Enough kind words can't be directed at the original Scream. The first teaming of veteran horror director Wes Craven and neophyte screenwriter Kevin Williamson combined the crisp, suspenseful, intensely scary direction of the former with the latter's self-referential script, an exhaustingly ingenious bit of writing that exploded slasher-film cliches while, for better or worse, proving the genre still viable. Successful to the degree that a sequel, however pointless, proved inevitable, Scream spawned Scream 2. At once more and less of the same, Scream 2 paired a stack of tense setpieces with a clever-enough Williamson script, its greatest offense coming in the form of a ridiculously unscary finale. Now, following countless ripoffs and minus Williamson comes Scream 3, which could kindly be described as arbitrary if that word didn't carry the suggestion that it needed to exist. Written by screenwriter du jour Ehren Kruger (who, with Arlington Road, now has two strikes against him), Scream 3 moves clumsily to the now-familiar meta-slasher rhythms of the series. After murders trouble the cast of Stab 3 (the second sequel to the film based on the events of the first film, for those keeping score), ostensible heroine Neve Campbell—who's barely in the movie in more ways than one—is drawn out of seclusion to join Scream survivors Courteney Cox and David Arquette in fighting, once again, a costume-clad killer. It's hard to believe that the director of the first two Screams (not to mention A Nightmare On Elm Street and other horror classics) directed this one. It's a lot easier to believe that the Wes Craven behind Shocker, the one who dumbs things down and goes through the motions for the sake of a paycheck, did. Virtually none of the craftsmanship of Craven's best is on display here, and what good ideas do turn up are largely recycled from previous efforts. This Scream has been widely marketed as the series' final installment. Better late than never.
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