Thursday, 14 April 2011

Scream 3

The trilogy is as old as the ancient Greeks. In their time the convention consisted of three tragedies performed in succession followed by a satyr (tragicomedy)1. The (modified) form has since been adopted in novels (The Lord of the Rings pub.1954-55), poems (The Spanish Trilogy pub. 19132) and film.

Film is the bastard cousin of the arts of storytelling because it alone is created primarily as a source of commerce. The art in film is despite the motion picture industry not because of it. As such sequels quickly appeared in the history of the movies: the first feature length film is the Australian The Story of the Kelly Gang 19063; the first feature length sequel is the American The Fall of a Nation 19164

Hollywood produced repetitive sequels which formed incidental series such as the Tarzan, Dracula and the Wolfman films. It wasn’t until Star Wars (parts 4-6) that the industry packaged the trilogy as a brand.

In the 90s Hollywood discovered the vociferous appetite of the home video sell-thru market. To wit consumers are prepared to buy bad films as long as they are packaged with good ones eg The Godfather trilogy. Thus the trilogy is good for business.

However Hollywood is not in the business of producing trilogies. Hollywood produces sequels that lead to series. If two of these sequels are made the series is marketed as a trilogy. Yet such is the avarice of the industry that this does not stop more sequels being produced in the same series (Alien 1979Alien: Resurrection 1997).
Red White and Blue
A true example of a trilogy is Three Colours directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski. To watch these films is to witness the art of cinema in the knowledge that they cannot be mass marketed to an English language audience. Another example is the Dead trilogy. Each film is connected by theme and separated by time with ill attempt to accommodate the market.

Therefore the ‘trilogy’ is a marketing ploy of an industry with a scorched earth policy. That is to beat a horse to death and then flog it. The horse in this analogy is the narrative. Indiana Jones will do in the next film what he did in the last one.
There was a respectful lapse between Scream 2 1997 and Scream 3 2000. There was enough time to make a sequel. Kevin Williamson was otherwise engaged on a TV project so writing duties fell to Ehren Kruger. 

It all fell apart from there.

Prior to Scream 3 Kruger had proved himself penning Arlington Road 1999 – a credible psychological drama. After Scream 3 he proved himself again by writing The Skeleton Key 2005 – a quiet and effective horror yarn. What these two films have in common is intent and purpose. Their respective stories are linear and focussed.

The Scream films have no plot to boast about. They are constructs to deconstruct. Hence they are a series of vignettes dotted together by thin story. It is within these parameters that Kruger fails. With no plot to speak of the urgency must be in the characters, dialogue and individual scenes. Kruger fails on all three fronts.

If Scream 2 had the new character of Joel the cameraman – played by Duane Martin – then Scream 3 has Jennifer Jolie played by Parker Posey (she used to be a somebody5). Jennifer plays the role of Gail Weathers in Stab 3. Scream 3 is a film within a film – a metafilm. It’s not confusing. It’s irritating much like Posey’s character.
The Scream 3 cast
Kruger’s observations about trilogies are neither insightful nor revealing. They are invented for the purposes of this film. The concept of metafilm is not developed or explored. It is solely used as a sight gag. The audience is invited to laugh at unknown actors dressed up as the original cast – and no more.

Krueger is a proven better writer than Williamson but he’s no good at irreverence. The dialogue is scattershot and hysteria. The attempts at commenting on the industry via the Lance Henriksen character lead to nowhere. None of the kills are memorable.
Four weeks into filming Back to the Future 1986 director Robert Zemeckis and producer Steven Spielberg fired lead actor Eric Stoltz and replaced him with Michael J Fox6. Wes Craven should not have shot the Kruger script.

The wrestler Matt Morgan turned up at Ohio Valley Wrestling. Kenny Bolin, one of the executives, was surprised to see him. Morgan was supposed to be at WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment).

“What are you doing here?” Bolin said.

“The writers didn’t have anything for me,” Morgan replied.

“So they fired you?” Bolin said. “Fire the fucking writers.”
Kenny Bolin of Bolin Services
Scream is a one film trilogy because the concept is a one trick pony. With the release of Scream 4 2011 at least they can drop ‘trilogy’ and start calling it a series franchise.

Scream 4 opens 15th April. Advance word from the critics is in the middle7 8.

Read more Thrill Fiction: Before Wes Craven Screamed
1 The Oresteia of Aeschylus public domain at InternetArchive
2 The Spanish Trilogy The Washington Post
3 first feature film Associated Content
5 Parker Posey Wikipedia
6 Back to the Future Wikipedia
7 Scream 4 Rotten Tomatoes
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