"Scream 4" the Latest in a Franchise That Simply Won't Die

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 nauseum 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 nü-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. 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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