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The Daily Tar Heel

Movie Review: Scream 4

Every good movie review begins with a statement of how every good movie review begins. The next sentence suggests what the second sentence should suggest. And the last one should always be some sort of pun.

The self-consciously self-conscious nature of that introduction marks both the charm and disenchantment of “Scream 4.”

Parodying the franchise’s own slasher-parody dynamics, the film divorces itself from Scream’s original subject matter in an infinite regress of meta-consciousness. It amuses viewers much better than it scares them. Despite its dearth of frights, it’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

Ten years after her ordeal with the Ghostface Killer, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to her hometown of Woodsboro on a book tour. Ghostface emerges upon her arrival, patterning murders with the same slasher-film formula he used on his first spree.

The film’s greatest weakness is also its greatest strength: predictability. Before every kill, the victim remarks on how their present circumstances resemble slasher-film plots, and how Ghostface should kill them if he wanted to be “original.” Director Wes Craven hilariously deconstructs his own genre-deconstruction each time, but, of course, we always know what’s about to happen.

At the same time, he pulls our heartstrings for the 1996 classic. This is largely due to the return of its original cast, consisting of actors whose careers are defined by the ’90s decade in which the franchise flourished.

Despite its killer first five minutes, which preemptively gives a finger to viewers who detest the ultra-meta enterprise, the film layers itself to death. This movie within a movie within a movie can’t take any plot-step forward without self-analysis, which grows tiring at times.

But the ultimate success of the film is the promise it keeps: an uproariously fun viewing experience which introduces a unique, if overwhelming, slasher-film formula. Any other way would have been a stab in the back.

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