Scary Movie (2000)

D: Keenen Ivory Wayans
S: Anna Faris, Shannon Elizabeth

Though it may seem pointless to parody a parody, Keenen Ivory Wayans' (I'm Gonna Git You Sucka) spoof of the postmodern horror (primarily the Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer series) is actually great fun if you can take it. As usual from the Wayans clan (who also concocted the 'hood' spoof Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood) much of the humour is crude, profane, and sexually explicit. It is also quite gory at times for a comedy, and, obviously, pretty violent. But the smug is-it-or-isn't-it school of horror parody is certainly ripe for a sending up and Wayans (from a script written by a group including younger brothers Marlon and Shawn Wayans, who also star) makes the most of the official support of Dimension films and executive producer Harvey Weinstein. Apart from the almost direct copying of scenes from Scream and Scream 2, the film also features clips from Shakespeare in Love and a wealth of visual cgi effects which indicate a much higher budget than is average for this sort of thing.

The film opens with a copy of the opening scene from Scream where Carmen Electra playing a character named 'Drew' is menaced by a ghost-faced maniac wielding a mobile phone. The gags are not subtle, but they are amusing, as she runs screaming from the house through a series of garden sprinklers in her underwear and, among other things, chooses a banana to defend herself with from a table beside the door which also contains a knife, a gun, and a grenade. The film proceeds to chart a loose plot which amalgamates Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer while throwing in gags at the expense of a range of other movies including The Sixth Sense, The Blair Witch Project,The Matrix, American Pie,Titanic, and The Usual Suspects. It is not supposed to make much sense, but it manages to keep the energy level high while barrelling away towards its finale. Anna Faris takes the Neve Campbell role from Scream as the virginal heroine most plagued by the rash of killings which begins. Shannon Elizabeth (American Pie) supports as a character named Buffy and Regina Hall, Lochlyn Munro, Jon Abrahams, and Shawn Wayans play the roles of the various friends and boyfriends. Wayans is particularly funny as the football player with obvious homosexual tendencies, as is brother Marlon as a drug-addled schoolmate who at one point shares a bong with the ghost-face killer after an extended parody of the "Whassup?" Budweiser commercial.

It is a curious product of postmodernism that this pastiche parody of a pastiche parody should work so well. Scary Movie is howlingly obvious at every turn and packed to the gills with rapid-fire, bad taste gags which will offend those prone to offence as usual. Yet, in its explicit reference not only to the existence of its source material in the filmic world but to its actual content, it is even more ephemeral and of the moment. Scream may have made jokes at the expense of Halloween, but it was also a relatively carefully crafted horror movie itself which at least tried to use the unsettling effect of self-referentiality to achieve affect. Scary Movie is very much constructed from preexisting material, down to jokes which are so specific that their humour is lost unless you are familiar with the original source (watch for the A Nightmare on Elm Street reference, which will really test your tolerance for sexual humour). There is also a particularly cruel send-up of David Arquette's performances in the Scream series by Dave Sheridan which will either make you queasy with discomfort or have you rolling in the aisles depending on how in-jokey you find it. This may backfire in the grand scheme of things. While the likes of Blazing Saddles and This is Spinal Tap have proven timeless so far, Scary Movie hits so hard and fast on material which itself is far from enduring that it is unlikely to be recalled in the annals of the genre, or even six months down the line.

Be that as it may, Scary Movie is fun if you can take it (a sight gag with a penis being shoved through someone's head is not everyone's idea of a good time) and can only serve to increase the interest in the simpler form of comic horror in the immediate future. One hopes that this will not be at the expense of genuinely scary movies, of which there have been all too few of late precisely because it is all too easy to laugh.

Review by Harvey O'Brien PhD. copyright 2000.