The “Scream” franchise includes a total of three films, which are part of a new box set called the “Scream Triple Pack.” Three films seems like a lot, but if you think about it, most of these franchises produce even more movies – the reigning champion here is “Friday the 13th,” which did well enough to pave the way for 10 sequels.
Although the “Scream” franchise didn’t do nearly as well, its essential-viewing reputation seems secure. “Scream” was the best slasher film of the 1990s, and it seems appropriate that Wes Craven made it: After all, once you direct “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” you pretty much become a legend of the genre.
All three films follow the very long struggle between a heroine named Sidney (Neve Campbell) and a masked murderer, whose love of slasher movies is such that he (or she) comes up with a plan to execute one in real life. As more people around Sidney start to turn up dead, she and other potential targets get together to unmask the killer by the end of the movie. Although the sequels weren’t as good as the first film, they do add some authenticity to the franchise – when you’re dealing with characters who want to make a real-life version of a slasher film, it only makes sense that more killers would turn up to rip off the first.
A different killer dons the mask in every film, but all the other characters are pretty much the same. There’s the bumbling deputy (David Arquette) who’s on the killer’s trail, only to find out that the killer might be on his; there’s the reporter (Courteney Cox) who’s determined to get the story, no matter how many corpses she has to step over; there’s the movie buff (Jamie Kennedy) who knows so many slasher-film clichés that he gives friends tips on how to stay alive. That shouldn’t suggest that they have the upper hand, though: Even when they make jokes about dumb slasher-movie victims, they can’t help but make the same stupid mistakes.
The setup is more or less the same in each film here, but not all of them manage to go somewhere with it. “Scream 2” can’t hold a candle to the first film, even as it tries to outperform it with more of the same. Things got a little better when “Scream 3” came along, since it didn’t abuse the same clichés as often. More importantly, it knew it probably wouldn’t be able to do anything new with the franchise, and that it was best to just give it one last hurrah. Say what you will about Craven – he knew when to quit.