New Skin for the Old Ceremony: Scream 4 

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Scream 4
Directed by Wes Craven

It's been eleven years since the third entry in the Scream series pulled muscles attempting to define the "rules" of a trilogy's last installment, as if there are any, finally settling on the idea that the third go-round traditionally "ups the ante" and "pulls out all the stops." Apropos of nothing, Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson (who sat out Scream 3) return to fictional Woodsboro, CA, with Erik Knudsen in the Jamie Kennedy role, now assigned with explicating the conventions of the horror franchise reboot. "Don't fuck with the original" is the stated basic premise, and Scream 4 is all too content to Xerox the formula, namely generic teen bloodshed punctuated by sarcastic, self-aware winking and lecturing, an aggressively meta approach that the director first started trying in 1994's Wes Craven's New Nightmare.

Stab, the movie series within the movie, up to its sixth-odd entry, is outpacing Scream, and Craven has fun arbitrarily cutting between imitation and genuine article. The returning "unmistakable, unforgettable main characters" (according to the press notes) include Courtney Cox's exploiting journalist Gale Weathers, David Arquette's hapless Sheriff Dewey Riley, and Neve Campbell's Sidney Prescott, the surviving victim turned bestselling memoirist and self-help author. Sidney is back in Woodsboro for a book signing, but her triumph is spoiled when a new Ghostface starts murdering a fresh set of high-schoolers. Endless references to Facebook, webcams, and iPhones represent Craven's insecure need to show relevancy, though it allows the killer his funniest line ("I am not an app!"). There's an amusing dig at Robert Rodriguez, Community's Alison Brie is slaughtered in a parking garage, and the Munch-masked murderer asks more tired questions like "Who played the original Leatherface?"

Opens April 15

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