Thursday, October 1, 2015

Review: Scary Movie 2 (2001)

The season's almost upon us... the Halloween season, that is. So let's get into it with a good old-fashioned scary movie... or rather, a Scary Movie.

Scary Movie 2 (2001)

Rated R for strong sexual and gross humor, graphic language and some drug content

Revisiting the second entry in the Scary Movie series, it really shouldn't surprise anyone that the Wayans Brothers left the series to David Zucker after this one. Whereas the original is still funny even if you're not a child of the late '90s (and really funny if you are), this one has far more in common with the "reference movies" that sadly came to dominate the parody genre in the '00s. Its better jokes and its talented cast just barely redeem a film that is a huge step down in quality.

We start out with a fairly half-baked parody of The Exorcist that has little to do with the rest of the film and exists only to pad for time (this film is just 82 minutes long, counting the credits) and provide cameos by James Woods, Andy Ritcher, and Veronica Cartwright. Then we get into the real plot: Professor Oldman (Tim Curry) has invited several of his students -- the cute heroine Cindy (Anna Faris), the sassy best friend Brenda (Regina Hall), the still-closeted Ray (Shawn Wayans), the stoner Shorty (Marlon Wayans), the maladjusted Alex (Tori Spelling), the sexpot Theo (Kathleen Robertson), and the jock Buddy (Chris Masterson) -- to join him and his paraplegic assistant Dwight (David Cross) on a field trip to a haunted mansion, where they will search for proof of life after death. What follows is a series of antics loosely spoofing any number of supernatural horror films from the late '90s and early '00s, most notably the remakes of House on Haunted Hill, Thir13en Ghosts, and The Haunting, as well as a deformed caretaker named Hanson (Chris Elliott), a foul-mouthed parrot, weed jokes, 'hood jokes, gay jokes, and references to all manner of popular films and ad campaigns from that time.

The list of films that they've set out to make fun of this time is a good indicator of why this film doesn't hold up nearly as well as the first. While the original parodied films that, while recent, were already viewed as either modern classics (like Scream or The Blair Witch Project) or standing in the shadow of such (like I Know What You Did Last Summer), this movie was spoofing a brief wave of films that, even at the time, were seen as mediocre at best and awful at worst. Genuine classics like The Exorcist and Poltergeist get some jokes lobbed their way, true, but most of this film is very much of the late '90s/early '00s zeitgeist. That's even before you get into the pop culture humor, which ages even worse than the "whassup?" reference from the original. To give an example, there's an extended, minute-long scene parodying a long-forgotten Nike commercial that I had to look up just to figure out what in the hell it was supposed to be about. The rest is simply shock value for its own sake that, more often than not, doesn't work, especially given all the genuinely disgusting humor that we've seen in the decade and a half since this came out. Some scenes worked, like Theo attempting to seduce an oblivious Dwight in order to get his keys or Brenda teaching Cindy how to be "street", but other times, like with the parrot cursing and shitting all over the place or the joke about how Cindy isn't as hot as the girl in the painting who looks like her (which gets repeated nearly verbatim), I was groaning. And a few times, particularly with the gay jokes involving Ray, the film crossed the line between tastelessness and genuine offensiveness that, for the most part, the original movie managed to skirt. (Except for the Poltergeist clown scene -- as utterly sick and wrong as that was, it still had me roaring.) Put simply, most of the jokes on display here fell flat, barely getting more than chuckles out of me.

I will give credit where credit is due, though: they actually put some effort into the stoner humor this time around, with Shorty given more to do than discuss how much weed he's smoked. The scene where the house possesses the marijuana plant that he's been growing and turns it into a monster that tries to smoke him, as well as a parody of the brain-eating scene from Hannibal that's used as the setup for a "this is your brain on drugs" punchline, are still funny. Likewise, when they were making fun of horror movies that haven't been forgotten, I got a huge kick out of it. The cast is a big part of why this film isn't totally irredeemable in my book. Anna Faris is once more unafraid to go wherever the Wayans brothers take her, no matter how foolish she may look in doing so. Everybody gets at least one moment to shine here, and almost none of them are dull. The one character that didn't work at all was Hanson, who was pretty much a one-note weirdo who did nothing except act crazy and stick his ugly, deformed hand everywhere because "gross!!!". The whole thing was juvenile, and kind of off-putting as well.

Score: 2 out of 5

It has some redeeming value, but looking back, it's an omen of all the terrible places that this series, and the spoof genre in general, would go over the next ten years. Skip it and watch the original instead.

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