You can't care any less about Scream 4 than it cares about itself 



Call it a good ol' case of been-there-done-that that explains why audiences didn't clog auditoriums playing Scream 4 last weekend, making the film a very distant second behind box-office champ Rio. The Saturday-afternoon screening I attended wasn't even half-full. Then again, a tornado was about to hit my part of the world — which proves that most people have more sense than to risk flying-debris impalement to see a new version of something they could easily get on Netflix.

Well, for those who stayed at home (and will probably continue to do so), here's what you missed: Director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson rejoin forces and round up the principal players and some fresh faces in an attempt to update their satirical slasher-movie series and make it accessible for today's tweeting, Facebooking, YouTube-watching viewers.

Neve Campbell, once again taking this way more seriously than everybody else, returns as perennial murder-spree survivor Sidney Prescott. She returns to Woodsboro, which by now has a mortality rate to rival that town where Angela Lansbury lives on Murder, She Wrote, to promote a book. Unfortunately, she shows up right when a new Ghostface Killer begins stabbing people (mostly young, hot chicks) to death.

As Sidney is reminded by still-dopey-after-all-these-years local lawman Dewey (David Arquette), who is now married to bitchy newshound Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), everyone's a suspect. This means Craven and Williamson once again spend most of the movie psyching out the audience by giving nearly every character a visible, highly blatant motive — Hayden Panettierre's boozy teen is also a horror-movie buff! Marley Shelton's goody two-shoes cop used to go to school with Sidney! — and making them conveniently absent whenever terror strikes.

Since this is the fourth go-round, Craven and Williamson double up in both the body-count and meta-commentary departments. This is definitely established in an opening prologue that unfolds like Russian nesting dolls, wherein a collection of young starlets (including Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell and Friday Night Lights' Aimee Teegarden) talks trash about horror movies before getting slashed and gutted.

This Scream leaves no self-reflexive stone unturned, even taking jabs at Cox and Arquette's offscreen marital situation and Campbell's faded glory days as an in-demand ingénue. But this installment seems so intent on being even more deconstructive than previous installments — not to mention painfully self-aware of its shortcomings as a horror-movie franchise reboot — that all the movie does is point out its own pointless existence before you do it first.

The main problem is that Craven and Williamson have created a movie full of characters who aren't worth investing interest in. Most of them are snarky, annoyingly savvy and irritatingly two-dimensional, virtually nonplussed by the idea of a serial killer hacking away at people. It's not only that you can't wait to see them die, but the movie feels more indifferent toward its carnage than you do just watching it. For a minute, I thought the wooden performances were part of the joke — they're acting that way since they'll eventually be on the chopping block. But as the movie drags on, they might as well be playing the block itself.

By the time you get to Scream 4's climax, which is excessive and ludicrous even by slasher-movie standards — it also expects you to buy that one of the waifish cast members suddenly has the strength of an MMA fighter — you may end up feeling more tired than exhilarated. In the final scene, a character comically passes out from exhaustion. You'll want to do the same.



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