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: Horror trilogy's final cut is a stab in the dark; SCREAM 3 (18).

MAYBE there should be a law that no horror film is allowed to have more than two sequels so they can all quit while they're ahead.

The threat of Friday 13th Part 10 sounds like very unlucky viewing later this year, while old pizza-face Freddy Krueger became a nightmare once he started cracking more and more hideous puns around Part 5.

Yet Scream 3 is still a scream - but only just.

The film-makers have promised that this will be the last instalment in the sharp-knifed, sharpwitted series.

But although it's clear that they are trying to tie up some loose ends, I'm not convinced that Scream's fans have ever taken much notice of the paper- thin plotlines.

The usual hallmarks of the two previous movies are still there. Everyone knows all the horror cliches, yet they still run off into dark cellars and rooms, friends think it's funny to jump out and scare each other before the real killer arrives on the scenes - and no-one ever checks the pulse of a multiple murderer to make sure he is really dead.

Back once more is Neve Campbell as Sydney Prescott, whose mother's murder sparked off the long killing spree.

Back too are Courteney Cox- Arquette and real-life husband David Arquette as TV reporter Gale Weathers and sweet but dim Dewey, now working as a consultant on the latest film about the killings, Stab 3.

Gale and Dewey are no longer romantically involved - but Dewey hasn't moved on too far.

When Gale arrives on set, she discovers Dewey is now getting friendly with Jennifer Jolie (Parker Posey), the actress hired to play Gale onscreen in Stab 3.

The two women are soon at daggers drawn in some of the film's funniest moments. "Like I'm going to win an award playing you" sneers Jennifer to Gale, who spits back that Jennifer is merely a "straight-to-video version of me". All this, of course, is in keeping with the series' reputation for hip film references.

In Scream 2, a class of schoolkids namechecked movies where the sequel was equal or even better than the first film, such as the Godfather Part 2.

This time a movie buff pops up to explain the rules of a horror trilogy, which include an almost superhuman killer and a plot where everyone is fair game - and even the hero can die.

Soon the phone freak with the mask is stalking the cast - although Courteney Cox- Arquette's new flat black hairstyle is by far the most frightening feature of this scary movie - a cross between one of Cher's wigs and Morticia Addams.

If there was any doubt about when the axe should fall on Scream, this film practically hollers out a "yes".

While the first Scream was funny, fresh and frightening, Scream 3 seems to have lost its original writer, and a lot of its zest and purpose.

This is a crueller, more brutal Scream than the previous two, and the appealing heroine Neve Campbell is mystifyingly underused. Worst of all, there are too many moments which drag.

Someone really needs to borrow the killer's knife and hack down the film's running time.RATING 6
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 28, 2000
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