Starring: Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, Emma Roberts
Directed by: Wes Craven (“Scream”)
Written by: Kevin Williamson (“Scream”)

If the “Scream” franchise had anything going for it since the original debuted in 1996, it was that the horror series had no qualms about poking fun of itself or the genre director Wes Craven has made his living on for the last 40 years. Now, with “Scream 4” coming over a decade after the last unimpressive sequel, returning back to the scene of the crime simply feels outdated and conventional. Sure, the snarky humor from screenwriter Kevin Williamson is still there, but at this point emphasizing how cliché something is so it will no longer be considered cliché is just about as cliché as a “Scream” script can get.

The entire main cast is back, including Neve Campbell playing everyone’s favorite victim Sidney Prescott, who goes back to Woodsboro to peddle her new self-help book on how to deal with traumatic situations. Like clockwork, Sidney’s homecoming is met with a new round of murders by Ghostface (still the most uncoordinated, clumsiest killer in cinematic history no matter who is under the mask). Whoever is committing the murders is patterning them after the original ones 15 years ago.

With a list of suspects as diverse as the last three movies (could it be the somber ex-boyfriend or one of the nerdy horror film buffs?), Sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette) and former reporter now wife Gale Weathers-Riley (Courtney Cox) must follow a new 2011 horror movie standard and identify the copycat killer before he or she makes mincemeat out of everyone.

Although he seems to be attempting to breathe new life into the franchise by writing in actresses Hayden Panettiere (“I Love You, Beth Cooper”) and Emma Roberts (“It’s Kind of a Funny Story”) as two new fresh-faced targets, Williamson is dedicated to his original characters more than ever, which makes them more invincible and thus less fun to watch as Ghostface stalks them.

It’s more of the same shtick from Craven, too, who is the wrong director to try and revitalize this series again. His last film, the demoralizing “My Soul to Take” of last year, proved Craven was out of touch with a younger audience. While the generation is obviously the key demographic for “Scream 4,” Craven is on another wavelength. Think of a grandfather telling his grandkids the same predictable ghost story every time they camp out in the backyard. It gets old after a while.

“I just can’t do it,” one of the film’s characters says as she watches a lame horror movie with a friend before getting knifed in the abdomen. “These sequels don’t know when to quit. They just keep recycling the same shit.”

Even with the irony in “Scream 4,” at least we can say Craven and Williamson are extremely self-aware about what they’ve created.

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