"Scary Movie" was the original title of "Scream", the Kevin Williamson-scripted and Wes Craven-directed film that rolled into theaters back in 1996. With its nudge-nudge-wink-wink sensibility and savvy awareness of the tired conventions of 'slasher flicks', "Scream" revitalized audience interest in the teen horror genre, paving the way for at least half a dozen 'dead teenager' movies in recent years. Though a few films, such as the "Scream" sequels, "The Blair Witch Project", and "Final Destination" were able to infuse some novel ideas, the quality of subsequent entries into the resurrected genre quickly deteriorated over the years as theaters were flooded with a number of 'me-too' copycats, such as "The Faculty" and "Urban Legend". Now, four years later, perhaps to put the final nail in the coffin of the teen horror genre, is another film entitled "Scary Movie"-- only this time it is a parody of its original namesake. Unfortunately, like last year's "American Pie", it seems that the filmmakers have confused the two disparate concepts of 'gross' and 'funny'-- just because you have the first doesn't necessarily mean you have the second.
The plot of "Scary Movie" is almost nonexistent, and merely serves as a flimsily-constructed framework for setting up the film's numerous potshots at pop culture. The film opens up with the iconic scene from the first "Scream", in which a young woman answers the telephone and begins speaking to a mysterious voice about scary movies, only to find herself chased by a masked and knife-brandishing killer. However, in this case, the young woman is former "Baywatch" babe Carmen Electra (playing a character appropriately named 'Drew') and the scene ends up becoming a gag on Electra's celebrity.
The story then focuses on a group of well-scrubbed teens at the local college. Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris) is the virginal Neve Campbell stand-in, Bobby (Jon Abrahams of "Boiler Room") is her Freddie Prinze Jr.-lookalike boyfriend, Brenda (Regina Hall of "The Best Man") is a funky sista' with attitude, Ray (Shawn Wayans) is Brenda's sexually-ambiguous boyfriend, Buffy Gilmore (Shannon Elizabeth of "American Pie") is the slutty Sarah Michelle Gellar wannabe, Greg (Lochlyn Munro, seen recently in "Screwed") is Buffy's hunky boyfriend, while Shorty (Marlon Wayans) is a pot-smoking horror film freak.
What unites this rag-tag group is a deep, dark secret that has been festering for a year. Taking a riff from "I Know What You Did Last Summer", it seems that they accidentally ran over a pedestrian on Halloween night one year ago, and ended up disposing the body to cover up the crime. However, it seems that someone knows what they did on that fateful night, and Drew's murder is but only the first of many...
"Scary Movie" is actually the product of two separate "Scream" parodies that were merged together, "Last Summer I Screamed Because Halloween Fell On Friday the 13th" and "Scream If You Know What I Did Last Halloween". Miramax purchased both, and then handed them over to director Keenen Ivory Wayans (of TV's "In Living Color" fame) to splice together. Unfortunately, the patchwork construction of "Scary Movie" is clearly evident upon viewing, as it quickly degenerates into a choppy laundry list of lame gags and spotty spoofs. Alas, for every great genre parody, such as "Naked Gun" and "Airplane", you have dozens of not-so-great ones, such as "Wrongfully Accused" and Wayan's own "Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood". "Scary Movie" falls firmly into the latter class.
For a movie that is supposed to be a comedy, there is certainly a lot of dead air. In order to hear a joke or see a visual gag that is vaguely funny, you have to sit through an average of nine bad jokes and comic misfires. Sure, "Scary Movie" pokes fun at "The Sixth Sense", "The Matrix", "Big Momma's House", "Dawson's Creek", "The Exorcist", "The Usual Suspects", "Amistad", "The Blair Witch Project", "Laverne and Shirley", and numerous other media properties. But most of these references are hardly humorous, and will probably elicit little more than a polite smile from even the most forgiving of moviegoers. Adding to the script's questionable sense of humor are a number of crude and rude scenes that even out-gross the recent spate of 'gross-out' comedies, pushing the boundary between R and NC-17. The scenes in question are certainly gross (such as a character being impaled by male genitalia), but they are hardly funny, and they elicit audience reaction solely on the basis of their audacity. Finally, top all this with a jarring skit-like narrative structure that has scenes starting and ending abruptly, and you have one of the worst movies of the year.
"Scary Movie" is hardly a "Scream". With an inept script that isn't as smart as it thinks it is, jokes that implode upon impact, and tasteless gags that aren't funny, "Scary Movie" is hardly worth shelling out the money, the time, or the effort. This movie is D.O.A.