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Memphis Flyer What a 'Scream'

'Scream 3' works to be the end-all.

By Susan Ellis

FEBRUARY 14, 2000:  Ooo, I'm so scared.

The makers of Scream 3 have asked critics not to reveal the ending of this film. But what could possibly happen if I did, if I just let loose right here and now?

Don't worry, mum's the word. And in any case, the conclusion isn't Luke-I-Am-Your-Father or My-Lord-That-Woman-That-Irish-Guy-Is-Seeing-Has-a-Penis. It's not that the ending isn't perfectly adequate. It's fine, but in Scream 3 it's the middle that really matters.

Scream 3, directed by Wes Craven and written by Ehren Kruger, continues the theme established in the first film -- that of a horror movie spoofing a horror movie. All the key players are here: Sidney (Neve Campbell), the focus of two psycho-killer rampages; Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox Arquette), the biting TV reporter who's exploited the murders for fame; and Dewey Riley (David Arquette), the sweetly goofy police officer who had a relationship with Gale. They are made to follow the rules set forth in the third of previous trilogies. As one character puts it, "All bets are off."

For the record, Scream 1 is better than Scream 2 and Scream 3, though Scream 3 is better than Scream 2. Is it scary? Not much, but that seems beside the point here.

This time, the place is Hollywood, and Stab 3, the film that ran in the two previous Screams, is in production. Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber), the man wrongly convicted of murdering Sidney's mother back in Woodsboro, now has his own talk show, 100% Cotton. Since Stab 3 is based on what happened to him, he demands that he get to play himself in the film. But before he can say "cameo," he's murdered, and the killer leaves behind a seemingly big, though mysterious clue.

Gale Weathers, who has parlayed her Woodsboro experiences into a spot on an entertainment-news show, is called upon by the police to help them. Smelling a scoop, she goes to the movie set, with hidden camera ready to shoot. There, she encounters Jennifer Jolie (Parker Posey), the actress who has portrayed Gale in the previous Stab films. The two snipe, and then the claws really come out when it's revealed that Jennifer is seeing Dewey, who is serving as a technical advisor on the film

Sidney, meanwhile, is also in California, hidden away, living with her dog and working from home on a crisis line. The killer has struck again, doing away with a Stab actress and shutting down the film. He's still leaving clues, and he's looking for Sidney. When he finds her, she comes out of hiding to join Gale and Dewey to end this thing once and for all.

There's plenty of blood being shed, but the rapidly increasing body count can't come close to the amount of jabs aimed at the Hollywood environment. A small homage to today's young stars comes in the form of the character names of the actors in Stab 3: Tyson Fox, Angelina Tyler, Tom Prinze, and Jennifer Jolie. In proof of Scream's lasting hipness, there are a few walk-ons who deliver show-business gags. Plus, Roman Bridger (Scott Foley), the director of Stab 3 is a joke unto himself. When the movie shuts down, he cries that if he doesn't make a movie before he's 30 he's over, and when it's pointed out that the notoriety could work in his favor, he very nearly jumps with glee.

And since the old rules don't count anymore, the straight man Sidney takes a backseat to comic-relief Gale, who finds a partner in Jennifer Jolie. The murders are going according to Stab's script, so when it comes time for Gale to bite it, Jennifer (Gale in Stab) ingeniously decides to go wherever Gale goes, so that the killer can get the real deal. Cox Arquette and Posey are a dynamic bony duo, a matched set of nervous energy and bitchy quips. For those who have grown tired of the Scream phenomena, the pair make it worth the price of admission.

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