Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 28 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Crude Sexual Humor, Language, Drug Use and Violence
Directed by: Keenen Ivory Wayans
Written by: Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Buddy Johnson, Phil Beauman, Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer
Starring: Anna Faris, Dave Sheridan, Jon Abrahams, Marlon Wayans, Regina Hall, Shawn Wayans & Shannon Elizabeth
Spoofs have suffered a pretty agonizing death in the new millennium. Save for a few exceptions (most recently MACGRUBER), the once beloved subgenre that was pioneered by the likes of AIRPLANE!, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN and THE NAKED GUN has withered away to a husk of its former self. SCARY MOVIE is arguably a film that led to the ultimate downfall of the subgenre (the definitive turning point was DATE MOVIE), but it serves as one of the last good parodies to hit the big screen. Both functioning as a send up of 90’s slasher flicks and a time-capsule for people who remember the year 2000, SCARY MOVIE is a fun, flawed horror parody that gave birth to one of the longest running spoof franchises in existence…for better or worse.
A group of teenagers are being stalked by a clumsy Ghostface-masked killer. High school student Cindy Campbell suspects that the murderer might have some motivation rooted in a hit-and-run that occurred last Halloween. Whatever his motivation may be, these teens are dropping like flies and Cindy finds herself as the main target of the killer’s attention. What follows are obvious send-ups of 90’s horror clichés, pop culture references, and tons of gross-out gags that make SCARY MOVIE into a profoundly filthy parody…but also an amusing one.
The SCARY MOVIE cast are essentially the characters of SCREAM and I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER. Anna Faris is, by far, the stand-out as an obvious knock-off of SCREAM’s Sidney Prescott. Shawn Wayans and Damon Wayans also deliver memorable performances as a dim-witted stoner and a naïve closeted football player. The rest of the cast members are merely means to an end as the script moves from one joke to the next. For a film that sports a baffling six(!) screenwriters, it feels like SCARY MOVIE isn’t doing enough with its material and ultimately ventures into non-horror parodies (with THE MATRIX and THE USUAL SUSPECTS). For a movie that runs under 90 minutes, there are points where SCARY MOVIE comes dangerously close to wearing out its welcome. The story also ends on a rather anti-climactic note that makes for a brief chuckle, but doesn’t leave much of an impression.
Despite being a mixed bag in terms of plot and performances, SCARY MOVIE’s humor has a handful of genuinely funny stand-out moments. While the SCREAM films have always been self-aware slashers, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER deserves every little jab this film takes at it. I particularly enjoyed every moment where this script pointed fun at stereotypical 90’s horror clichés (e.g. teenage high-school students being played by adults in their mid-20’s to early-30’s). One scene in which Cindy is chased through her house by the Ghostface killer stands out as the hands-down funniest sequence in the whole film. As far as the gross-out gags are concerned, this movie will either work for you or it won’t. It’s ridiculously crude with constant sex gags (including penis jokes, blow jobs, and a sex scene that’s disgusting to say the least) as well as typical potty humor (fart and poo punchlines that fell flat for me). The film really shows its age in a number of pop culture references. I had a hard time remembering what some of these jokes were even referencing. That being said, the “Whassup” phone call scene still cracks me up every time.
SCARY MOVIE is far from the best parody out there and remains undeniably juvenile. It suffers from weak pacing and lazy writing during the tail-end of the film, but I was still entertained by this amusing little horror spoof. It’s cheap, crude, nasty, and silly in every sense of what you might expect a hard R-rated parody made by the Wayans brothers to be. It’s also fun and that’s what really counts in this kind of comedy. In all likelihood, you’ve probably already seen this film or its sequels. The first installment holds up as the second-best film of the series for me.