Scream 4 

In the decade that has passed since the previous entry, the landscape has changed greatly for horror films. Gone are the sly, self-aware semi-parodies that the original “Scream” birthed; in vogue is the so-called “torture porn” of the “Saw” series. In its opening scenes, “Scream 4” uses this to its advantage, poking fun at the new kid, saying that approach is grotesque, but not frightening, so if you want to see something really scary, stay tuned.

Well, the only thing that raised my pulse was a car running a stop sign. Perhaps today’s high school audience at which this overdue sequel is aimed will have a different reaction, having grown up with the smartphone and webcam technology the movie uses as a crutch. If so, they should take some tips from some of its secondary characters — the film geeks played by Hayden Panettiere (TV’s “Heroes”), Erik Knudsen (“Beastly”) and Rory Culkin (“Twelve”) — and dig into the likes of “Suspiria” and “Don’t Look Now” to see what true scary movies are.

Because this isn’t it. Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courteney Cox return yet again, as does Ghostface, the slasher underneath the Edvard Munch-inspired Halloween mask. New, prettier cast members join them, but the route director Wes Craven takes them is rote and predictable, because Kevin Williamson’s script doesn’t ask them to go anywhere else.

In fact, for all Williamson’s talk upfront, he delivers a weak motive and more than a couple of cop-outs. Once more, the denouement goes on far longer than necessary — too much, too late.

The extras feel every bit as half-invested, from a behind-the-scenes featurette that gives away the killer's identity, to a gag reel that's not the slightest bit funny. The worst offender is the "Scream 4" mobile video game promo, so cheap-looking that it succeeds only in making the game look like no fun at all. Williamson's absence from the commentary track seems to say it all, whether intended or not. —Rod Lott

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Rod Lott

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