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Review: "Scream 4" Lacks Fresh Kills

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The horror franchise is back with a whole new batch of young star victims. (Published Thursday, Apr 14, 2011)

    Dimension, the studio behind Wes Craven's latest installment of the meta-slasher franchise, made a point to insist to critics at their press screenings "don’t give away any of the surprising plot points, kills and of course the killer," but who are they trying to kid?

    If you've seen any of the previous films you can probably recite the "surprise" plot points off the top of your head. And if you can't ID the killer, it's only because you haven't seen them on screen yet. Such is the fate of the original schlocky, po-mo horror franchise: You know everything that's coming, the filmmakers know you know everything that's coming and you know that they know, and none of it is particularly interesting anymore.

    We're back in Woodsboro, as celebrity self-help author Sidney (Neve Campbell) returns to her hometown on the tail end of a successful book tour, wrapping things up on the day of the 10th anniversary of the original killings that spawned her book, "Out of Darkness." Unsurprisingly, with Sidney's return comes a new wave of Ghostface stabbings, leaving a trail of gorgeous, disemboweled teens strewn about the town.

    Much else hasn't changed: Deputy Dewey (David Arquette) is now Sheriff Dewey -- and remains every bit as ineffectual as he was before the promotion -- his wife, Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), is as conniving and antagonistic as ever, and Woodsboro High School has been re-stocked with nubile young teen females (including Brittany Robertson, Shenae Grimes and Hayden Panettiere), a nefarious looking ex-boyfriend (Nico Tortorella), and a pair of insufferable film geeks (Rory Culkin and Erik Knudsen), there to continually remind us about the "rules" of the horror genre and their sequels.

    The problem is, no matter how many levels of meta they submerge their primary text under -- and the opening of the film, which keeps adding layers-upon-layers, is like watching a mirror in a mirror -- the film's creative team, including Craven, original writer Kevin Williamson (and the unhappy return of Ehren Kruger, after Williamson was forced out, yet again), simply don’t have anything else to add to their originally clever premise.

    There's nothing fresh here, other than a preponderance of iPhones and talk of social media platforms, to dissuade you from the idea that the only reason this film got greenlit was career desperation on the part of the studio, the creative team and many of the cast. So, no, Dimension execs, you won't have to worry about this critic giving away any major plot points or revealing the identity of the killer. I'd venture to say that was the least of your problems.