Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema, what’s that smell? Abandon all hope kids, you’ve reached the end of the Internet, somehow stumbling upon the column with the highest calorie count on the web. The cinematic selections found here are schlocky, cheesy and just plain bad but we kinda love them anyway, like Code Red Mountain Dew and slap bracelets. If that sounds like your cup of tea, then pull up a chair!
Our usual host, Lord Salisbury, is otherwise occupied this week and I swear it doesn’t have anything to do with that boar attack. I’m left to pick through the sugary shards and try to point this lard barge towards the finish line. I’ll brutally savage this week’s carefully selected film with reckless abandon. But in the end, I’ll pick it up, dust it off and help it bandage the wounds. Then to top things off, I’ll choose a delicious snack of dubious healthiness for us all to enjoy, making us fatter as the movie gets dumber.
This week’s tasty morsel: Scream 3
What makes it bad?
Ah, where to begin? It’s 3 years after Scream 2 and since that made over a $100 million at the box office it was time to see if the Scream franchise could squeeze one more 9 figure gross out of ticket buyers. Turns out it did, at least worldwide, but it certainly wasn’t because the movie was any good. We open on Cotton Weary who’s apparently done well in the last 3 years, perhaps after the big Diane Sawyer interview he got Sidney to agree to in the closing scenes of Scream 2. He’s got his own talk show, 100% Cotton, and he gets the honor of kicking off a looooong line of meta moments that will pepper and eventually overwhelm this film. Cotton is on the phone stuck in LA traffic talking to his agent about his quick cameo in the upcoming Stab 3. But then the killer calls from Cotton’s house where he’s about to kill Cotton’s girlfriend, resulting in Cotton racing through traffic only to arrive in plenty of time. Alas, they both die anyway, fulfilling Cotton’s brief cameo in Scream 3 just after his discussion of his cameo in Stab 3. You get it? I hope so, because Craven’s going to be nudging you, snickering and asking if you get it through the rest of the damn film.
The reason why Cotton and his girlfriend both die despite Cotton getting home in plenty of time to save her is that once he arrives she’s convinced that he’s the killer. This is because the killer has upgraded his voice changer to include the voices of Cotton, Sidney, Sidney’s mom, and probably everyone else in the film as well. How did he get their voices exactly? This would be difficult even with today’s technology, especially from unwilling and unknowing participants! Sidney has been living up in the mountains by herself, so how did the killer get her voice? Archive footage? He was able to piece together her voice print from VHS tape audio? As if that weren’t egregious enough, how in the bloody hell was he supposed to have gotten Sidney’s mom’s voice?! She’s been dead for years and the killer says he only met her once briefly before she died. There is no possible way, even if he had the technology, for the killer to get Sidney’s mom’s voice. And yet, no one questions it.
Scream 3 gets so meta it’s just up its own ass. As if Cotton wasn’t enough, the second death is the same type of thing. Jenny McCarthy is on the phone with the director talking about how she’s not happy about having two scenes and then dying. Sure enough this only the second scene McCarthy’s been in, and true to form, she dies. You get it? JUST LIKE HER CHARACTER IN THE MOVIE! GET IT?!?
Where the meta aspect really jumps the shark is the sequence in which Sidney stumbles onto the Woodsboro set on the Sunrise backlot. The set is basically shut down, everyone’s gone to lunch or something, but the killer shows up and chases her through a fake house designed to look like her actual house in Woodsboro. It’s pretty similar to a scene from Scream, but it’s in a sequel to Scream on the set of a sequel to a movie based on the “true” events that took place in the first Scream. YOU GET IT?!?!
Luckily, they were able to get Randy back from the grave with a taped video segment explaining the rules for the concluding chapter of a trilogy. He even kinda makes fun of Scream 3 in the video by stating that the way you can tell it’s a trilogy and not just another sequel is if you get an unexpected backstory and a preponderance of exposition. Boy you said it, Randy. The movie is practically drowning in unnecessary exposition and backstory. Nobody cares, just tell us who the killer is!
The music cues throughout the movie are either ludicrously over the top or completely inappropriate for the scene, or some hilarious combination of both. Possibly the biggest offender is when Sidney shows up at the police station. There’s not a score exactly, just a random assortment of music clips and bits. When Sidney walks into Dempsey’s office there’s a big ramp up of cymbals and chimes like she’s Rocky entering the ring or something. Did I mention that “What If” by Creed shows up exactly 4:23 seconds into the film? Musical integrity of the highest order!
You know what’s great? Gale Weathers’s story arc. She goes from the hardened cutthroat journalist to a genuinely empathetic and worthwhile human being. It was great…when I saw it in Scream. And then Scream 2 came along and it was like they hit the reset button on her character. Suddenly she was the bitchy journalist just out for the story. Sure enough, by the end of Scream 2 she was a decent person again. So surely they wouldn’t try to use the exact same story arc for a main character yet a third time? You bet they would! In her first scene it’s clear that she learned nothing from the endings of Scream and Scream 2 and has resorted to the same guerrilla tactics with which she started. Unbelievable.
Then there’s the cast. So many decent actors are slumming it up here. Emily Mortimer appears as the girl playing Sidney in Stab 3 doing a passable American accent. Veteran voice actor Patrick Warburton does a turn as a security guard named Stone. Dawn Wiener herself, Heather Matarazzo, has a brief scene as Randy’s sister. How she was able to get onto a studio lot with no one escorting her even after they supposedly beefed up security is a complete mystery to me. Despite his recent entry into pop culture lexicon as McDreamy on Grey’s Anatomy, I actually like Patrick Dempsey, but he’s just not very good here. In fact, he gets to deliver one of the film’s worst lines. Sidney asks him what his favorite scary movie is, another contender for worst line of the film, and Dempsey leans in close to utter the iconic words, “my life.”
Kill me now.
Genre icon Lance Henriksen also shows up as studio head John Milton, the man with a diving board off his office window, despite the fact that his office is clearly 7 stories up and nowhere near the lake that’s a good 400 yards away. But Parker Posey takes the cake, absolutely throwing herself into the role of Gale Weathers in Stab 3.
While the original Scream referenced other films as it deconstructed the tropes and cliches of the horror genre, Scream 3 seems content to toss references out in meaningless, throwaway dialogue. After the second murder, Dempsey and his partner are talking about how the killer is toying with the police. Dempsey claims that this is very Hannibal Lector in The Silence of the Lambs, very Se7en, two films that are so far above Scream 3 that the comparison is kind of insulting. It’s lazy and half-assed but at least it fulfilled the quota for movie references.
Somehow David Arquette’s acting has actually gotten worse since Scream 2. He stumbles and mumbles his way through his dialogue, giving a performance that’s half a step above a first week line reading. His performance has termites. Go back and watch his ridiculously slow double take when Sidney shows up at the police station. Acting!
Seriously, what the hell is up with John Milton’s diving board?!
Why I love it!
The simple answer is that there’s absolutely no good reason to love Scream 3. I have a soft place in the dark hole where my heart should be for the Scream series and Scream 3 was the first entry I saw in the theater. Scream was a sleepover staple, Scream 2 was decent enough so I was excited for the third. And while I don’t recall my exact reaction, I can tell you it was much more favorable than the opinion I had as the credits rolled this time around.
Scream 3 does get bonus points for having an honest-to-God practical explosion. When Parker Posey’s house goes up in flames, it’s a glorious sight to behold, shot from several different angles showcasing the fact that they had real fire. And this was in a modestly budgeted horror sequel from the year 2000. So many films these days, even some big budget action films, seem content to rely on shitty CG fire. It’s so frustrating and thus so refreshing to see a real house get blown up in Scream 3. I even gave it a slow clap as I watched.
It also scores for having a short scene starring the legendary Roger Corman, a man responsible for the careers of countless filmmakers. Somewhat ironically, Corman plays a studio exec talking about shutting down production on Stab 3 after Cotton’s murder. He even gets a line about violence in movies, this from the man who gave us Pirahna, Bloody Mama and Death Race 2000.
Speaking of cast, I mentioned Parker Posey in the bad section, because honestly, why is she in this movie? That said, she may be the best part of the film. Posey gives it 110% as fake Gale Weathers and the scenes in which she teams up with the real Gale to unravel the mystery are host to some of the only genuinely funny moments in the whole film. She’s also the only believable character, switching from scared to neurotic to determined in beats that ring true. If they had fashioned the film around Posey and Courtney Cox like more of a buddy film, they may have made a better movie.
As is, they ended up with plenty of schlock and a large side of cheese earning them a place in Junkfood Cinema, immortalized in text.
Junkfood Pairing: Ice Cream
Yep, I went there. Terrible joke though it is, we all scream for ice cream! And as the tagline for Scream 3 taught us, the final Scream is going to be the loudest! I guess it’s cool that they think being the loudest is a good thing. So break out the scoop and make yourself a big bowl of vanilla with cherry or strawberry topping!