Scream 3 hit theaters in 2000, which in Bieber years is about a century ago. Did we need another sequel? Not really. But writer Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven, who’ve been working this gig since 1996 with the scary-funny original, have a high time laughing at themselves from the perspective of the new world of tweets, texts and torture porn. And some of that laughter is damn contagious. Scream 4 should be subtitled That’s So Meta, so pervasive is the movie’s habit of commenting on itself. Scream 4 has at least 3 false openings — all clever and starry (Lucy Hale and Shenae Grimes, Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell, Aimee Teegarden and Brittany Robertson) before it settles traditional plot.
Hometown girl Sidney Prescott, again played by lovely Neve Campbell, is back in Woodsboro for a book signing. It’s Sidney’s memoir about she finally got over her family and high school friends being butchered by the Ghostface killer and then exploited by a movie franchise called Stab. I told you it was meta. But Sidney has barely signed her first autograph before Ghostface begins a fresh death march. Calling in Sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette) is no help since the perpetually dazed Dewey always arrives late to the scene of any crime. He’s also saddled with a discontented wife. That would be Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), the former TV tabloid queen and author of crime novels based on Sidney’s misadventures. Gale wants some new action. And boy does she get it.
There are lots of new targets, including Sidney’s teen cousin, Jill (Emma Roberts) and her BFFs, Olivia (Marielle Jaffe) and Kirby (Hayden Panettiere). The most fun comes from Alison Brie (Pete Campbell’s pregnant wife on Mad Men) as the most irritating publicist to ever strut in spike heels, and Roryk Culkin and Erik Knudson as high school movie geeks who see life through their iPhones. Their motto is: “the unexpected is the new cliché.” Sadly, the movie takes this literally by providing nothing new. Between a diabolically funny start and a surprise climax, Scream 4 offers nothing more than a series of gory deaths that grow tiresome with repetition. The rating is a hard R, but Craven and Williamson keep it soft at its core. Scream 1 is still the only keeper.