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Scream 4

Year: 2011
Production Co: Dimension Films
Director: Wes Craven
Producer: Kevin Williamson/Wes Craven
Writer: Kevin Williamson/Wes Craven
Cast: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, HJayden Panittierre, Emma Roberts, Rory Culkin, Anthony Anderson, Anna Paquin, Kirsten Bell, Marley Shelton

You can't look at the Scream movies (including this one) without considering their place in the horror firmament.

The original came just at the right time to reference, pillory, legitimise and serenade the original slasher movement of the 70s and 80s. Now, 16 years later, the movement the original Scream established and satirised is still running its course. It's even satirising itself, featuring the franchise-within-a-franchise Stab.

So does a new Scream film parody itself, the older movement, the newer movement popularised by its own franchise, or something else entirely? As Gale Weathers (Cox) puts it at one point without knowing what the term means it's all very 'meta'.

If anything, there's too much self-ingesting going on. The opening sequence is the repetition of a classic horror archetype. Two young, attractive girls are alone one night watching horror movies when the phone rings. They answer it to be taunted by the killer, who then breaks in and kills them according to classic slasher movie lore. Then we realise that scene was a movie being watched by two other girls in a house along at night, and so on.

After three or four of these movies-within-movies, we get to the story. Before we even start on Sidney (Campbell) coming home to Woodsboro after her successful tour as an author, Scream 4 is quite plain about the metaphysical knots it wants to tie you in.

Dewey (Arquette) is now sheriff, and Gale is reduced to teaming up with the school cinema club nerds to get to the bottom of things when a familiar voice starts calling and the bodies start piling up again.

The original film was so tongue in cheek, Scream 4 is a Mobius Strip of tongues in cheeks. Ironically, Campbell as Sidney plays it completely straight again, seemingly the only one who doesn't realise the whole thing is now an even bigger wink to the audience than the original film was.

As she, Gale and Dewey have to team up again, Ghostface is targeting the next generation once more, a roll call of Gossip Girl-alike clones with no purpose but to go under the knife.

The plot of the movie itself sticks strictly to conventions, only the 11th hour reveal taking it in an unexpected direction. But its existence is more an in-joke played on an in-joke than a story it itself.

Don't try to plot out how the Scream and Stab franchises and the way they've affected and fit into the genre. You'd have an easier time unraveling the paradoxes of a cerebral time travel film.

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