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Is It Good To The Last Drop…Of Blood?

The good news on “Scream4.” It’s a heck of a lot funnier than the awful parody “Scary Movie.” The bad news is it’s not even as scary. When you’re told to expect the unexpected, the unexpected becomes blatant.

Director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson return to Woodsboro, the sleepy town whose shadows hide a violent slasher in a ghostface mask.  Perennial victim Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to her blood-stained hometown to publicize her new self-help book.  She finds her old friends Dewie (David Arquette) and Gail (Courtney Cox) married and in a lull.  She also finds her old nemesis, Ghostface, hacking through her friends and family.  Since she has already killed those veiled behind the mask in the past three films, who’s taken over with a vengeance?

There is a lot of fun to be found in “Scream4.” Williamson satirizes the glut of horror remakes and unnecessary sequels that the original film caused.  Many laugh-out-loud moments hit the bull’s-eye. The opening thrill-kill with more cameos than usual has its tongue buried deep enough to draw blood. However, while Williamson shines a light on the inevitability of DOA sequels, the fill itself falls into many traps, losing its relevance.

The victim pool is especially busy but even at its over-long 103 minutes; we don’t spend enough time with most characters to care.  Why hire two-time Oscar nominee Mary McDonnell (“Dances With Wolves”) and give her nothing to do? She’s not alone through the revolving door which includes underutilization of Adam Brody (“The OC”) and Anthony Anderson (“Law And Order”) as two deputies.  Campbell is as endearing as always, with Cox giving her usual cunning interpretation of a reporter with killer instinct. Emma Roberts as Sidney’s niece is a charming ingénue and all the cameo stars are particularly sly in the opening sequence. The star performance comes from “Heroes” cheerleader Hayden Panettiere, wily as the town party-girl who knows enough about slasher movies to be a viable suspect. Without giving anything away, the revealed killer gives a deliciously manic performance in the final third act.

The film’s biggest shock is the lackluster kills and suspense from Craven, who singlehandedly created three horror subgenres in ‘72 with “Last House On The Left,” ‘84 with “Nightmare On Elm Street” and ’96 with the original “Scream.”  Many of the planned scares are shot so clumsily it’s obvious from where the knife with strike.  The terror dissipates when you know what’s coming.  The rumor mill speaks of 40 minutes of deleted footage.  Maybe what’s been slashed would bring out the goose pimples. Grade: B-

 
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