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Scream 4

The problem with creating a smart, self-critiquing horror franchise is that with each sequel the struggle to justify rolling out another ‘who stabbed it?’ becomes a tighter intellectual tangle. The first Scream was a virtuoso deconstruction of genre that spun convention like a dizzy dance partner for its own wicked ends. The sequel at least had its own superfluousness to puncture, the third not even that. And then Scream 4 happened anyway.

As the film’s narcissistic script can’t avoid broadcasting, Scream 4 is part remake, part inescapable feedback loop insisting it need not exist. The obligatory stunt-kill opening – because who’d be mad enough to try something new, at this stage? – leans on the movie’s internal slasher franchise Stab to weave an ouroboros satire of unnecessary sequels. The film, apparently, hopes to avoid jibes of irrelevance simply by getting the jibes in first, rather than pursuing any kind of relevance itself.

As well as a likeable know-it-all the original Scream was an unwitting tribute to an era of slasher videos and sleepovers forever changed by the coming of DVD. In trying to keep pace Scream 4’s killers have a fetish for webcam thrills, as lamely ‘with it’ as the Facebook Killer angle derided in Stab VI. Aside from a new generation of meat bag victims and potential murderers doing the leg-work for uninspiring series stalwarts Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette, this is the film’s only stab at newness. The result? Not only is Scream 4 unnecessary but, if you listen closely, it does its best to tell you as much.

This text originally appeared in Total Film magazine

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