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Three or so years after the second film, the surviving cast and crew reunited for Scream 3 (2000). The third film in the franchise still follows protagonist Sidney Prescott, who is now a recluse. Living in a house in the middle of nowhere, with only her dog, Sidney is off the grid. She works as a counselor for an emergency hotline, but even they don’t know her real name. Lucky for Sidney, her story lives on forever in the movies, as Stab 3 is now being filmed. Ghostface returns, killing off the actors one-by-one, and as the news spreads, Sidney, Gale and Dewey come together to help solve the mystery.

Same villain, same series of events, same but different B-list actors, same whodunit. Not much is different about this Scream, but I did enjoy it slightly better than the second. While the song was the same, I liked the movie set murder plotline much more than the college backdrop. The film was able to adapt its same premise to the changing times, by introducing frequent cell phone use and voice technology for Ghostface, which was a nice touch and showed the story’s ability to span over many years. The film even managed to sneak Randy’s rules of horror in and adapt them to apply to a horror trilogy. The strongest feature this film has going for it is Sidney. She finally gets brave in this movie. After not one, but two, horrific encounters with Ghostface, she comes out of hiding in this film and gets mad. I appreciated her story arc and watching her grow from a victim to a survivor. For viewers not scared by Ghostface, it was awesome to see Sidney not be scared either. She met Ghostface head on in this film and the results were incredibly rewarding.

While I rated Scream 3 higher than its predecessor, it still wasn’t anywhere close to the first film. Three films in and the story really started to feel like a cookie cutter plot with new villains subbed in for Ghostface. The kills were definitely more gory and outrageous, but the heart of the film was the same. The relationship between Dewey and Gale became yet more awkward and still felt as though snippets of a horrible rom-com were dropped into the film accidentally. Randy’s rules of horror for a trilogy included the notion that no one is safe, not even the protagonist. The writers attempted to elevate the stakes of the film to this level, but I had trouble getting there. As amazing as it was to watch Sidney become a badass, it ironically underscored the desperation and made me feel less worried and frightened. I felt like Sidney’s confidence took away from the scare, which is the opposite of what was intended, I’m sure.

With any film franchise, it’s definitely hard to keep it fresh. Say what you want about Jason or Freddy or Michael and how all of their films are the same, but it’s not true. The villain may be same, but the story always changes. The Scream franchise uses the exact same premise for all of their films, probably as a commentary on horror franchises in general, and by the third film, it shows. The once clever idea of mocking itself while still paying homage to horror is gone, and the franchise would be better off tweaking the plot and shaking it up, Voorhees style. Ghostface Takes Manhattan? Anyone? Bueller?

If you liked Scream 3, you might also like Scream 4, Halloween and House at the End of the Street.