Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Review: Scary Movie (2000)

Scary Movie (2000)

Rated R for strong crude sexual humor, language, drug use and violence

Scary Movie is probably one of the last good "spoof movies" that Hollywood made before two of its six writers, a pair of hacks named Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg, hitched their careers to its success and proceeded to run the genre into the ground over the ensuing decade. It's not Blazing Saddles or Airplane!, but it's still a treat for fans of the Wayans Brothers' shamelessly low-brow, "urban" sensibilities, taking aim at the popular horror movies of the late '90s without turning into the sort of "reference movie" that later spoof movies (including many of its sequels and the Wayans' own A Haunted House many years later) would become. Everyone and everything in this movie's way gets mocked, from the general stupidity of many horror movie characters to famous scenes from particular films, and while some of the humor can be quite dated if you don't remember that Y2K era, the fact that the movies being parodied -- Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Blair Witch Project, and more -- have, for the most part, stood the test of time as horror classics (or at least cult classics) means that so do the jokes about many of those movies.

Of course, you have to come back to the fact that one of the movies this film draws its plot inspiration from, Scream, was itself a darkly comic response to the slashers of the '80s, told from the perspective of cynical '90s teens who had grown up on those movies. In other words, it's a spoof of a spoof. If you're wondering how that works, well, so am I, but it manages to do it. In fact, it's when it's making fun of the conventions of Scream and its ilk that this film is at its best, going for both the obvious jokes about those sorts of films and the things that you don't normally think about. (You'll never be able to take the trope of "the killer vanishes when nobody's looking" seriously ever again.) Specific scenes also get bitten into, from I Know's "what are you waiting for!?" to Scream 2's theater scene to Heather's apology in Blair Witch, often to hilarious effect. The whole film runs on the sort of mile-a-minute gags that Airplane! had used to great success, with nearly every frame containing a joke of some kind, and while the hit-to-miss ratio isn't as good as that film, I was laughing or at least smiling more often than I wasn't. This was a film that went for the jugular in pushing the line of good taste, and it usually worked.

The weakest parts of the film tended to be the drug references, and I say references rather than jokes because that's what most of them are -- random references to marijuana that the film thinks are funny on their own. Most notable is Shorty's big introduction, where the film seems to be under the impression that just having a bunch of pot-smoking black dudes roll into a horror movie is itself a joke rather than a setup for one. Likewise, some of the pop culture humor hasn't stood the test of time very well, as tends to happen with such humor in general, and will really only work for people who grew up in the late '90s. To give some perspective, there's an extended parody of the Budweiser "wazzup!" ads (remember those?) that fell completely flat when watching it today, and while I do love The Usual Suspects, the "parody" of its ending was, again, less a joke and more just a reference to the film. (Yeah, you can tell which jokes Seltzer and Friedberg wrote.) Also, the jokes about the macho closet case Ray being on the down-low were funny initially, but they started to get old once it became clear that that was the entire joke about the character. (Although, the fact that the joke was less about him being gay and more about his fervent denial of it kept it from becoming outright offensive; his argument towards the end of the movie over semantics and the line between gay and straight -- "no, you sucked my dick!" -- was still gut-bustingly hilarious even today.)

Still, even when the writing was off, the cast managed to pull through and keep me laughing. Anna Faris especially was a hoot, a perfect parody of the dull-eyed ingenue final girl who proved herself up for every raunchy, nasty joke that the film sent her way, and I'm not surprised at how her career exploded after this. Shannon Elizabeth, surprisingly enough, was also a standout, getting two very funny scenes to show off in and proving that she could've been more than just the "hot chick", especially in comedies. Last but certainly not least, the Wayans brothers (Keenan Ivory directed and has a cameo, while Shawn and Marlon helped write it and played Shorty and Ray respectively) were in their element here, still effortlessly funny and in their prime.

Score: 3 out of 5

And if you're a '90s kid, bump that score up a point. It's admittedly dumb and low-brow humor, and if you aren't familiar with the '90s horror movies that it riffs on you probably won't understand most of the jokes, but if you have seen those movies, this sick, twisted parody of them is quite fun to watch.

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