Dir: Wes Craven. US. 2000. 116 mins.

Prod co: Konrad Pictures, Craven/Maddalena Films. US dist: Dimension Films. Int'l sales: Miramax International. Prods: Cathy Konrad, Kevin Williamson, Marianne Maddalena. Exec prods: Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Cary Granat, Andrew Rona. Scr: Ethen Kruger, based on characters created by Kevin Williamson. DoP: Peter Deming. Prod des: Bruce Alan Miller. Ed: Patrick Lussier. Mus: Marco Beltrami. Main cast: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox Arquette, Patrick Dempsey, Scott Foley, Lance Henriksen, Matt Keeslar, Jenny McCarthy, Emily Mortimer, Parker Posey, Dean Richmond, Patrick Warburton, Liev Schreiber, Heather Matarazzo, Jamie Kennedy, Carrie Fisher, Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Roger Corman.

Wes Craven has sworn that this is the last Scream film, and what a way to go. Funnier than the previous two episodes, but just as scary and more intriguingly plotted, it's a devilishly clever, supremely entertaining thrill ride which will clean up at the world's box office.

Scream 3's spectacular weekend opening of $35.2m indicates its potential in the domestic market, where both Scream and Scream 2 grossed over $100m. Internationally, the first two grossed $70m and $71m respectively but this should easily surpass those and end up as the biggest moneyspinner of the trilogy. It will be hard for Dimension and Craven to stick to their guns and not revisit this franchise.

Craven and Kevin Williamson, the writer of the first two movies, enlisted a new screenwriter Ethen Kruger to pen the third and he has come up with a delicious premise revolving around the shooting of 'Stab 3' - the third film made within the film about the 'real-life' Scream characters - in Hollywood.

As if that weren't self-referential enough, Kruger also gleans mileage out of the concept of the third film in a trilogy where revelations are unearthed, mysteries explained and where the killer always comes back to life even if you think he's dead.

And indeed, the trilogy is neatly and credibly wrapped up and a killer unmasked at its end who also committed the first murder in the entire series - that of Sidney Prescott's mother.

Perennial victim Sidney (Campbell) is lured out of hiding in Northern California when the masked killer starts bumping off various cast members of 'Stab 3'. Teaming up with her old buddies journalist Gale Weathers (Cox Arquette) and ex-cop Dewey Riley (Arquette), she attempts to find the murderer before he gets to her, while at the same time unravelling the mystery of her mother's death.

In between the expertly staged horror setpieces, there are many smart moments and in-jokes such as Roger Corman playing a worried studio executive, a walk-on from Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes in their Silent Bob and Jay characters from Dogma and Clerks, a hilarious cameo from Carrie Fisher as a Carrie Fisher-lookalike who went up for the part of Princess Leia but didn't get it, and a droll performance from indie movie queen Parker Posey as the highly wrought 'Stab 3' star playing the part of Gale Weathers.

Another amusing touch is the frequent assertion that slasher movies like Scream do not inspire copycat murders - a charge that has been levelled at these films in particular. For example, Sidney tells the killer at the film's end that nobody and nothing else can be blamed for the killer's actions but the killer. 'You've got to take responsibility,' she screams.