by Eric D. Snider
Released: July 7, 2000
If you have not seen "Scream," then there is no purpose in seeing "Scary Movie."
Of course, there's little purpose in seeing "Scary Movie" anyway; these are not the sort of movies that one sees for a reason, other than to be mindlessly entertained and/or grossed out.
Coming across like a MAD Magazine movie satire, except much, much filthier, "Scary Movie" is almost a scene-for-scene parody of "Scream," with the exception of an over-long sequence spoofing "I Know What You Did Last Summer" and another part that resembles the opening moments of "Scream 2."
There are also brief parodies of "The Matrix," "The Blair Witch Project" and "Usual Suspects," the last of which is funniest, though the "Blair Witch" thing comes in a close second -- a rarity for "Blair Witch" parodies, which have been abundant lately.
But by and large, this is not a parody of horror films in general; it's a parody of "Scream," which is dangerous work indeed, since "Scream" is already a parody itself. How do you do a parody of a parody? The answer is that you usually can't, though "Scary Movie" fares admirably well. (There are just a few awkward moments when, as "Scary Movie" parallels "Scream," we come to a scene that is funny ... until we remember that the same scene was funny in the movie being parodied, too.)
The plot is the same as "Scream": crazy person in ghost mask goes around stabbing teens. The main potential victim seems to be Cindy Cambell (Anna Faris), who, in a side plot, accidentally killed a guy last summer with her boyfriend and a few other couples. Could it be someone who knows what they did last summer who is committing these murders?
None of the principal performers is particularly adept or noteworthy, though they all plug along like workhorses, doing the silliness set before them without too much self-awareness or mugging. None of their characters are especially memorable, either, since they exist solely as stand-ins for the "Scream" characters.
The exception there is (Shawn Wayans) as Ray, a masculine athlete who has a girlfriend but who somehow turns everything he says into a subtle (or not-so-subtle) indication that he's gay. This is a running gag that eventually gets ruined in the end, when his possible homosexuality is addressed outright, but it's funny up to that point.
The film makes a similar misstep in actually naming the movies it's a parody of. That's rule #1 of satire: Don't tell us what you're making fun of; just make fun of it.
Cheri Oteri is her usual funny-to-some-people, not-funny-to-others self as Gale Hailstorm, the nosy journalist who's pursuing the story and falls for Doofy, the local retarded cop. Doofy is a great parody of the idiot David Arquette has become, and one can't help but laugh at the sheer audaciousness of so viciously mocking a celebrity like that.
While I found myself laughing at quite a bit of "Scary Movie," I found myself being genuinely surprised, too, at the obscene lengths to which the film goes to get laughs. There are at least two moments that, while quite funny, made me shake my head in astonishment more than they made me laugh, simply because I couldn't believe a movie was actually showing these things.
Some jokes are obvious and sophomoric (the kids go to B.A. Corpse High School); others are a little more clever, like when an early victim of the killer runs past a table that has a gun, a knife, a grenade and a banana ... and she picks up the banana to defend herself.
Bottom line: at times uproariously funny, and pretty solid throughout. Also abundantly shocking and outrageous -- not for the faint of heart, to be sure.
Rated R, abundant harsh profanity, abundant male and female nudity, sexual vulgarity, sexual situations, comic violence
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
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