David Arquette and Courteney Cox, Together Again, in Scream 4

Why won’t you die? There is a particular sort of stupid-acting-smart movie experience that can be achieved only through the reunion of David Arquette, Courteney Cox, and Neve Campbell. Updated for 2011 with ad nauseam cell-phone app and webcam references—none of which are integrated into the narrative with any savvy—the unengaged and overlong fourth Scream plops its self-awareness on a new generation, who must endure a late-’90s flashback that’s aged as well as the Nu-metal songbook. Sidney (Campbell) returns to her hometown on a book tour, promoting her survivor’s memoir. On cue, Woodsboro High School’s student body begins to dwindle; among those threatened are the teen understudies of the original cast, including Sidney’s cousin, played by Emma Roberts. Returning to his franchise after its decade in hibernation, director Wes Craven stays remarkably true to the spirit of the first film—as well he might, since the slow-pitch postmodernism of the original’s script by Kevin Williamson (the screenwriter for 4 as well) revived Craven’s listless career, allowing him to make dream projects about Meryl Streep and violins. The enjoyable moments are limited to Alison Brie, funny as Sidney’s publicist, and the final recasting of the movie as a backstage diva drama. As ever, the self-reflexive horror stuff is superficial, loveless, and constant—a ladled-on sauce to disguise what you’re eating.

 
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