What a difference a year makes. When I asked Wes Craven last February whether there was any truth to the rumors that a fourth Scream movie was in the works, this is what he said: “Yeah, it's a possibility. And that's pretty much where it is with me right now. I should probably pick up the phone and call Bob and Harvey [Weinstein] to see what's up. I've heard that [Kevin Williamson] has an idea, and what I've said to my agents is that I'm interested if it's terrific — I'm interested in any project that's terrific — and I'm not interested if it's not.”
That’s what I call noncommittal. Flashforward to the Dimension Films email announcing that Scream 4 is going into production this spring for an April 15, 2011, release. Craven is on board, and is quoted saying, "I am delighted to accept Bob Weinstein's offer to take the reins on a whole new chapter in Scream history. Working with Courteney [Cox], David [Arquette] and Neve [Campbell] was a blast ten years ago and I'm sure it will be again. And I can't wait to find the talent that will bring new blood to the screen as well. Kevin is right on his game with the new script — the characters and story crackle with energy and originality — to say nothing of some of the most hair-raising scares I've seen in a script since... well, since the original Scream series. Let me at it."
Now that's one upbeat quote, and in all honesty, I'm glad to hear it. Yes, it's part of a PR machine whose gears won't stop grinding until the last Scream 4 market has been exploited. But the Weinsteins made the effort to get Craven onboard — whatever bad things have been said about them (and there have been plenty), they respect creativity.
The upcoming Nightmare on Elm Street, by contrast, was made without Craven's input, let alone participation, and no, nobody had to include him. Craven signed away future rights as part of his financing deal with New Line — as he's said many times, he was not only broke but deeply in debt and in no position to make a good deal. But Freddy Krueger and the world of Nightmare were stunningly original creations. Not making so much as a token overture to the creator — remember, Craven both wrote and directed — is indicative of the default attitude in Hollywood: Artists, even artists who understand that making movies is a business, are a pain in the ass, all hung up on the idea that they know better than focus groups and data crunchers and marketing departments. Remember that the next time you wonder why so many American movies are so painfully mediocre.