½*/**** Image A Sound A Extras B-
starring David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Emma Roberts
screenplay by Kevin Williamson
directed by Wes Craven
by Walter Chaw It seemed like a neat idea, didn't it, to offer a riff on horror movies while making a horror movie? To prove smarter than the genre while producing an effective genre product just the same--something Wes Craven couldn't quite pull off with his New Nightmare (though it was a good try). He did pretty well with the first Scream film, however, which not only gave faint, and ultimately false, hope that Craven was back, but also launched Kevin Williamson as a geek flavour of the month in the Joss Whedon mold. But looking back, Scream is the proverbial slippery slope, pulling off a neat trick at the cost of a couple of sequels (the underestimated first, the godawful second) that require that this deconstructionist urge be carried through to its only logical end: the destruction of the subject. What made Craven interesting initially, with stuff like Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, wasn't the lo-fi, kitchen sink aspect of his films (the lousiness of them, truth be told), but that they understood essential horror. Fear for your children, mainly--the thing that really moves A Nightmare on Elm Street, and powerful enough that even Craven's shitty sense of humour and timing (remember the banjo music in Last House?) couldn't undermine it. The problem with the long-postponed fourth instalment of the Scream franchise, Scre4m, is that it doesn't have anything essential about it. Built on a specious concept and the backs of films that actually have something at their centres, it's a smug, arch, irritating thing that hates its audience, hates genre films, and, curiously, hates itself most of all.