This new movie from the younger Wayans brothers is a spoof of
the teen-slasher genre rather than the real thing, but it’s
still pretty frightening on two counts. One is that it
certainly represents the highest level of gross sexual humor
even presented in a major-studio release rated “R” by the
MPAA; the nudity on display here alone is rather shocking.
Secondly, however, it’s pretty surprising that despite the
efforts of six writers, a game cast and Keenan Ivory Wayans
as director, “Scary Movie” isn’t terribly funny.

The basic problem is that the movie is really a parody of a
parody. “Scream” was already, in the shrewd, knowing script
of Kevin Williamson, a clever send-up of the conventions of
earlier slasher flicks, making its satiric points while
simultaneously generating some thrills. Its sequels weren’t
nearly as successful in merging the two elements, of course,
and its many imitators fared even worse; but they all still
attempted the kind of smirking, winking approach that the
first “Scream” managed so nicely. What “Scary Movie” does,
therefore, is to try to make a joke of a genre that’s already
an intentional joke. It’s no wonder that it doesn’t come off.

It has its moments, of course–a parody cobbled together by
Shawn and Marlon couldn’t help but hit home from time to time.
There’s a moment when we see the masked murderer laboriously
cleaning up the mess created by his slaughter of a victim, for
example, that’s very sharp. A phony movie trailer for
“Amistad II,” in which Keenan has a cameo, is a gem. A
sequence in which a rude, mouthy member of the audience is
disposed of in a crowded theatre will bring cheers from every
regular moviegoer. And there are instances when the send-up
of the conventions of the slasher film is briefly hilarious.

But for the most part “Scary Movie” is merely a chain of the
cliches found in the “Scream” and “I Know What You Did Last
Summer” series, spiced up with lots of potty jokes, drug
humor and exaggerated violence and a surprising amount of gay-
bashing. There are also periodic allusions to other pictures,
including “The Usual Suspects,” “The Sixth Sense,” “The Blair
Witch Project” and “The Matrix.” It’s easy to identify all the
references, but since the only twist given to them usually
involves snot, narcotics or a graphic shot of some bodily
orifice, their occurrence more often engenders revulsion than
laughs. It’s not amusing, for instance, to watch Deputy
Dewey, from the “Scream” movies, transformed into a character
named Doofy (Dave Sheridan), a mentally retarded fellow unable
to control his bowels; or to see some near-nude photos starring
the local sheriff (Kurt Fuller); or to hear highschool
loudmouth Greg (Lochlyn Munro) taunted because of the small
size of his male organ; or to witness an ostentatiously gay
footballer (Shawn Wayans) dress his dim-bulb girlfriend in
helmet and shoulder pads in order to make her attractive to

In other words, “Scary Movie” does its spoofing with a blunt
instrument instead of a scalpel, and it’s engineered to
appeal to the lowest instincts of its targeted adolescent
audiences. (One can be certain that youngsters, especially
males, will crowd into it repetitively, in spite of the “R”
rating.) Though it occasionally hits the target, it rarely
scores a bull’s-eye, and its insistent crassness and vulgarity
are wearying. In an age where crudity without limit appeals
to a large segment of the audience, however, it will probably
prove a big boxoffice success. That’s a pretty dispiriting