Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Welcome to the Final Act

I'm much more fuzzy headed today than I was yesterday and I can't decide if that has to do with me being tired or with me being cold.  It is particularly cold today at school, and I always blame that on our poorly insulated cinder block walls and windows leaching out all the heat.  My desk is right next to the outer wall and it feels like an ice chest over here.  I've been passing out earlier and earlier these days too, so I shouldn't be tired...but yet I have the itchy eyes and slow wits of a guy who hasn't slept enough.  Maybe its a combination...my body is cold so it wants to hibernate.  At any rate, it is uncomfortable and it makes for something of a slow day.  On the up side, I am now over halfway finished with my freshman semester exam and I wager I will have it finished by Friday (just in time to go home and doctor up some hefty review sheets for my freshmen and sophomores over the weekend...just what I always wanted).  It's my third round of semester exams and it is starting, finally, to feel routine.  Speaking of third entries, today I am going to talk about the third film in the "Scream" franchise which was also the concluding chapter until this year's fourth entry...and in many ways it still is a final entry in single story.  Kevin Williamson has said he always envisioned "Scream" as a trilogy when he began working on the first part and Wes Craven found the idea of a horror trilogy compelling.  Most franchises go to part three and then immediately to parts 4, 5, and 6 fairly quickly before they run out of steam, never focusing on making a cohesive whole and more-so wishing to repeat the formula as the first films so it would be fascinating to see how a horror trilogy would conclude.  Let's see now where the story of Sidney Prescott would end in Scream 3.

Tragedy strikes in Hollywood during the filming of Stab 3, the third film based on the Woodsboro killings, when Cotton Weary, formerly accused by Sidney of raping and murdering her mother, and his girlfriend Christine are brutally murdered by a new Ghostface killer.  At first, this appears to be yet another copycat killer like at Windsor College, but the killer's victims all have a connection to Sidney Prescott and his single drive is to find her and bring her out of hiding.  Add to that the wrinkle of him leaving a photo of young Maureen Prescott at each crime scene and the fact that he admits to having been the one to actually kill her (unlike Billy and Stu from the original massacre), suddenly this "sequel" seems to be taking a strange turn.  Meanwhile, Sidney has been living in seclusion in the California country side and is living and working under a fake name so that no one can ever terrorize her again.  However, her own restless thoughts about her mother and eventual knowledge of a new killer finally force her out of hiding and into the path of the madman in order to face her past and her future.

Scream 3 in concept was very ambitious and perhaps the most risky of the three films to make up to this point because of the massive success of the first two films and what the creators were trying to do to up the ante in this installment.  In classic trilogies, like The Godfather and Star Wars, the past and it's slow discovery in the present has a great deal to do with the structure of those tales and how they eventually play out.  So too was Scream 3 structured, once again focusing on Sidney and what she does and does not know about her mother.  The idea that the killer in this film could be a mastermind of the first film tantalized and teased fans anxiously awaiting the release of the film and, at least as far as the filmmakers were concerned, that promise was fulfilled.  However, due to creating much of this backstory for the third film and the fact that it all managed to seem more "movie-like" than realistic like the first two, fans didn't take to this installment as they did to the first two.  Add to that the fact that it was written by Ehren Krueger and not Kevin Williamson (based on bits of his treatment), that seemed to be the nail in the coffin for this installment and would forever cement it as the weakest of the series.  I think that misses many points however, as the film also brilliantly skewers the politics and process of making movies in Hollywood (just as the first film skewered horror film cliches and the second film poked fun at sequels).  Since the movie-within-the-movie, Stab 3, covers a completely fictional story that returns to the hometown of Woodsboro and the actors who are playing Sidney, Dewey, and Gale are along side the surviving trio as targets and suspects, the film becomes a high-octane house of mirrors and illusions that repeats portions of the first film and still allows for surprises.  Highlights include a chase scene between Sidney and Ghostface through the set of her home in Woodsboro and Jenny McCarthy's big scene where she complains about playing the girl who gets killed second to the actual killer who plans to make her the second victim.  It is self-reflexive almost to the point of parody which I found clever but others found cloying.  In fact, the film was mandated to be tamer than the first two because it came out just after the Columbine killings so the emphasis was always meant to be more on comedy than horror.  In many ways, I think Scream 3 is a fitting conclusion to the original trilogy despite its slightly odd missteps.  It effectively breaks many of its own rules and furthers the characters of Sidney, Dewey, and Gale as.  If you've watched them all up to this point, give this one a whirl too.  "Scream" is still better than most of the horror out there even on it's worst day.

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