‘Scream’ series ages well

By Marissa Meredyth

“Scream 4”

Directed by Wes… “Scream 4”

Directed by Wes Craven

Starring Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette

Grade: A

Murder by knife never gets old — which is lucky for “Scream” fans.

“Scream 4,” directed by Wes Craven, premiered last Thursday — and continued the thrilling series based on discovering the man — or woman — behind the ghost-face mask.

Craven successfully balances gruesome gore and the element of surprise with the occasional comedic relief to create a satisfying installment.

After watching the seventh “Stab” movie — a series originally based on the infamous Woodsboro murders from the original “Scream” — two Woodsboro high school girls are stabbed to death.

Once again the town is forced into a fearful whodunit game.

Only this time, the game involves a lot more technology — a smartphone to warn a girl of her impending demise and film the various murders.

It’s the “Scream” franchise’s answer to the new trend of cell phones over landlines — since the original 1996 movie’s home-phone calls would be downright silly now.

It’s refreshing to see that for as cliche as the plot is — keeping the mystery before cramming all the plot twists into the last 20-minutes — the “Scream” franchise trying to keep things current.

And where would the town be without its cast of cliched characters?

There’s Courtney Cox back as the fame-hungry reporter Gale Weathers and David Arquette as the fashionably late-to-the-crime-scene Sheriff Dewey. They race to find out who is behind the bloodshed — all centered around the pretty, smart and unusually lucky Sidney Prescott, played by Neve Cambell.

Prescott struggles to protect her cousin Jill as the suspect list grows.

Could it be the Deputy Sheriff, who is crushing hardcore on Dewey?  Or Jill’s creepy ex-boyfriend who took her virginity, dumped her and now wants her back?

Or what if the high-school film club — seemingly unemotional about the deaths and obsessed with the future of horror films in a new era of real-time streaming technology — is behind it all?

The plot included substantial additions to the teen-centered cast, including Hayden Panettiere — who plays an edgy horror-film junkie and friend to Jill — as well as Adam Brody who plays a cop. Kristen Bell from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and Anna Paquin from the HBO series “True Blood” also made a brief comedic appearance together.

These sorts of funny bits keep the deaths from being too upsetting and give “Scream” fans a certain self-awareness about its stock horror tools.

Although not as disgusting as the “Saw” series or as terrifying as “Paranormal Activity,” “Scream 4” lives up to its reputation as an entertaining blend of horror film cliche with an adequate amount of bloodshed.

Oh, and a sexy cast never hurt.