Celebrating Manslaughter: Sidney NOT a Hero in Scream 3

At the end of Scream 3, the director of the movie-within-the-movie, Roman Bridger, reveals to Sidney Prescott that he is the illegitimate son of Maureen Prescott and the architect of Sidney’s horrid life.  He first approached Billy Loomis with the idea to kill Maureen and frame Cotton Weary.  Billy recruited Stu Macher, and the two started killing off all of Sidney’s friends, aiming for Sidney herself.  Sidney stopped them.

A few years later, a copycat killer begins killing off students at Windsor College, where Sidney is studying theater, all of whom have the same or similar names to the victims in the Woodsboro killings.  Sidney is the target again, and she discovers that Billy’s mother is seeking revenge because Sidney killed her son.  Assisted by the creepy film student Mickey, Mrs. Loomis confronts Sidney and Sidney, once again, defeats the killers.

Sidney is first on to Roman when Cotton Weary, now a talk show host, is murdered in his home by another man in a Ghostface mask years after the Windsor College murders.  In the film’s climax, Roman explains how it was him who talked to Billy and set this series of events in motion.  And, ultimately, it wasn’t to torture Maureen–she was already dead.  It was to destroy Sidney, who represented everything he wanted but was denied.

That makes sense to psychotic people, by the way.  No, seriously.  Study basic psychology, paying special attention to abnormal psych.  That’s exactly the type of irrationality that would make total sense to someone like Roman Bridger.

This trilogy ended badly because of Ehren Kruger writing Scream 3.  It wasn’t all his fault.  To keep the ending off the Internet, Kruger actually wrote three different scripts, all substantially the same but with different endings.  The movie actually leads up to Angelina and Roman as partners, and if you watch Scream 3 with that in mind you will see exactly what I’m talking about.  However, the powers that be cut the final movie with one of the “fake” endings, an ending which not only doesn’t follow from the clues in Act II of the movie, but also has Sidney commit a serious crime in the resolution.

It is a complete misnomer that you can’t be charged with a crime if you kill someone in self-defense.  “Self-defense” is only a defense to a crime, not immunity from prosecution.  In fact, very often people who kill in self-defense are charged with murder and put on trial.  It all depends on the sequence of events that lead to the fatal blow.

For example, when the TV show A Current Affair with Maury Povich was insanely popular, they covered the story of a man who was charged with murder when he shot an intruder to death in his home–with 23 bullets to the head.  Being generous and assuming that his gun had a clip of 10, he had to reload a minimum of two times to get all of the shots off.  Being unkind and assuming it was a revolver with 6 shots, that’s three reloads.  Clearly not self-defense.  Reload is a “cooling off period,” and you are expected during such a period (if you get one) to reassess the threat your assailant now presents.  “Cooling off period” is the difference between self-defense and manslaughter, manslaughter and murder.

When using deadly force against an assailant, the force must be equal to what the assailant wields, as well as being proportionate to the threat the assailant presents.  For example, you can shoot an assailant wielding a knife, because both weapons will be considered “deadly force” by the prosecution.  But shooting an unarmed assailant, even in your own home during a break in, isn’t clear-cut.  Circumstances surrounding the actual fatal shot must be considered.

So let’s consider those as they apply to Scream 3.  Note that this is one of the alternate endings, but the only thing that differs from the theatrical release is the dialog of “The Voice.”

Let’s start at 8:06.  This segment is identical to the theatrical release.  Roman is looking for Sidney, who crouches behind a desk.  She calls his cellphone to distract him, then leaps forward and stabs him in the back.  Distracting a killer who uses phones to hunt his victim using a phone, now that’s some great irony.  Roman’s down.  Now he doesn’t present a threat.  This should be obvious to anyone watching this clip.  Yet, Sidney still grabs his knife and plunges it into his chest–after hovering over him for long enough to know he’s not threatening her.  He doesn’t even say anything between falling and Sidney grabbing the knife.

Not only did she have plenty of cooling off time, but she also wasn’t even provoked by Roman into what she did!

She struck the “fatal” blow (yes, I know Roman pops up one final time to die by the trademark single head shot that finished off the killers the previous two films) after Roman had ceased to be a threat to her.  This is murder, not self-defense.

Yet, I doubt given the revelation that Roman is the reason she has suffered at the hands of  psychotic killers for six years, shut all of her friends and family out, developed serious trust issues, and that her mother died that any jury on this planet would actually convict her of murder.  The best the prosecution could hope for would be manslaughter.  Many may not even try that.

So, I reviewed a song that celebrates murder.  The final act of Scream 3 celebrates manslaughter (but only because no one would be cold enough to convict Sidney of murder given what Roman has done to her from afar for six years).

This is a symptom of a larger, legal dilemma:  I don’t think that people really understand the distinctions between a self-defense killing, manslaughter, and murder.  The first time I watched Scream 3, I didn’t.  I thought of Sidney as avenged at last when she killed Roman.  Now that I’ve taken some law enforcement classes, watching the film again I literally cringe when I see her stab Roman after previously incapacitating him, because I know that she has now crossed the line from justified to jail time.

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