Scary Movie (2000)

OCTOBER 30, 2023


I believe I only saw Scary Movie once, during its opening weekend in theaters (back to back with The Kid, of all things), so watching it again now was basically like seeing it for the first time. But I was surprised to see a few gags I remembered vividly, like when Shorty (Marlon Wayans) says everything they’re saying was also in Scream, and the fact that the killer in the movie only killed like one person in the entire thing, with the rest being offed by someone else (i.e. the Drew Barrymore spoof character in the opening ends up being run over by her own parents when she runs away from the killer into the road). And those were relatively niche things – bigger moments, like the fact that the movie is also spoofing I Know What You Did Last Summer, were forgotten entirely.

But the bigger surprise is that it’s actually not that bad (and a Halloween movie, briefly – the opening scene takes place on October 31st)! Since we’ve had so many awful parody movies since (including some of this film’s sequels) it’s actually kind of refreshing to watch one with an actual grasp on storytelling, as opposed to just stringing together a bunch of gags based on whatever pop culture moments came to the filmmakers’ heads when they arrived on set that day. In fact it’s so close to Scream at times that Kevin Williamson should have gotten a co-writer credit, as entire conversations are recreated other than to dovetail into a punchline. The actors in turn also mimic the gestures and deliveries of Skeet Ulrich, Neve Campbell, etc – it’s legitimately impressive how well Shawn Wayans apes Matthew Lillard’s dialogue (complete with excess spittle) during the climax when he outs himself as one of the killers. One of the reasons Airplane works as well as it does is because they took an existing script (a movie called Zero Hour) and just added jokes to it, and that’s close to what the Wayanses did here. 80% of the movie is just Scream, with IKWYDLS taking up maybe 10% (basically just the accident scene and the pageant, plus, of course, "What are you waiting for?") and a few other quick gags from 1999 movies (Sixth Sense, Blair Witch, Matrix) making up the rest.

Blending it with I Know What You Did Last Summer is not only just another obvious target for the time, but it actually keeps them from swiping even more plot points directly from Scream, as Sid’s (er, Cindy’s) mom is barely mentioned and Bobby’s (read: Billy’s) motive has nothing to do with his own mother. Unfortunately, the new motive is incredibly homophobic, as are a lot of the other gags in the film. I know attitudes have changed across the board (they also do the Tatum in the doggy door scene, but as an extended fat joke when the girl can’t get through), but given that the movie actually holds up better than most of these sort of things, it’s kind of a bummer that it couldn’t have been even more “timeless” had it not so constantly relied on the same basic idea that gay is "less than". A line or two that wouldn’t fly anymore is one thing (even the actual Scream has a few fat jokes), but I’d estimate 25% of the movie’s gags boil down to “it’s funny because it’s gay.” Just gets a bit tiresome (hell, it probably even did in 2000, I just can’t remember).

Luckily a lot of gags are just, you know, good gags! Having David “Squiggy” Lander as the principal (originally played by Henry “The Fonz” Winkler) is hilarious, and the scene where everyone else in the theater kills Brenda (Regina Hall) for being so obnoxious while Ghostface just sits and watches the movie is pretty great. And special props to Shannon Elizabeth for getting to show off her comic chops; at the time she was basically just known for American Pie and didn’t get many laughs on her own, but she’s great here as the Tatum/Helen stand-in – instantly forgetting about her dead boyfriend when she hears the won the pageant might have been the hardest I laughed in the whole thing. And I was happy to see Kelly Coffield from In Living Color get a quick cameo as Cindy’s teacher, angrily telling a student to STFU during their boring First Amendment presentation – if I tracked that at the time, it was one of the many things I had since forgotten (Jim Carrey, the other “token white” from that show, which I still quote on the regular, was the lead in another scatological R comedy playing in theaters at the same time, so if Tommy Davidson was in something at the time it could have been a full blown reunion at the multiplex).

And of course, one must appreciate this movie for giving us Anna Faris, who had only been in a few things prior to this and got her first lead here (apparently it was like a last ditch thing for her; she was about to give up acting). She’s one of the most likable comedic performers of the past few decades, and even though the series declined after this one, she always gave it her all while stealing movies away from the leading actors in other things (Just Friends, Lost in Translation, etc). Some of the folks who have starred in other parody films (like the execrable Twilight one Vampires Suck) were essentially never seen again, so it’s a testament to her skills that this gigantic hit (it was the 9th highest grossing film of 2000! It nearly outgrossed X-Men!) may not even be the first thing folks think of when they think of her.

The DVD I watched was given away at an outdoor “Trick r Treating for Adults” event that showed Scream and Scary Movie back to back, which must have been fun for anyone who hadn’t seen the movie before (or, like me, had just forgotten how closely it mirrored it), with all of Scream’s deliveries and obscure lines of dialogue still fresh in the audience’s mind as they were spoofed so specifically in the latter (seriously: Jon Abraham even does Skeet Ulrich’s little finger waving thing when he talks about watching The Exorcist). Alas, we didn’t stay for it as we wanted to get home to relieve the babysitter (weirdly, the same friend I saw SM with all those years ago!), but I’m almost glad it worked out that way, because I probably wouldn’t have ever bothered opening the DVD (it’s not exactly a movie I need to watch over and over) and then I wouldn’t have noticed that despite being a re-released package for the film from Paramount (who now owns this formerly-Disney film) it’s seemingly the exact same disc released in 2000, as it has a bunch of trailers for movies of the time (Gone in 60 Seconds! Hellraiser: Inferno!) despite them, you know, not being Paramount movies (Gone in 60 is still Disney, Hellraiser ended up at Lionsgate). Gotta love how lazy of a release it was, but the time capsule nature of it made me smile. Man, what a time to be alive, when an R rated spoof comedy could outgross the year’s big Disney cartoon (Dinosaur) and the subsequent DVD would, well, exist at all. Now anything like this would be straight to Netflix and be forgotten in two weeks, and perhaps lost forever if they decided not to bother keeping it on their platform due to low viewing numbers. Sigh.

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