Who's In It: Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Anthony Anderson, Adam Brody, Rory Culkin, Erik Knudsen, Lucy Hale, Shenae Grimes, Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell, Aimee Teegarden, Brittany Robertson, Alison Brie, Marley Shelton
The Basics: Sidney comes back to Woodsboro on a book tour, one planned without much forethought to the fact that she'd be arriving in town on the anniversary of the very killings that inspired her career as a professional--and seemingly unkillable--victim. It's there she discovers that a new generation of heartless local teenager scary movie enthusiasts have turned the series of schlocky Stab horror films, the ones based on Sidney's own tragedy, into a sort of local cult in-joke. She also discovers that the Ghostface Killer is back to try to take her out once and for all, but will settle for slicing up as many other people as possible.
What's The Deal: After the first installment of any horror film that spawns a long list of sequels, the mystery is over. Audiences return to that series for every other reason except the anticipation of being scared all over again. So to tell you that this movie isn't especially frightening is A) not really giving anything away and B) not even the point. What the Scream movies always do well, what they love doing even more than scaring you, even to the point of self-indulgent silliness, is playing movie nerd games. The characters exist to throw out questions nitpicky horror audiences are going to lob at the film and they throw out those questions in the context of being chased by a murderer, sometimes even as they're being chased. It's a comedy of geeky film references with some disemboweling thrown in to ice that cupcake. And in a world of cash-grubbing reboots, remakes and an endless assembly line of self-serious Saw sequels, that love of the genre earns it a welcome return.
Unexpected Theme, Possibly Unexpectedly Mined: The movie establishes that the local Woodsboro kids treat the original murders and the distance-producing horror film franchise they created as something to goof on. But then it also sets up a scenario that involves not only that new generation of kids being murdered by Ghostface, but an almost instant construction of emotional distance between the survivors and their freshly killed friends. No one cancels the big party, no one mourns, no one even seems too upset that their pals are being stalked and sadistically destroyed one by one. It's like the casts of Less Than Zero or The River's Edge were uprooted, plopped down in the midst of a slasher movie and were still bored by it all.
Coolest Old Movie Shout Out: To Peeping Tom, the still very creepy 1960 Michael Powell film about a young man who murders women and films it all to record their dying expressions of fear. When you can unsettle audiences 50 years down the road, that's when you know you succeeded.
How Many Of The Earlier Scream Movies You Need To Have Seen In Order To Be Able To Follow This One: All three of them would be most helpful, but you can get by with just catching up on the original.