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Many Screams ago, the original “Scream” forever changed the landscape of the terror genre.

The reluctant star, Drew Barrymore, getting sliced to death just as the movie began? The entire movie was agonizing and fun at the same time. Don’t open the door! Don’t answer the phone! Don’t go to that dark place! Don’t be a cop! And by all means, answer the question: what is your favorite horror movie?

“Scream 4″‘s opening scenes are exactly what you would expect and then some. A movie within a movie within a movie. Enough is said to convey how much the genre has evolved (or degenerated…) But unlike Jason, Freddy, Michael Myers or Jigsaw, Ghostface has had multiple identities and that is part of the fun. This entire franchise is built like a game of Clue…can you guess who is the psychopath now? And that is really all that you need to remember when you see this version of “Scream.”

But worry not. The mandatory parking garage scene, mandatory and multiple phone rings, the mandatory cops who go down, the dark corners are still expertly used…and then there is the requisite amount of stabbing going on, enough to bring the comedy down a notch or two.

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It’s now the 10th year anniversary of the Woodsboro grisly murders and survivor Sidney Preston (a terribly dignified Neve Campbell) is back to promote her bestselling book about the massacre. Since she is always the lightning rod for killings to begin, we know that the killer is nearby and already stabbing around and about. Only that now, more than a decade since the original and 10 years since the last installment, there will be plenty of new and young victims.  

Hayden Panetierre, Emma Roberts, Marielle Jaffe, Nico Tortorella and Rory Culkin acquit themselves quite amusingly as the new crop of victims (hey, you know everyone but Sidney is getting hacked in these movies so I haven’t spoiled anything for you…) begins to accumulate. The final gore fest acts it’s splashy setup to have the killer reveal its sarcastic face and the ensuing social (and hilarious) commentary: sick is the new sane and the vehicle for fame is having a screwed up life!

“Scream 4” is very entertaining and we are all reminded that “…this isn’t a comedy, but a horror film,” as one of the characters plainly states. But this really IS a new genre: a Hormedy…we are here to laugh as much as we jump.

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If you were around in 1996 to experience the original, this version offers the original stars and their enduring drama: despite her success, Sidney’s mojo is still in a funk; Dewey (David Arquette, who phoned in his performance) is still a very dumb dude who has now become Sheriff-Lite and Gayle Weathers (Courteney Cox looking terrific and like someone else) is still nosy and dissatisfied. Once you get over how each of the older folks has aged or not, then you can start laughing at all that is happening on screen.

Director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson are the first to admit that “you just don’t f@#k with the original,” so this is not even trying to step in for the original…which is not necessarily a bad thing, since a killing spree has rarely been this funny. 

MPAA rating: R (for strong bloody violence, language and some teen drinking)  Directed by Wes Craven; written by Kevin Williamson; Running time: 1:43.

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