'Scream' Machine Runs Low on Steam Third Installment Whimpers Along

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MOVIE REVIEW Scream 3 **1/2 out of 4

After three installments, the latest Scream movie is beginning to look a little too much like the run-of-the-mill slasher movies its predecessors spoofed so, so cleverly.

Oh, it's scary in spots: A costumed killer with a big bloody knife will get you every time, on a pretty basic level. And fans won't want to miss it, of course. It explains a lot about the earlier movies in ways that mostly make sense.

But on its own, Wes Craven's sequel is far less clever than the other Screams -- and it's not even all that funny.

The genius in the earlier movies, the first one especially, was its mix of knowing humor and chills. And the characters acted like real people. Not here.

Check out Deputy Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox Arquette), stuck in a big house in the middle of a bloody rampage by the slasher killer.

Clutching each other in terror, dopey Dewey says: "I'm gonna check down here. You call for help." So they split up -- they split up!

You think they would have learned by now.

The setup of Scream 3 is promising enough. Now out of college (what a drag that was), survivors Dewey, Gale and Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber) are in Hollywood. That's where the action is: the making of Stab 3: Return to Woodsboro, a movie inspired by the Scream killings (it makes sense when you see it).

Dewey's there as a "technical adviser," Gale's looking for a news story and Cotton has a cameo.

The movie-within-a-movie makes for some fun moments. I liked Parker Posey playing Gale Weathers, but then I like the assured and funny Parker Posey in anything. "You know, in the movies, I play you as being much smarter," she sniffs to the real Gale.

And Patrick Warburton (who was the deliciously dim Puddy on Seinfeld) has some good moments as a "celebrity bodyguard" named Steven Stone. He protected Posh Spice, among others, we're told.

Lance Henriksen is the movie's producer, John Milton -- not the English poet (1608-1674) -- but a veteran horror producer who's just a little like Craven himself.

That's not the end of the name-dropping on Stab 3: Its stars' names include Angelina Tyler, Jennifer Jolie and Tom Prinze, and its director is a young artiste named Roman. …