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When asked why he would never direct a sequel to Halloween, horror-meister John Carpenter replied, “Basically, sequels mean the same film. That’s what people want to see. They want to see the same movie again.” Carpenter’s dead-on, of course. In sequels, formula is paramount. Even director Wes Craven’s once-innovative Scream franchise, with its self-conscious humor and its wily deconstruction of horror film conventions, follows the slasher sub-genre’s cardinal rule: A masked killer must kill beautiful child after beautiful child until only one, the final victim-heroine, remains. In Scream 3, she is once again Sidney Prescott (the seemingly indestructible Neve Campbell), now working as a women’s crisis counselor. Sidney’s forced out of hiding when the cast members of film-within-a-film Stab 3: Return to Woodsboro, a fictionalization of the events of the Scream flicks, start getting skewered. Unsurprisingly, the dialogue is flatter and the scares are cheaper than in the first two installments. Still, the film is not without its pleasures. Parker Posey, for instance, adds some serious comic bite as one of the self-important actresses in Stab 3. And Campbell glows as never before, adding depth to Ehren Kruger’s barely serviceable screenplay. The film’s final image, too, is satisfying and beautiful. It offers hope—not just for the trilogy’s survivors, but for its audience: The story ends here, it seems to say, with dignity. It’s not much, but it’s more than The Final Conflict could muster. At area theaters; see Showtimes for details. (Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa)