Directed by horror maven Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson -- the duo that has overseen all the Scream movies -- this fourth edition builds toward a variety of moments that have been engineered to create whoops and hollers in any crowd that's already primed to have a good time and doesn't care if that good time is not entirely distinguishable from the experiences it associates with the previous films.
Scream 4 loads the screen with characters as it mingles appearances by original cast members (Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette) with new arrivals (Rory Culkin. Emma Roberts and Hayden Panettiere).
This edition finds Sidney returning to Woodsboro to hype Out of the Darkness, a book she's written about how she survived her horrific experiences.
Ghostface, the series' resident killer, also returns, evidently inspired by Sidney's reappearance. Ghostface, of course, slaughters many teens, high-school students being the most expendable ingredient in most horror movies.
As fans of the series know, Ghostface is a phone freak; this being 2011, he uses lots of cell phone minutes. He always tries to call his victims before he strikes, speaking in a gravely menacing voice supplied by Roger Jackson, an actor whose name I mention as a courtesy to those who plan on entering trivia contests over the weekend.
Roberts plays Sidney's cousin, the teen-ager around whom the other kids gather for self-referential dialog, as well as for the typical events that pass for plot in horror movies that do little more than alternate jokes and stabbings.
The finale will score in some quarters, but by then I was pretty sick of the whole thing. Even with a little updating, Scream 4 feels old hat, a helping of horror that too often left me bored and bummed.
And when the script tries to get meaningful – serving up blather about the emptiness of fame and celebrity – my eyes rolled. Even in a small, ironically intended doses, social significance is the last thing I want from a Scream movie.