Scary Movie 2 (2001)

D: Keenan Ivory Wayans
S: Anna Faris, Marlon Wayans

I guess we probably shouldn't have encouraged them. Unfunny sequel to the moderately funny Scary Movie which reunites most of the original cast in the name of a spoof of yet more contemporary horror movies. The main target this time is the remake of The Haunting, though the film begins with a lengthy (and irrelevant) parody of The Exorcist which boasts appearances by Veronica Cartwright and James Woods. The 'story' has to do with our heroes being herded into a haunted mansion in the name of an experiment being conducted by Tim Curry. Ghostly goings-on ensue. Much like last time, of course, the plot is not important, but this time there's even less of a giggle to it because The Haunting was such an appalling movie in the first place that it didn't need parodying.

Be that as it may, the film is another loose assemblage of potted sex and violence gags, with a greater emphasis on the sex. There are actually a lot less parodies of specific movies than before. Most of the humour concentrates on the clichés of the haunted house film, and the basic jibes are restated and restated ad nauseum. A lot of it actually consists of foul-mouthed exchanges of insults between characters, which wears thin very quickly. Among the movies which do get a poke in the eye are What Lies Beneath and Hannibal, both so contemporary and so unremarkable as films in their own right as to barely have any kind of resonance for parody. Others which get a look in include Poltergeist, Charlie's Angels and Rocky. There's even a touch of the Farrelly Brothers about it, given force by the appearance of Chris Elliot in a grotesque supporting role.

I did laugh once, but that was when James Woods was on screen giving his reaction to the rotating head scene from The Exorcist in the Max Von Sydow role. It was relatively early on in the movie and though I already had my doubts given the deadeningly unfunny opening. There are few laughs thereafter, and the movie goes so far as to rip off the ending of its own predecessor for its penultimate gag, demonstrating just how much of the bottom of the barrel has been scraped here.

Director Keenan Ivory Wayans has been funny in the past, and his brothers are good comic performers. Marlon is again amusing as Shorty the pothead, but he has nothing to add to what he did before except a number of nice pro-weed T-shirts. He is less effective as a result. Shawn is in the same position as the bisexual footballer Ray. He does it well, but it is just not funny anymore. Regina Hall generates a little more energy than the others reprising her turn. Anna Faris still does a good line in dopey, wide-eyed incomprehension, but it is not going to be enough to hold a third episode together. New faces in the cast include the unfortunate Tori Spelling. You have to feel sorry for her and for Curry. Unlike Woods, they hang around for quite a while before finally disappearing from the plot and heading for the hills.

The fact is that the script (co-written by the Wayans clan and a large number of other contributors) is lousy, so the performances are more or less irrelevant. Keenan does his best to mount individual scenes, some of which have logistical complexity and special effects to juggle. But he is working with excrement (or perhaps, more appropriately given the gags, vomit). There are limits to just what you can do with garbage. You can't recycle it forever.

It is highly unlikely that this series will run any further. Audiences generally know when they're being taken for granted. But if it does go to a third round, we can only hope that the makers will find better movies to make fun of, and try to find more of them so that there is more pace. They say parody is the purest form of homage. Word to the wise: there is such a thing as a bad movie. Not everything can be accepted with a blasé shrug of the shoulders and an ironic wink. Some movies should stay buried, to coin a phrase. This is one.


Review by Harvey O'Brien PhD. copyright 2001.