The Keenan Wayans’ helmed Scary Movie from 2000 broke records for box office gross by a black director when it first came out. It was later supplanted in that category by the original Fantastic Four of all things, but at the very least that brief stint at the top is an indicator of how much a commercial success this movie was. I mean, that and the four direct sequels it spawned and numerous parodies of other genres. But how does this movie stand up today? Well, your just gonna have to read on to find out.
Reviewed by: Mark
Truth be told, you aren’t watching this movie for the plot because it’s pretty thin to say the least, but I’ll give it my best shot.
The movie starts with an homage to the famous opening of Scream with Drew (Carmen Electra) making some popcorn in preparation to watch a scary movie. The phone rings and she answers only to find a mysterious garbled voice on the other side. She farts and also a Prince lookalike is tied up in her back yard. The killer attacks her and she is chased into her driveway where her dad runs her over with his car while receiving road head.
Shortly thereafter we join our core group of protagonists lead by Cindy (Anna Faris). Aside from Cindy, there’s her boyfriend Bobby (Jon Abrahams), her girlfriends Brenda (Regina Hall) and Buffy (Shannon Elizabeth), and their respective boyfriends Ray (Shawn Wayans) and Greg (Lochlyn Munro). We’re also introduced to the bit players of Shorty (Marlon Wayans) and the local newscaster Gail Hailstorm (Cheri Oteri). Got all that? Well, you really don’t need to have them memorized because they are basically just fodder for the rest of the scenes of the movie.
Slowly but surely different members of the group are murdered (or at least attacked) by the masked villain. Brenda is repeatedly stabbed by multiple people in a movie theater, Buffy basically kills herself before being finished off by the killer in a locker room, Ray gets a penis shoved through his brain, Greg is killed at a fashion show, Gail is taken out by the Blair Witch, and Short is shot in the lung then tries to take hits of the smoke coming out before he finally passes. Lots of really serious shit in this movie.
As the movie comes to a close it is revealed that Ray (who didn’t actually die) and Bobby were in cahoots to kills people while there was also an additional serial killer out and about. Ray kills Bobby on accident, then the serial killer kills Ray and chases Cindy around the house before she is able to escape. The final revelation comes while she is in the police station being interviewed on the occurrences of the evening. The only person that had access to each of the victims and motive to go after them? It was Doofy (Dave Sheridan), the caricature of a mentally disabled security officer. The final shot of the movie parodies the usual suspects as it is revealed that Doofy was in fact only pretending to be disabled this whole time and is instead a totally suave ladies man. Then Cindy is run over by a car.
What the Movie Does Wrong
Yeah. That’s right. I’m mixing up the order this week. Bang. Turns out it’s way easier to start here and then end with the good stuff so that’s the call I’m making.
This script is bad. Way bad. I guess not particularly bad as a time capsule, but it certainly did not age well. It’s crazy to think how much the societal sense of humor has changed in 20 years. Maybe it’s that we were obsessed with being edgy. Maybe it’s that the script was never that funny and it was just a good concept. Anyway you cut it the majority of the jokes in this movie are just flat. Beyond that, many of the jokes just amount to “Hey look! It’s a gay guy!” or “Isn’t it funny when men physically beat up women?” I get that these are supposed to parodying deeply ingrained aspects of the genre but they’re handled in such a hamfisted and basic way that it actually makes the joke worse than the ingrained sexism and racism of the genre. Thus, we end up with a horror comedy that isn’t scary and isn’t funny. Super.
This is a lesser complaint, but the plot is also disjointed nonsense. In a way, this is a necessity of the conceit of the movie because you have to work in each of the iconic death scenes from any of 5 or 6 other movies that are being parodied. But it basically ends up that the movie plays more as a loose anthology of teen death scenes than an actual narrative.
What the Movie Does Right
Let’s start by discussing the cast. This was basically Anna Faris’ first major role, and she continued to be a major part of the franchise afterward. Perusing the IMDB trivia page led me to believe that she wasn’t exactly the casting director’s first choice for the role, but man did that director luck out. She is great as the lead of the movie. It’s one thing that she’s actually a good actor, but beyond that skillset she’s also really good at this specific type of self-aware silly performance that is exactly needed for this role. Pile on other performances by the Wayans brothers, Lochlyn Munro, Regina Hall, and Cheri Oteri and you get a script that wound up being executed roughly as well as it possibly could have. As I mentioned earlier, the movie is generally unfunny but there are still a few scenes scattered throughout that bring about a pretty solid laugh. I don’t exactly have the most refined sense of humour, but something about the killer’s feet sticking out from behind the couch will always make me chuckle.
It’s also hard in the macro sense to argue that this wasn’t the type of content that the genre needed. It was the logical next step in evolution from Scream coming out and acknowledging the scaffolding that many of these movies are built on. There’s a reason that there are 5 distinct Scary Movies in the franchise and numerous others poking fun at other genres. Beyond that, I’d argue that this actually paved the way for more creative genre-breaking to occur a few years down the road. Nowadays there’s basically no way for a film to rehash a trope that’s already been lambasted by this movie and not fall by the wayside unless it’s done in at least a pseudo-intelligent way.
Story: 1 - When I did my 30 second plot synopsis on our podcast that you should totally be listening to (linked at the top of the page) I got through this thing in about 8 seconds. Beyond that, the part of this movie that is a plot is just taken from Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer.
World-Building / Immersion: 4.5 - I actually ended up watching this movie twice for the review. The first time I just had it on while eating, but the second time I specifically was just having it on in the background to make sure I remembered everything before writing/recording. I was planning on doing some other housekeeping and playing some games while watching, and the thing is this movie still pulled me back in despite me wanting to be doing other things. It has major issues and would be hard to put on time and time again. But something about the cast’s chemistry keeps it from being truly bottom of the barrell.
Scare-Factor: 1 - I mean, it’s not really meant to be scary. Any time there is a scare, it’s deliberately undercut for laughs. I don’t feel like this should be that surprising a rating.
Effects (or Judicious Lack Thereof): 5.5 - I’m punting on this just because this movie is deliberately silly and stupid. The effects match it in tone that way. They serve their purpose and then get out of the way. Some of the CG and props are bad but they’re never bad in a way that is actively distracting from what the movie is trying to accomplish.
Overall: 3 - Look, this isn’t a good movie. I’m not going to try and defend it. That said, it’s at least watchable, and that keeps it from truly scraping the bottom of the barrel.