commentary for horror in general, there needs to be a grounded element for it. The idea that Sidney is going to hallucinate her dead mother doesn't really work. Couple this idea that Roman is going to play up these hallucinations by setting up scenes with the dead Maureen is a bit of a stretch. In the first Scream, the story of Maureen Prescott is in the background. Yeah, I can see that, in the epic conclusion of a trilogy, that one might want to bring that to foreground. But all it did was make the story tacky. Ghosts and moving corpses doesn't really scream Scream (I'm proud of that, by the way).
Also, Randy should have been the mastermind.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.