APRIL 15, 2011
While most of the horror community was out bitching about Scream 4 instead of actually seeing it, I was taking in Stupid Teenagers Must Die!, which was purportedly a spoof/homage of 80s movies like Night of the Demons, not unlike the original Scream was for slasher films. Unfortunately, it's not nearly as successful, as the laughs are few and far between, and unlike Scream, if you strip away the humor, it doesn't quite work as part of its respective sub-genre.
In fact I seriously began doubting whether it was even intended to be a comedy in the first place. Whether they are actually funny or not, I can usually detect the ATTEMPT at a joke in a movie, but for the most part a lot of this stuff seemed to be played straight. The hero in particular is far too abrasive to be considered comedic, dropping F-bombs into nearly every line and generally just acting like an asshole right from the start. But not in a loud cartoonish way that could be construed as a parody of the jock hero in these sort of movies - he's just an asshole. To be fair, one of the few laughs I got was when he tells a character (who he suspects to be the villain) that he could go ahead and kill the other characters for all he cared, he just wanted his keys back.
The opening scene does the movie no favors, either. Shot entirely in bizarrely wide shots and featuring a lot of dialogue I could barely hear, again I could barely detect any humor. A movie like this needs a knockout opening in order to get the audience on board with what type of movie it is. You look at Scream - you get the movie references, the "no one is safe" approach (a point that has ironically been seemingly forgotten by its own filmmakers), and most importantly - the TONE; scary but fun. Hear, we learn that the movie would be clumsily shot/recorded and that it would feature amateur actors who either didn't KNOW they were making a spoof, or weren't good enough to deliver the type of performance that sort of material would demand.
Likewise, the deaths are not over the top enough to be funny; if anything some of them seem tamer than the ones in the movies this is supposedly sending up. I'm not even a big fan of Night of the Demons (I prefer the remake, actually), but it's actually a funnier movie than this alleged spoof. No one will ever say that Halloween is funnier than Scream. And, oddly enough, the back-story is actually kind of cool - it's almost a shame that we're apparently not supposed to be taking it seriously.
In fact, the most obvious example of the movie being a spoof literally comes at the very end, with a pair of end credits songs that lampoon movie themes by ridiculously explaining the plot (the tunes themselves are kind of catchy as well). There's also a nod to John Landis, and the movie is referred to as a POS by at least one title. Again, this sort of thing suggests that they made a movie perhaps INSPIRED by those 80s movies, realized it kind of bit, and decided to say it was a spoof to save face. One of the other laughs in the movie is just an overlong shot of a dead character's blood pooling out around him, and it wouldn't surprise me if they just realized it could be made into a joke during the editing process (post "What if we just said it was a spoof?" idea).
Production value is, as expected, a bit low. Many scenes occur with all of the actors in one shot together, another thing that kills the potential for humor since a good chunk of what makes a joke work is in the editing, and with everything in a master shot there's not much to edit. Plus the actors are largely novices (one of them can't even deliver his lines properly, constantly tripping over names and such), and while some seem to be playing it for laughs, too many play it straight, which cancels out the efforts of the others. Though I was happy to see Autopsy's Ashley Schneider as the heroine - very easy on the eyes, she is. Also, weird, Autopsy is from the same folks who made the Night of the Demons remake.
Oddly, before I watched the movie (or even knew it existed; as is often the case with my Netflix views, I found it while surfing around looking for something to watch), I was thinking what a shame it was that so few have ever borrowed the Scream approach for another sub-genre. One can assume Cursed was meant to be a similar take on werewolf films, but that thing was so re-edited/re-shot to hell it barely resembled a movie at all let alone a winking homage to an entire genre of them. Granted the slasher film lends itself more easily to this sort of thing, but apart from Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil (which took on Wrong Turn style survival horror films), I can't think of any others - no vampire or monster movies with that sort of fun but serious mentality (well, maybe Feast). The supernatural 80s movie (Night of the Demons, Witchboard, etc) definitely deserves a loving but winking tribute, but this ain't it.
What say you?