Cell Block

When 'Scream 3' Comes Calling, Hang Up The Phone.

SCREAM 3 IS the first horror movie to take full advantage of the fact that every idiot now has a cell phone. The film begins with Liev Shrieber as "Cotton Weary," a character from the previous Scream films, driving in his car. As he talks on one cell phone, another rings. He switches to the second, only to be taunted by the killer, who, fans will recall, likes to make hilarious prank phone calls to his future victims.

From then on, there is a running joke about ringing cell phones. Every one has one, so every time a crowd is gathered together, the sound of a ringing phone sends everyone rummaging through their bags to see if they're the lucky recipient of the latest call of death.

This gag is about as thin as the plot for Scream 3, which lacks most of the charm of the earlier films (and also lacks the skills of Kevin Williamson, Scream and Scream 2's scriptwriter, who was "busy with other projects"). It does have a few funny moments, a few clever moments, and in an interesting turn for a horror film, no scary parts. Like, not even that part where you think someone is about to get killed, and then they don't, and then the killer jumps out. Lacking thrills, Scream 3 is kind of like going to the barber shop, sitting in the chair, listening to the barber gossip for a while, then leaving and realizing you didn't get your hair cut.

OK, maybe it's not like that, but it isn't scary.

The plot of this one revolves around the filming of a horror movie called "Stab 3." Those who saw the last Scream movie will recall that "Stab" was a film-within-a-film. Basically, "Stab" was the movie remake of the "actual" events that took place in Scream, and "Stab 3" is the final part of a trilogy based on those events.

This double-layered narrative is the big conceit of Scream 3, which has the cast of "Stab 3" uniting with the people they're portraying. Thus, Courtney Cox, as reporter Gale Weathers, is doubled by Parker Posey, who plays Jennifer, the actress who plays Gale Weathers in "Stab 3." Sadly, the usually fabulous Parker Posey flails about madly in this role. She also manages to be scarier than the film by virtue of having become disconcertingly thin.

Someone, it seems, is killing off the cast members of the uncompleted "Stab 3" in the order in which their characters are killed in the script. This lures the people about whom the movie is based to come to the set, giving the killer a choice between killing the actor or the actual person.

This is a reasonably clever idea, and it spawns lots of clever bits, like the killer faxing script changes to his victims, or one of the actresses complaining to the director about her role in "Stab 3": "I'm Candy, the girl who dies in the second scene!" This being that character's second scene in Scream 3, we can be pretty sure that she's about to buy it. Also, she's played by Jenny McCarthy, who is clearly too blonde to live.

However, all the self-reference in the world can't save a film from weak scripting and loose plotting. What made the first Scream movie appealing to some was the mastery of the slasher genre displayed in the wild, but believable, plot twists. In Scream it was never clear until the very end who the killers were, and yet it made perfect sense when revealed. In Scream 3 it's also never clear who the killer is, but when it's revealed it makes no sense, contradicts some earlier scenes, and adds nothing to the story. The lame, sloppy ending of Scream 3 turns it into one of those movies that gets less interesting the more you think about it.

The movie also suffers from the lack of Jamie Kennedy, who played horror-film buff Randy Meeks in the earlier Scream movies. He makes a brief beyond-the-grave appearance here in the form of a videotape he left behind for the survivors of the killer's assault. In it, he does his usual shtick of analyzing the movie in which the characters find themselves. "If you find yourself in the third part of a trilogy," he says, "all bets are off...think of Return of The Jedi and Godfather III...the third part always reveals something about the beginning...in the third part, what you thought you knew turns out to be wrong." However, he leaves out the most important lesson Godfather III and Return of the Jedi taught the moviegoing public: the third part sucks.

Scream 3 is playing at Century El Con (202-3343), Century Park (620-0750), El Dorado (745-6241) and Foothills (742-6174) cinemas.

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