American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
The great pleasure in the "Scream" movies is that the characters have seen other horror films. At times they talk as if they're in the chat room of a horror site. Wes Craven's "Scre4m," the typographically skewed fourth movie in the series, opens with a clever series of horror scenes that emerge one from another like nested Russian dolls, and Kevin Williamson's dialogue is smart and knowing. All through the movie, "Scre4m" lets us know that it knows exactly what it's up to — and then goes right ahead and gets up to it.
The premise is that a psychopath has returned to the town of Woodsboro, which has already seen so many fatal slashings, you question why anyone still lives there, let alone watches horror movies. This killer seems at times to be supernormal, is able to appear simultaneously at the front and back doors of a house, and predict precisely where victims will be, and when. As a result, the body count in "Scre4m" mounts relentlessly until you wonder whether everyone in the cast is going to be killed, with the movie ending on an empty room (with the phone ringing — heh, heh).
There is a dark nihilism here that seems to appeal to "Scream" fans. No one deserves to die but so many do, and horribly, with geysers of blood spurting from their wounds. Why must they die? Why is the killer Ghostface so driven? The motive is eventually revealed, but I wouldn't go so far as to say it's explained.
Neve Campbell returns as Sidney Prescott, a hometown girl who has written a best seller and has returned to Woodsboro to promote it. My own inclination would be to stay the hell away from the location of the killings in the original "Scream," but hey, that's just me. Also back are David Arquette as the local sheriff, and Courteney Cox, the newscaster who is now his wife.