Horror maven Wes Craven and original scribe Kevin Williamson reunite to revive a fright fest that is a little too populated and self-referential. It does have a somewhat twisted clever opening that menacingly grabs the viewer featuring Kristen Bell and Anna Paquin. Especially with those nasty phone calls where someone hears, "What's your favorite scary movie?" or "The person on the end of this line will be the last you see alive."
That doesn't mean Scream doesn't offer some meta-pleasure for a somewhat younger demographic when Neve Campbell's Sidney Prescott was first being stalked by "Ghostface." As a send-up of instantaneous messaging in all of its obsessiveness, the new askew typographically titled pic doesn't work nearly as well as saluting the original which included Drew Barrymore and Rose McGowan (in some of its more intense scenes). It arguably saw Craven deliver one of most coherent efforts as audiences at the time felt that it and its sequel were something to scream about.
Now, in what has plenty of Grand Guignol and its share of sardonic, nudgingly dark wit, the filmmakers let the masked (Ghostface) killer on the loose again in Sidney's hometown of Woodsboro. She's back to promote her popular new book "Out of Darkness". Courtney Cox's former reporter, now struggling writer Gail has married bumbling cop turned sheriff Dewey Riley (an out-of-rehab David Arquette).
Of course, horror movie cliches are of choice as webcams, texting and streaming live are infused with Ghostface's bloodletting return. It hovers around Sidney's younger cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and her high school clique which includes Kirby (a short-coiffed Hayden Panettiere) and Olivia (Marielle Jaffe). Other classmates include Charlie (Rory Culkin) and Trevor (Nico Tortorella) who will remind those familiar with the series of the commentaries given by Jamie Kennedy character.
The mayhem mounts with a high body count as Dewey and Gail aren't on good terms, while the latter gets excited with all the recent stabbing. The revealing climax maneuvers to Kirby's house and the town's community hospital after its big 'Stab-athon' (the "Stab"-some with a little sci-fi- movies have exceeded the number in this series) with young folks dressed up like victims and Ghostface like the cult classic it's become.
The balance between the gags and the "scary" becomes too specious as the rules of horror movies don't always apply. Many will like the fast demise of some of the cast members as the stereotypes usually fall prey to Ghostface, like the cop who tries to go to the house door or even a sudden personal revelation while donning a webcam.
Craven and Williamson (who doesn't have Gale's block) just can't cut a new freshness into a halcyon of a franchise locked into the ominous capabilities of the times (especially through the one or ones responsible, without McGowan, Skeet Ulrich and Matthew Lillard, as well as Liev Schreiber the support is more by-the-numbers). Even with a game and sturdy Campbell (who still can belt out some good kicks), as well as the requisite wit from Cox and Arquette all the bloody fun is virtually slashed away.R