Reviewed by
Colin Jacobson

Title: Scary Movie (2000)
Studio Line: Dimension Films - No Mercy. No Shame. No Sequel.

This hilarious, must-see comedy smash places Carmen Electra (TV's Baywatch), Marlon Wayans (Senseless), Jon Abrahams (Boiler Room, The Faculty) and some of today's hottest young stars in a wickedly funny send-up of today's most popular horror movies! A familiar-looking group of teenagers find themselves being stalked by a more-than-vaguely recognizable masked killer! As the victims begin to pile up and the laughs pile on, none of your favorite scary movies escape the razor-sharp satire of this outrageously funny parody! With Shannon Elizabeth, Shawn Wayans and Cheri Oteri adding sidesplitting performances, there's nothing to fear in this scary movie, unless you're afraid of laughing too much!

Director: Keenen Ivory Wayans
Cast: Anna Faris, Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Cheri Oteri, Shannon Elizabeth, Jon Abrahams, Lochlyn Munro, Regina Hall, Dave Sheridan, Carmen Electra
Box Office: Budget: $19 million. Opening Weekend: $42.346 million (2912 screens). Gross: $156.997 million.
DVD: Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9; audio English DD 5.1, French DD 5.1; subtitles Spanish; closed-captioned; single sided - dual layered; 17 chapters; rated R; 88 min.; $29.99; street date 12/12/00.
Supplements: Additional Scenes; Behind-The-Scenes Featurette; Theatrical Trailer. DVD-ROM Features: Screensaver; Screenplay Viewer; Character Profiles; Scary Movie: Guide for the Culturally Challenged.
Purchase: DVD | Music soundtrack - Various Artists

Picture/Sound/Extras: B-/B/C+

No one ever tried to make it big as a Rich Little impersonator. That’s because there’s no point in imitating an imitator; what would you do, pretend to be Little as he pretends to be Richard Nixon?

With that in mind, I found Scary Movie to be an exceedingly redundant affair. The film is a parody of a number of recent horror films but it mainly focuses upon Scream. In fact, although very clear references to other pictures like The Matrix and I Know What You Did Last Summer appear, SM is really little more than an extended gag based on the original Scream; many scenes of SM were lifted directly from that 1996 effort.

The problem with this stems from the fact that Scream itself was not a straightforward horror film. What made it distinct was the manner in which it mocked the genre’s conventions. Scream worked well enough as a thriller to keep it from being a true parody, but it walked a very fine line, and its hip, self-mocking tone made it unique.

Until eight million imitators came along, of course. Those copy-cats made the prospect of a Scream parody even less sensible, but that didn’t stop the Wayans brothers - represented here by Keenan Ivory as director and brothers Shawn and Marlon as writers/actors - from making an attempt.

Up front, I suppose I must acknowledge that I don’t much care for parodies. In a way, this fact is ironic since SCTV is one of my three all-time favorite TV shows. However, though that program made parody a core of its content, it worked mainly due to the splendid characterizations of the marvelous cast. The material itself wasn’t that great, but the execution was spectacular.

That’s why I haven’t liked many other parodies. From the songs of Weird Al to movies like Airplane! and The Kentucky Fried Movie, I’ve found these take-offs to be lazy and ineffectual comedy. However, those works seem like genius compared to the dreck passed off as humor during Scary Movie. The fact this stinker made almost $157 million at the US box office is what really scares me; I guess there is a sucker born every minute.

As I already mentioned, SM replicates the plot to Scream fairly faithfully. It goes off on a few tangents at times, but it always comes back to the well. Since Scream itself bordered on parody, I don’t know how effective this could have been under the best of circumstances. However, the work seen here never remotely approaches “the best of circumstances”; SM is nothing more than a tasteless, crude and unfunny mess.

The film uses the “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach to comedy, but despite the rapid-fire pacing of the gags, I never was in danger of cracking a smile, much less actually laughing. I find it absolutely amazing that SM credits six writers. How could so many contribute so much and have the result be so little?

The gags fluctuate between the excessively obvious and the disgustingly lewd. In the former category are “wacky” bits like the naming of some characters. Our protagonist is Cindy Campbell; “Cindy” sounds like “Sidney” - the lead in Scream - while “Campbell” takes from the Never Campbell, the actress who played Sidney. Instead of reporter Gale Weathers, we get reporter Gail Hailstorm. Instead of Deputy Dewey, we get Deputy Doofy. Are your sides splitting yet?

SM also gets a lot of jollies through some tired sources, mainly anti-gay gags. Homosexual-related material pops up with ridiculous frequency during the movie, and none of it is anything less than lame and offensive. Add to that some mockery of overweight people and the mentally retarded and you have a film that displays consistently poor taste. (SM also provides a lot of black-related humor, but I guess that’s supposed to be okay since so many of the filmmakers are African-American.)

Is there anything good about SM? Well, Shannon Elizabeth looked consistently hot, and Carmen Electra also appeared sexy during her underwear romp. Other than that, I can’t conjure a single positive aspect of Scary Movie. The film felt like it lasted much longer than its stated 88 minutes. In fact, it seemed absolutely interminable as one tacky, unfunny gag followed another until I hoped a masked maniac would slaughter me. Scary Movie stands as one of the least entertaining movies I’ve ever seen.

Note that the version of Scary Movie on the DVD apparently alters the theatrical version slightly. In the edition shown on movie screens, a line uttered as two characters watched Shakespeare In Love went “Brad Pitt's ex-girlfriend is a real freak. She dressed up like a man.” This was changed to "She's about to get it on with Shake-a-spear; he found out she's a girl." Why? Allegedly because of objections from Miramax head- and SM executive producer, and SIL producer - Harvey Weinstein. Did Gwynnie complain to him, or was this just excessive sensitivity? I have no idea, but it’s one of the odder alterations I can recall, especially since so many folks already saw the movie with the original line intact.

The DVD:

Scary Movie appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although the picture seemed generally solid, it appeared surprisingly erratic for such a recent film.

Sharpness looked crisp and detailed for the most part but some scenes appeared somewhat soft and hazy. No images were tremendously fuzzy, but more than a few came across as less distinct than they should. I saw no rhyme or reason for the softer scenes; they popped up for little apparent reason. Moiré effects appeared occasionally - mainly due to some checked shirts - but jagged edges presented no problems, and I also saw few artifacts from the anamorphic downconversion on my 4X3 TV. Print flaws presented a few speckles and some mild grit, but otherwise seemed absent.

Colors came across as moderately murky at times. As with the softness, these concerns were rare and most of the hues appeared clear and vivid, with strong saturation and no signs of bleeding or noise. However, some scenes looked hazy and thick. Black levels were acceptably deep and dark, and shadow detailed seemed appropriately heavy but not excessively dense. Overall, most of Scary Movie looked very good but some erratic moments made it less than stellar.

The film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack seemed generally positive. The soundfield stayed mainly in the front channels. Music and effects spread nicely across the forward speakers and meshed together neatly. I found the mix to appear fairly seamless and smooth. The surrounds contributed general reinforcement, most of which featured the film’s music. Some effects and even a little dialogue stem from the rears as well, but mainly we hear nothing other than the score.

Audio quality appeared positive. Dialogue appeared slightly edgy at times but usually was crisp and distinct with no issues related to intelligibility. Effects were clean and realistic and came across accurately without any distortion. The music sounded bright and dynamic and often displayed excellent bass; the low end on the DVD seemed nicely deep and rich. As a whole, the soundtrack appeared appropriate for the film.

Scary Movie includes some supplemental features, most of which are quire good. First we find a collection of “Additional Scenes”. There are six different scenes, each of which is presented in a non-anamorphic 2.35:1 aspect ratio with 2-channel Dolby sound. The individual scenes run from 19 seconds to 124 seconds for a total of seven minutes and 21 seconds of footage. None of these are terribly entertaining, but I have to admit a couple of them almost bordered on being funny; these bits are actually better than anything in the final film.

“Behind the Scenes” offers a brief but surprisingly solid featurette. The program lasts only six minutes and 55 seconds but it provides a very nice look at the film through interviews with cast and crew, movie clips and shots from the set. Obviously the program lacks depth, but for this kind of piece, it was much better than usual.

Lastly, the DVD includes the theatrical trailer for Scary Movie plus a slew of “Sneak Peeks”. These are additional ads for the Scream boxed set, Gone in Sixty Seconds, Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, Senseless, Hellraiser: Inferno, and the soundtrack to SM. Happily, these aren’t also presented as nuisance trailers at the start of the DVD; those “unskippable” ads have appeared on many Buena Vista discs and have irritated thousands, but these promos are featured in a less-intrusive manner.

Scary Movie presents some DVD-ROM features, most of which are much better than average. DVD-ROM areas have become the dumping ground for all sorts of semi-useless extras, but those on SM are much more creative and involving. Most compelling is the “Scary Movie: A Guide for the Culturally Challenged”. This area actually provides two separate extras. For one, it functions as a text commentary that runs during the movie. As you watch the film on your computer, information appears under the picture to tell you about the actors, characters and parody points. There’s also a sidebar on the right of the frame that functions in a number of different capacities; a “Gaydar” lights when homosexual references occur, while other areas keep track of cultural references and various things. It’s very fun and well-executed.

In addition, you can change this area over to the “Quiz Mode”. This functions as a running multiple choice test at the bottom of the screen. The questions cover topics similar to those discussed in the semi-commentary; the problems relate to the film itself plus a variety of cultural areas. You get three points for a right answer and lose three points for a mistake. I don’t know what happens when you complete the quiz; I tried to get through it but crummy old PC Friendly always crashed on me before I could finish it. In any case, it’s a cool and entertaining extra.

These two features are made even more enjoyable because of the considerate way in which they’re presented. While you read the commentary, it actually displays how long it’ll be until the next entry appears; if you’re impatient, you can click ahead to the next one. You can also skip back to prior listings. The quiz works similarly, as you can jump back and forth through the questions. I found these features to be terrifically helpful and I hope others adopt them in the future. My only complaint is that the text commentary should be available to those who don’t have DVD-ROM drives; it’d be a simple addition within the subtitle options.

The DVD-ROM area also includes “Character Profiles” for 14 of the roles. Note that these aren’t cast biographies; each one mentions the name of the actor but otherwise they exist as semi-interesting stories about the characters in the movie. The information provided is nothing special - it essentially regurgitates what we already know from the movie - but it’s still a fun little area. The listings are enhanced with links to lines from the movie and some photos, so it’s a nice addition.

In addition, we find a SM “Screen Saver” which depicts stills from the film and some text lines of dialogue. There’s also a “DVD Destination Website”. That one thanks you for buying the DVD and tells you to check back for future events. It’s dull but at least they were polite!

Lastly, the “Screenplay Viewer” allows you to read the script as you watch the film. I found this interesting just because of all the ways the final product altered the original text. One problem: the entries were off by one chapter. As such, while I watched the opening of the film, I read the material for the next chapter of the DVD, and this problem continued throughout the movie. While this may be connected to my DVD-ROM drive, I doubt it; although PC Friendly can be awfully erratic, it seemed to be a flaw in the original material.

Despite that problem, I was quite impressed with the quality of the extras - DVD-ROM and otherwise - found on Scary Movie. Too bad the movie itself was a complete disaster. I can’t say that this was the least funny and most grating comedy I’ve ever seen, but it was in contention for that title; virtually all 88 minutes of this clunker left me praying for a quick death. The DVD presents an erratic but generally solid picture plus good sound and a few nice supplements. If you already like this film, get the DVD; you’ll be very pleased with it. Otherwise, skip this bomb.

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