Well kids, it’s back. Just when we thought it was safe to return to multiplexes, a long dormant, horror themed franchise has risen from the grave like a particularly gruesome zombie. No matter what I write, I know, as do you, that this unholy creature is indestructible and it will be back again one day. Maybe next year. Maybe in five years. Only one thing is certain, the Scary Movie franchise is as shamelessly resilient as Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees. God help us.
Crafted from the remains of many a recent pop horror, Scary Movie V is the fourth sequel to a film whose tagline promised NO SEQUELS. However, this may be the most distant from that entry. While the first two Scary Movies were vehicles for the Wayans Brothers, Scary Movie 3 (2003) and Scary Movie 4 (2006) became the artifacts of a much cleaner and modest form of parody: David Zucker. The writer and director of Airplane!, as well as the first two Naked Gun films, turned the series into a bland spoof of whatever was popular in the media at that moment. While nowhere near his early classics, Zucker at least maintained Anna Faris and Regina Hall from the Wayans era. Six years later, even they are gone in Scary Movie V and Zucker has semi-retired to the role of producer and writer. Indeed, other than a cameo from Charlie Sheen and Simon Rex (who appeared in Scary Movie 3), there is little to connect this with the previous films. Well besides the fart jokes.
This is usually the part of the review where I attempt to give a brief synopsis of the movie’s plot. But considering this film doesn’t have one, suffice it to say that Dan (Simon Rex) and Jody (Ashley Tisdale) adopt Charlie Sheen’s creepy kids after he suffers an agonizingly unfunny end. From that point on it is a pastiche of other horror movies. So, like the writers, I am going to forget the structure to my review and will instead outline a few of Scary Movie V’s MANY spoofs.
Paranormal Activity: It should surprise no one that the Scary Movie franchise would take aim at the most popular horror series to appear in its seven year absence. And Scary Movie V does that right out of the gate when the film opens on Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan (yay, cameos!) in bed together. They are haunted by one mean demon whose idea of a gag is to shove Charlie’s crotch into the edge of the bedroom door repeatedly. Charlie turns to the camera and proudly smirks, “We have come back from worse than this.” I am not sure you have, Charlie.
The rest of the film often returns to the motif with Dan and Jody’s house covered in cameras meant to monitor the behavior of their nieces. Cue the night vision photography of ghosts/demons possessing the cleaning lady, so that she gets up to dance with pool cleaners or the found footage of the daughters walking on water. Of course, they stretch the boundary of the parody to new heights when Jody opens the closet door, despite her nieces’ protests, to find the cleaning lady taking an enormous poop in the crapper. They warned her not to open the door, get it?
Mama: Much to my surprise, Mama probably has the greatest impact on the plot of Scary Movie V. I at first assumed that the filmmakers merely saw the trailer and incorporated some last minute gags into their spoof. But, they actually managed to structure most of their film around this January 2013 release. A three-month turn around from film to spoof? That has got to be some kind of record.
Like that Guillermo del Toro produced creeper, the emotional punch of the movie rests on an aunt with a punk haircut learning to be a mother to a few feral, surrogate daughters. The main tension of Scary Movie V, if you can call it that, remains between their Mama and Ashley Tisdale’s Jody, in a post-blonde makeover, for ownership of the kids. Yet strangely, other than a few sketches involving one of the nieces panting like a dog, the movie is not so much a punchline as a loose framing device. Still, Scary Movie gets brownie points for TWO nods to Mama’s Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty. This includes drones hunting down Snoop Dogg for lighting a six-foot tall joint. Fo’ shizzle, Snoop D.O. Double G.
Evil Dead: If referencing Mama set some kind of record, Scary Movie V beats it an hour into the movie when it goes after LAST WEEK’S Evil Dead remake. Granted, they only had the red band trailers, which helpfully showed most of the money shots, to work from as well as the original Sam Raimi films. The spoof ends up being a little closer to the Raimi style than the actual remake, but it works for the most part.
Jody and her sassy black BFF Kendra (Erica Ash) head to a cabin in the woods inhabited by Christians. In the cellar, Jody finds the Evil Book that turned “Mama” into a demon. They read from it about a half-dozen times repeatedly turning the Christians upstairs into self-mutilating demons and then back to normal. Cue jokey splatter effects and one ABC ingénue star (the Evil Dead remake and Suburgatory’s Jane Levy) being replaced by another (Modern Family’s Sarah Hyland). The vignette is so tacked-on and last-minute that there is nary a fart or celebrity gagger in sight. Since they probably scrambled to include the skit, they actually just spoofed things from Evil Dead. Granted, it was more the crazy “Force” shots and Dutch angels from the original, but it was nice to see them try something new, even if it is 30 years old.
Black Swan: Does Black Swan count as a horror movie? Maybe…but it does not really matter here where Scary Movie spoofs everything EXCEPT the body horror. For her day job, Jody is a ballerina in a local company where she wants to replace Molly Shannon as the Swan Queen. It is there she meets and competes with Kendra. And yes, they make out with an exaggerated lesbian scene. Just like in Black Swan.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes: Okay, there is no way that this counts as a horror movie, But Dan works at a lab run by Terry Crews. There, they have an ape named Caesar who despite being a guy in a suit, honestly looks no less authentic than the CGI creation in the 2011 movie. Caesar stays over at the house and figures out that there is a demon in the house. Ha.
There is more, including Kat Williams playing a genuinely funny psychic and a strange spoof of Fifty Shades of Grey with Jerry O’Connell, but most of it misses as bizarre non-horror shtick.
Scary Movie V is a clear example of filmmakers making a quick buck by spoofing what is trendy that week. Literally, in the case of Evil Dead. It is not so much a comedy as a pop culture collage that one can find on the back page of Entertainment Weekly. It may be a good barometer for how “in” you are with celebrity culture (I got Honey Boo Boo in the two-second Sinister spoof, but did not know which housewives were which at the apes lab). It is a shame that for all this effort to recreate scenes from other, more popular movies and TV shows that the writers and producers do not even bother to make it funny. A fart joke here and a Kate Walsh eating cardboard there does not a comedy make.
It is Scary Movie V. You know from that title what to expect. Just as we can expect Scary Movie 6 to come for us no matter how much we beg… This series may just outlive us all. Now THAT is a scary thought.