Scary Movie (2000)
"No mercy. No shame. No sequel."
A group of none-too-bright teenagers are stalked by a masked killer who wants them dead because of their involvement in a car accident that happened last Halloween. The kids are also being stalked by a television news reporter determined to get the story. One by one, the young friends are dispatched in a grisly and ridiculous fashion.
First watching Scary Movie upon its release around fifteen years ago, I was scathing in my review, criticising its consistent use of crude gags to lampoon the 90s teen horror fad rather than trying for some sophisticated spoofing. However, having then sat through progressively worse sequels and (thankfully avoided) a raft of similarly-themed pop-culture parodies like Meet the Spartans, Epic Movie and Disaster Movie, I decided to check it out and see if was as bad as I remembered it. Whether it’s maturity through age or the fact that there doesn’t seem to be too many decent comedies being anymore but I actually liked Scary Movie this time around. Sure it’s still got its fair share of bottom-of-the-barrel toilet jokes but there’s so many jokes I missed first time that you’ll have so much to process by the time it’s finished, it will all depend on what frame of mind you were in as to whether you'll like it or not. If you're feeling daft, then the bad taste will rise to the top. If you're feeling more relaxed, you’ll enjoy the cleverer jokes. The key thing to all of this is that at least the first Scary Movie felt fresh - there had already been a number of 80s slasher parodies but they were very niche and did not tap into the mainstream culture as Scary Movie did.
To talk about a plot in a film like Scary Movie is pushing it. It follows the same story as Scream, of a group of friends being tormented by a masked killer, but that’s about where the similarities lie. Basically the story derails and detours so many times, depending on what films the writers wanted to spoof next, so it’s best to sit back and wait for the jokes to fly. Some of the jokes will be dead-on-arrival (basically anything that the irritating Shorty, played by Marlon Wayans, says is just not funny in the slightest), some will depend on your mood and others require more thought. There’s dick jokes, fart jokes, poop jokes and sex jokes to pander to the lowest denominators but then for every one of these, there’s a witty one-liner, a clever in-joke or a subtle dig at another film. It’s the scattergun approach that worked well for Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker with the likes of Airplane! and The Naked Gun, though the offensive content has been upped dramatically since those days. I’d be hard-pressed to say that half of the jokes work but the fact that there are hundreds of jokes means that the hit rate is still pretty good by the end of the film.
The bulk of the gags come at the expense of Scream. It’s easy to see why: Craven’s classic teen slasher is ripe for the picking with its infamous masked villain, copious plot twists and genuinely tense moments ready to be laughed at. Ironically, Scream itself was a parody of slasher films, with numerous in-jokes and clichés aimed towards an audience who knew the genre well. As a result, Scary Movie can only take these in-jokes and clichés and do daft things with them rather than clever spoofing. Sometimes, Scary Movie just replays entire scenes out from Scream without doing much with them, making the idea of this being a spoof rather a null point, particularly the copycat finale where it seems that the writers ran out of jokes, or another scene in which one character actually says “didn’t this happen in some film?” to which the reply is “Scream.” Yes, we know that you’re spoofing Scream but you don’t need to explicitly tell us.
On the occasion when it does something different, the results are funny. A parody of Scream 2’s murder in the theatre provides plenty of amusement as the victim’s constant chatting through the film leads to the rest of the audience taking matters into their own hands before the killer has chance. The I Know What You Did Last Summer spoof is also decent, if played out a little too long. The pop-culture references are rife throughout the film. If it isn’t getting the likes of Carmen Electra to poke fun of herself, it’s throwing in The Matrix gags, parading brand names around like they were part of the sponsorship deals, cementing itself in a specific time with the ‘Wazzup’ Budweiser commercial rip, scenes which echo The Blair Witch Project or bizarre references like The Usual Suspects, Basic Instinct and Amistad (though this bit was pretty funny).
Likeable Anna Faris got her big screen break with this one and she plays the lead female role though, as this is an ensemble piece, she’s not the constant focus. Faris has a natural ability for deadpan and attract empathy from the audience when something goes wrong, making her a lovable oaf much in the fashion that Leslie Nielsen played his Lt. Frank Drebin in The Naked Gun films. Shannon Elizabeth solidified her status as one of the early 00s most searched for actresses with this and American Pie (though mainly the latter for her nude scene). As previously stated, Marlon Wayans is one of the most annoying men on the planet and his scenes are painful to sit through. Thankfully his brother Shawn Wayans is much better, playing the part of ‘is-he-or-isn’t-he-gay?’ Ray with some great delivery. Final note must to go to the underrated Kurt Fuller who plays the Sheriff. Fuller is one of those faces you see pop up in all sorts of things from Ghostbusters II to Wayne’s World, usually portraying some snooty businessmen or slimy executives. His timing is perfect in this, especially during the scene in which he’s asking Cindy to look at some photos in the police station – only the photos aren’t of perpetrators but of him in raunchy poses.
It’s hard to review a film like Scary Movie because of the sheer content of it. For everyone who hates one set of jokes, there’ll be someone else who hates another set. The bottom line is that you will need to have seen the main films that this spoofs in order to get the most out of it. If you’re prepared to sit through a lot of crude jokes to get really funny material, then you’ll be in for a treat. Likewise, if you feel the subtle humour doesn’t do it for you, there’ll be another bodily fluid joke along in a few minutes. There’s something here for everyone and that’s not exactly a bad thing. Hardly a classic spoof and definitely a product of its time (which makes me feel really old!) but still worth a look.
Director(s): Keenan Ivory Wayans
Writer(s): Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Buddy Johnson
Actor(s): Anna Faris, Jon Abrahams, Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Regina Hall, Shannon Elizabeth, Cheri Oteri, Lochlyn Munro
Duration: 88 mins