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'Scary Movie'

'Scary Movie' is a tasteless horror-movie spoof that -- surprisingly -- works

Friday, July 07, 2000

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

OK, so just the other week I was complaining about "Me, Myself & Irene" pushing the envelope of tastelessness over a cliff and how I might not have minded had the movie actually been funny.

'Scary Movie'

Rating: R, for strong crude sexual humor, language, drug use and violence.

Players: Shawn and Marlon Wayans, Anna Faris, Jon Abrahams.

Director: Keenen Ivory Wayans.

Web site:

Critic's call: 3 stars


"Scary Movie" proves my point. This burlesque of horror films from director Keenen Ivory Wayans doesn't just push the envelope, it rips open a new flap. On the raunch-o-meter, it makes "Irene" seem virtually chaste by comparison.

"Irene" did gags featuring replicas of the male organ. "Scary Movie" uses versions that are lifelike enough to inspire questions about how the film escaped an NC-17 rating. And we haven't even mentioned the coarse language or the violence.

But unlike "Irene" filmmakers Peter and Bobby Farrelly, director Wayans doesn't merely hit below the belt. There's a certain amount of cleverness involved in his outrageous lampoons of scenes from such movies as "Scream," its sequels and offshoots (which, like "Scary Movie," were distributed by Dimension Films).

Most parodies would have stopped there, but Wayans demonstrated his penchant for poking a sharp stick at a wide range of pop culture in his hilarious TV sketch comedy, "In Living Color."

He and his six screenwriters (including brothers Marlon and Shawn, who also appear in the movie) go on to mimic other scary movies like "The Sixth Sense" and "The Blair Witch Project" as well as such nonhorror movies as "The Matrix" and even "The Usual Suspects." There's also the inevitable round of "whassssup!" that holds up a fun-house mirror to the original commercial.

You already know the plot. A group of teen-agers are concealing an awful secret, but it doesn't take long before we know what they did last summer.

The group includes Cindy (Anna Faris), a virgin with a strong resemblance to Neve Campbell; Bobby (Jon Abrahams), her horny boyfriend; Ray (Shawn Wayans), a football player who likes patting teammates on the butt a little too much; his girlfriend, Brenda (Regina Hall), with whom you never want to be at the movies; snooty sexpot Buffy (Shannon Elizabeth, who was the sexy foreign exchange student in "American Pie"); and Shorty (Marlon Wayans), who must have stunted his growth with his incessant pot smoking.

Now, a masked killer is stalking them. The mask, by the way, proves unusually expressive, depending on whether the killer is getting stoned with Shorty or stabbing a girl in the chest, only to pull out her silicon implant on the point of his knife.

Yes, "Scary Movie" mixes slapstick spoofery with bathroom humor and sexual high jinks. But the "Scream" movies were themselves parodies of a sort. Making fun of a movie that's already winking at you is a lot harder than it seems.

As usual, Wayans adds an undercurrent of racial humor with just a bit of a sting. After the first teen-ager in the film is murdered (in a right-on sendup of "Scream" with Carmen Electra playing a character named Drew, as in Barrymore), we see a lineup of TV news vans on the high school lawn. The last one is from a black news network. "There's white people dead, and we're OUT OF HERE!" the announcer shouts as the van speeds away.

The movie also giggles at Ray's penchant for swinging both ways and at another sexually ambiguous character, a girl's gym teacher named Miss Mann who is built like a linebacker and seems to have, literally and disgustingly, the cojones to prove it.

Politically incorrect? Sure. But Wayans is an equal-opportunity offender, and he goes so gleefully over the top that it's hard to take anything too seriously. That's a good thing, since this is a comedy. When the Farrellys go wrong, it is usually because they seem to get too much pleasure out of humiliating their characters.

Obviously, "Scary Movie" isn't for everyone. Some people will laugh their heads off. Others will want to hurl things at the screen -- or just plain hurl.

Maybe I'm prejudiced, because when I was growing up I wanted nothing more than to write movie and TV parodies for Mad magazine. Just ask some of my high school teachers. Maybe that's why I have a weakness for sophomoric humor. Maybe that's why I laughed at "Scary Movie." Goodnight, Irene.

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