Coolest extra: Alternate opening (DVD/Blu-ray)
Complex says: Without question, Scream 4 is one of 2011’s most frustrating failures. Eleven years removed from the underwhelming, too-funny-for-its-own-good Scream 3, director Wes Craven’s handle on the slasher genre is shakier than Clay’s arthritic grips on Sons Of Anarchy, a sad fact driven home by Craven’s unbelievably atrocious 2010 catastrophe My Soul To Take. For the highly anticipated Scream 4, Craven reteamed with original screenwriter Kevin Williamson, who, as it often goes, bumped heads with the producing Weinstein brothers and jumped ship, leading to the inferior scribe Ehren Kruger (he of the Scream 3 screenplay credit) to finish the job. So, yeah, this one was practically doomed to disappoint.
The truly infuriating thing about the meta horror franchise’s fourth entry, though, is that it gets nearly as much right as it does woefully wrong. Take the opening sequence, for example; swiftly paced and nailing a few clever okie-dokes on the audiences, it’s the series’ most ambitious opener, as well as the second best (nothing beats Drew Barrymore’s iconic stalk-and-kill moment in Scream). And the crew of young potential victims and possible killers, led by a solid Emma Roberts and hotties Hayden Panettiere and Marielle Jaffe, is a likeable bunch.
They’re far more agreeable than returning stalwarts Neve Campbell (who looks bored), David Arquette (who’s barely used, thankfully), and Courteney Cox (who’s underused, believe it or not). Not to mention, the repetitive death-via-knife kills and an overabundance of painfully self-aware humor—one character’s final breaths are used to voice an ill-timed, maddening Bruce Willis diss, which spoils the film’s coolest murder and signifies just how out-of-touch Craven and his cohorts are here. It’s not the worst comedy-horror film of the year (we see you, Dylan Dog), but Scream 4 is something arguably worse: a botched effort to give a once-influential and joyfully corpse-ridden franchise its mojo back. Who would’ve ever thought the Ghostface mask could look old?
Buy it now: Scream 4
Coolest extra: Deleted scenes (DVD); “Inside The Vault Chase” featurette (Blu-ray)
Complex says: If Wes Craven is brave enough to attempt a Scream 5 down the line, director Justin Lin has provided one hell of a template with Fast Five, the enormously satisfying blockbuster that managed to earn goodwill from the most uptight of critics, and rightfully so.
The action set-pieces, namely an insane car chase featuring a stolen bank vault, are impeccably staged; the performances, including those from the usually surly Vin Diesel and perennially dull Paul Walker, are uniformly enjoyable, buoyed by a widespread sense of “This shit is fun to make!”; and, perhaps most importantly, the women are as sexy as ever. Fast Five isn’t high art—it’s the lowest of low common denominators, catering to brainless audience desires at every turn. And, for that, it’s one of the year’s best rides.
Most, if not damn near all, of the credit goes to screenwriter Chris Morgan, whose script alters the franchise’s motif completely. Gone is the rampant automotive ogling of the previous installments; in its place, a heist plotline that’s far more Danny Ocean than Mario Andretti. As an Ocean’s 11 style romp, Fast Five works extra hard to please the series’ loyal fans, bringing back co-stars from the past (Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Tego Calderon) and introducing thinly written yet cheaply entertaining new faces (Dwayne Johnson). Toss your thinking cap in the closet, get ready to hate yourself a little bit, and bask in the delightful absurdities.