Let’s begin with a semi-spoiler. Despite what you might have heard, this medium-good slasher film is not a reboot. In fact, the movie makes a big deal about not departing from original obviations of a successful suspense franchise, or as one character puts it, “Don’t fuck with the original.” Scre4m has got your basic self-consciousness factor—references to literally every film from Peeping Tom to Saw. There are myriad wise-guy one-liners like, “The only way to survive a slasher film is to be gay.” And, of course, for good measure the whole daffy bloodbath is piloted by the Sultan of Stageblood, Wes Craven. It’s just too bad they didn’t remember to include some suspense.
Say what you want about hacking up teenagers, the only real fun to be had in this franchise is its whodunit value. Because without a deathless villain like Norman Bates, Michael Myers, or Freddy Kreuger, Scream’s strength was the willingness of fictional Woodsboro’s denizens to don the Ghostface mask and start with the stabbing, usually in sync with some meta-plot device. With Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox returning to roles they originated during the Clinton administration, the net of intrigue becomes surprisingly tricky. People gasped when the killer was revealed. The solution to the mystery, at least, is a cut above the last two installments, and an element of contemporary social criticism is inherent in the murderous motivations.
But it’s not enough. The pre-credit sequences have often given the films a creepy edge, by blasting our senses with some horrific act that keeps us nervous for the rest of the film. Craven and company decided to go with a more convoluted stinger and the shape of the joke makes the rest of the film seem indistinguishable from parodies, like the Scary Movie series. Nothing here has been really updated. Facebook and Twitter might have provided the film with new terror devices, but instead we get cell phone calls and David Arquette looking exhausted by the effort of chasing sharp kitchen knives around. Someone ought to take a stab at rebooting this or, maybe better, let it die.