'Scream 4'

"I am totally rocking this wrist bandage."

**1/2 (out of four)

If Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) really knew horror movies, she’d know that the moment she thinks she’s ready to move on from the murders in her past is exactly when the killings will resume. Like clockwork, the end of Sidney’s book tour in her hometown coincides with the anniversary of the city’s tragic history and yet another onslaught of stabbings often foreshadowed via telephone landlines. As if anyone uses those anymore.

The buzz: Somehow it’s been 15 years since the original “Scream,” whose self-referential cleverness (courtesy of “Dawson’s Creek” creator Kevin Williamson) led to a decent sequel and a moronic conclusion to the trilogy. Now director Wes Craven and Williamson, who didn’t write the third film, want another crack at things, which means another on-screen pairing of now-separated spouses Courteney Cox and David Arquette and a cast of hotties (including Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Aimee Teegarden) who was roughly in kindergarten when original came out.

The verdict: For a while, there’s spunk in the way “Scream 4” winks at its role as yet another horror franchise rejuvenation. It can be fun to predict the killer in a movie in which you can actually distinguish one character from the next. Yet just because a film is commenting on the motions doesn’t mean it’s not also going through them in a way that’s simply not fresh anymore. (P.S. The instant, superficial nature of Internet fame isn’t news either.) “Scream 4” feels like it’s trying to keep air in a balloon whose hole can’t be repaired. Less than an exercise in tension or surprise, the movie’s a sporadically funny conversation about the genre. The highest compliment it earns is, “It’s better than 'Scream 3,' and way better than another ‘Saw.’”

Did you know? One character deals with a Facebook stalker who posts messages like, “Hey, what’s up?,” “You’re hot,” and “I want to kill you.” Online flirting’s all fun and games until someone drops a k-bomb.

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mpais@tribune.com