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SCARY MOVIE

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Jon Abrahams, Carmen Electra, Anna Faris, Regina Hall, Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans
Director:  Keenen Ivory Wayans
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Widescreen 2.35:1 Anamorphic Transfer
Studio:  Dimension/Disney
Features:  See Review
Length:  88 Minutes
Release Date:  December 12, 2000

Film ***

One of the ironies of the horror genre is that every time something fresh and invigorating comes out, like Nightmare on Elm Street or Scream, it soon becomes copied and sequeled to death, until even the original starts to look like little more than a parody of itself.  Take Scream, which gave 90’s horror a well needed shot of adrenaline…soon the sequels would follow, each less good than the original, as well as the inevitable knock-offs like I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend and more, until once again, the genre parodies itself.  If anything was ripe for a sharp ribbing, these films were.

In the hands of the Wayans brothers, Scary Movie is the ideal spoof.  Ideal, because it basically follows the same formulaic plot lines and story structures that had become all too familiar in the race to cash in on the films’ initial popularity (even using the same bits of dialogue when needed), and the filmmakers found by just doing that, they had all the openings they needed for outrageous (and often raunchy) comedy.

Anyone who’s seen Scream will immediately recognize the famous opening…and appreciate the fact that the victim, played by Carmen Electra, is named Drew in honor of Drew Barrymore’s tour-de-force performance.  A lot of it plays out just as expected, but with comic surprises along the way including a brief Baywatch spoof, and an ending that you can’t possibly expect.

That’s just for starters.  The killer dons the same fright mask made classic by the Scream films, but here, it’s manipulated into various expressions for laughs.  Watch the spoof of the Budweiser commercials and you’ll be howling!

Thrown in for good measure is a flashback sequence where the young stars remember what they did last summer, in accidentally running over an old fisherman.  In the present time, they wonder if their lives are a horror movie made real.  “If this was a horror movie,” one muses, “they’d probably get actors in their 20’s and 30’s to play us.”  Self-depreciation is another of the film’s strong points.

What does the flashback have to do with modern day events?  Well, not a whole lot, actually.  “Did I Know What You Did Last Summer make any sense at all?” one character asks late in the game.  No, come to think of it, it didn’t.

This film is definitely not for the easily offended…in fact, many have complained that the material was worth of an NC-17 rating.  It got by with an R, but just barely…I guess the MPAA has a sense of humor.  But this movie contains more than just your usual gross-out collection of bodily fluid and sex gags.  In between the laughs, you might just find yourself agape at how much they pushed the envelope.  A lovemaking scene that ends with an image straight out of Nightmare on Elm Street is my personal favorite…you’ll just have to see it for yourself.

Another thing—I’d recommend at least a general familiarity with the 90’s horror films I mentioned before viewing Scary Movie.  Not that you won’t enjoy it anyway, but the more references you get, the more fun you’ll have.

BONUS TRIVIA:  The original title of this film was Scream if You Know What I Did Last Halloween.  It was changed to Scary Movie…the original working title of Scream!

Video ***1/2

Ironic, isn’t it, that Scary Movie merited an anamorphic transfer and Scream didn’t?  Oh, well, I’m very glad to have it anyway.  For the most part, it looks quite good, with clear, sharp images and strong, well contained color rendering throughout.  From lights to darks, the images maintain their integrity, and colors remain mostly natural except for a few underlit shots.  There is no evidence of grain, compression or other visual interferences.  All in all, a decidedly good effort from Dimension.

Audio **1/2

The 5.1 soundtrack could have easily scored higher, but for one little problem…there are very brief audio dropouts at every single reel change!  They last only a fraction of a second, but the interruptions are very noticeable and distracting.  Apart from that, this is a track that makes good use of multi-channel sound, with plenty of dynamic range, clear dialogue, and good crossover effects during some of the chase scenes.  There are even some deep rear channel sounds to add eeriness to the creepier parts, as well as bits of echo and reverb.  Fix the technical glitches, and you’ve got a winner in this department.

Features **1/2

First of all, bravo to Disney for NOT making you go through those damned sneak previews before watching the movie!  They’re on the disc, and you can choose to watch them from the main menu, but you aren’t forced to.  There is also a short production featurette, a trailer, some DVD ROM extras, and a handful of deleted scenes.  The first one, “Hopalong Shorty”, is as funny as anything in the movie itself!

Summary:

Like all spoofs, Scary Movie isn’t always even, but it succeeds far more often than it fails.  It’s a hysterical send up of a series of films that were just begging for the Wayans brothers’ treatment, and fans of those horror films will find themselves laughing out loud at Scary Movie many, many times.  Just stay away if you offend easily…or if you’ve never heard the expression “I see dead people”.