It's a parody of the Scream
films, I Know What You Did Last Summer
and many other movies. To my surprise, I quite liked it. It's funny. It has jokes that don't work and occasionally it does that thing of mistaking film references for humour, but it's enjoyable and doesn't deserve to be lumped with other Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer films like Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, Disaster Movie and Vampires Suck.
It's an odd idea for a film, though, because the 1990s were a terrible decade for horror. They're piggybacking on Kevin Williamson, really. Scream
, check. I Know What You Did Last Summer
, check. The Faculty
... no, not that one, but that's just another Invasion of the Body Snatchers
. Apparently there's even a brief Dawson's Creek reference, just to complete the Kevin Williamson set, although I only know that because I looked it up. The plot is a cut-and-paste of its two parent films, with even the cast being full of parodies of specific characters from the originals, but that's okay because parodies are allowed to do that. Scream
provides Ghostface, the phone calls, the killer-unmasking, the Drew Barrymore opening sequence and more. Meanwhile I Know What You Did Last Summer
provides the flashbacks and backstory, all the scenes where the characters are talking about anything that matters and the fisherman's hook. (Ghostface uses it.)
All that works well. Comedies still need structure, just like other movies, and those two originals fit well together. Scream
has a more memorable killer and set pieces, while I Know What You Did Last Summer
provides dramatic meat. Admittedly here drama's being ripped to shreds at every opportunity, but it still helps to have that initial springboard. Incidentally Scary Movie is a portmanteau movie in another way too, being a combination of two scripts Dimension Films bought in 1998, one by Friedberg-Seltzer and the other by the Wayans brothers and Phil Beaman.
So... the gags.
It's surprisingly low in quotability. I was looking for good lines to finish my review and nothing really felt right. What it has instead is a flair for sight gags, especially cruel ones in which suicides jump from buildings and people get accidentally run down. It gets almost Looney Tunes in the scene where Anna Faris is pushing things down the stairs at Ghostface, e.g. granny, a piano. That kind of thing made me laugh more than anything else in the film.
It doesn't skewer horror as a genre as much as you'd expect, oddly, but I enjoyed what it does have. I particularly loved the Drew Barrymore introduction, with Carmen Electra playing "Drew Decker". Electra (who can't act, by the way) chooses a banana for self-defence from a table of lethal weapons and chooses unwisely from paths marked "safety" and "death". There's also a False Scare By Cat, immediately followed by a False Scare By Horse.
All that's good, but it unfortunately requires cleverness. A more all-purpose source of gags is vulgarity. There are gags about homosexuality, small penises, pubic hair, fellatio and much more, although despite this the film's not going for nudity. Stoner gags there are a-plenty, with industrial quantities of drugs being consumed by Anna Faris's father, Marlon Wayans and everyone in the latter's house. The David Arquette character in Scream
has been turned into a retard with worrying sexual and toilet habits, which I'm afraid I found funny. Similarly Shawn Wayans is playing a flaming queen who's in denial of his homosexuality, which also made me laugh except in the uncomfortable scene where he's getting Brenda Meeks to wear American football armour. What can I say? Poo is funny. "I did poopy. It was good."
We appear to be working our way down the food chain, in which case it's probably time for the movie references. Here, they're not that bad. In other films, they've made me spit blood. There are so-called comedies out there which seem to think it's the height of hilarity to reprise a sequence from another film. (Jokes are optional.) Friedberg-Seltzer are notorious for this, in case you were wondering, but in fact Scary Movie doesn't really offend in this department. The Matrix-Riverdance bit is anti-comedy, but for the most part the movie references are neutral. They don't make you laugh, but they also don't slow the film down. You simply notice them and move on. There's The Sixth Sense, The Usual Suspects, The Blair Witch Project (with snot) and so on. Admittedly I didn't like Shannon Elizabeth's character being called Buffy, but that's simply because they do nothing with it. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was by miles the biggest thing to happen to horror in the 1990s, as far as I'm concerned... and yet this film namechecks it in an attention-pulling way, then ignores it.
There's also stuff that doesn't work. Marlon Wayans's stoner housemates bored me, while I've already mentioned the scene with Shawn Wayans and the American football outfit.
As for the franchise as a whole, it's releasing its fifth movie this year. Yikes. I've seen the first two and I remember the sequel as being inferior, but I liked its prologue about The Exorcist. Those two were also the only Scary Movies from the Wayans brothers, with all the others since being directed by David Zucker. Anna Faris and Regina Hall are in them all, while each franchise subset (1-2 vs. 3+) has its own returning characters too. So now you know.
Overall, I reckon it's underrated. It has clever gags among the shitstorm of puerile ones, e.g. the murderous attack from Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama. It has good bits that express a black perspective, e.g. "white woman in trouble" or the Titanic parody. It also has cool throwaways, like the condom machine or the movie certification screen that can only be read if you've paused the DVD. However at the end of the day, you probably shouldn't watch this film if you can't agree that its scene with a photo of a tiny penis is funny. There's an art to vulgar comedy. South Park can do it. This film is a bit more hit-and-miss, but it's got a good enough hit rate that I enjoyed myself. Is it funny? Yes. It probably helped that I was familiar with the material being parodied, though.