Scary Movie 2 Review

Scary Movie 2 isn't so much a bad film as a woefully unadventurous one. Like its predecessor, it's a collection of film parodies strung together with a tenuous plot. However, where the original was specifically based on Scream and thus gained a certain coherence, the sequel is vaguely inspired by The Haunting but scatters its references all over the place, to the point where it's obvious that the film is willing to do anything for a laugh. Nothing wrong with that, on the strict understanding that the laughs are duly delivered - and it's here that Scary Movie 2 falls down. Most of the jokes are either well past their sell-by date or just lazy and the heavy reliance on bodily fluids and drug references suggests that inspiration ran out shortly before the script was written.

There's not a great deal of point in a detailed plot summary. The film seems to be inspired, if that's the right word, by the remake of The Haunting. The main characters from Scary Movie reappear, this time at college, with their personas intact - cue a lot of deeply unfunny drug jokes from Shorty (Marlon Wayans) and an overdose of vaguely homophobic humour from Ray (Shawn Wayans). As with the first film, Anna Faris - in the thankless role of Cindy - works miracles in holding together the chaos and making an attractively funny character out of virtually nothing. But her efforts are largely in vain here because the comedy, after a promising start, is a long stream of bad jokes and gross-out humour done without any wit or style. The promising start is a rather good parody of The Exorcist which has some genuinely funny jokes and a delicious bit of hamming from James Woods as Father McFeely. Woods is the only actor in the film, with the exception of Faris, who has any idea of how to underplay a line and he is consequently the funniest thing in the whole movie. But the climax of the scene, predictably a lengthy vomiting contest, shows the way the film is going. The problem is that the filmmakers appear to believe that any reference to a bodily fluid is funny in itself and thus forget to add any jokes. The same goes for generally disgusting behaviour - it's one thing to make the audience to go "urgh" but quite another for them to laugh at the same time. The worst offender is Chris Elliott, a comedian who is apparently quite popular in the USA but who has failed to make much of an impact here. Playing the butler, called Hanson, he does things so gross that I can't bear to think about them, although a scene with a turkey is impossible to forget. Again, grossness is considered hysterically funny in itself by the film, along with being gay, female or dead. Bodily fluids begin to pile up so fast that a flood warning might be considered appropriate - vomit, shit, piss, spunk, spit, you name it. Such things can be funny - Monty Python fans might care to remember the scene with Mr Creosote, a scene which in its wit and careful timing exemplifies just what's wrong with Scary Movie 2. Perhaps its personal taste but I spent much of Scary Movie 2 waiting to smile and being disappointed.

To be fair, it's not a complete loss. Any film with so many jokes - and Scary Movie 2 isn't so much a narrative as a collection of gags - is bound to have some hits among the frequent misses. Along with the spoof of The Exorcist, there are nice nods towards Final Destination, Poltergeist, The Changeling, FaceOff and Hannibal. There's also a good Calista Flockhart joke and a splendidly off-the-wall fight with a kick boxing cat. But the good moments tend to serve merely to point up the general laziness of much of the humour. Calling the haunted house "Hell House" is pathetic plagiarism, relying on a foul-mouthed parrot to get laughs is juvenile and the rape jokes would be distasteful even if they were funny. There's not much point railing against misogyny and homophobia in a film as flimsy as this but it is worth considering whether the attitudes reflect the audience or whether the audience simply accept the attitudes. Being non-PC, as we now think of it, can have a useful purpose. When Peter Cook and Dudley Moore joke about cancer or incest in their Derek And Clive personas, there is a genuine sense of taboos being shattered, but in Scary Movie 2 there is simply a casual acceptance that, for example, being gay is automatically funny. The difference is crucial - Derek And Clive challenge the status quo, Scary Movie 2 accepts and perpetuates it. It's a bit like being stuck back in 1975 where the slightest reference to "poofters" is greeted with glee by a TV studio audience. For all the dirty jokes and cool attitudes, there isn't a single moment here which says anything new about the absurdity of the horror genre or challenges the audience to be genuinely shocked, unless you're alarmed by the word "fuck" or watching someone skin up, in which case you wouldn't be watching the film in the first place. This is possible even in the flimsiest parody film - take the Inquisiton number in Mel Brooks' uneven History Of The World Part One as an example of how to confront audience prejudices and then make them into a big joke which is both sick and liberating at the same time.

Of course, daring in itself isn't essential to good comedy. But a paucity of decent jokes and an excess of lazy stereotypes with one character trait to their name are barely acceptable. The ideal audience for this film is 14 year old boys which makes nonsense of the BBFC's "18" certificate. I don't really ask much from a film like this, just diversion and a few laughs, but to attempt shock and succeed only in creating mild annoyance is failure however you look at it. It never breaks free and becomes wild like some of the early Woody Allen films or the best moments in the Naked Gun series do. Nor does it create a head of steam like, for example, Steve Martin's The Man With Two Brains which contains just as many silly jokes as this one does but which has a genuinely insane streak that produces a sort of cumulative hysteria, at least in this viewer, so that anything is hilarious no matter how silly it is. The original Scary Movie occasionally managed this, especially in the opening take on Scream, but the sequel never catches fire. Having said that, if you thought Scary Movie was the funniest thing since the last Dick Emery show, you will probably like the sequel a lot more than I did.

The Disc

Unsurprisingly, the disc is a hell of a lot better than the film. In fact, its something of a triumph for Buena Vista, hitherto not the first distributor to come to mind when considering good value for money. From the beautifully animated menus onwards, the impression is one of genuine care and attention to the quality of the entire product.

The film is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer. Some reviews have commented that the image looks a little bland but I found it largely excellent. There is no artifacting, the contrast is strong and the colours are stunning throughout. Sometimes there is rather more softness than necessary, resulting in an occasional lack of fine detail but this is a quibble which doesn't really affect enjoyment of the film.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is similarly impressive. Although not a spectacular track in terms of surround effects, there are effective uses of the surrounds for dialogue and ambient effects. The music is strong and clear throughout and the sub-woofer is occasionally used to good effect, notably during the storm scenes. A very competent soundtrack of the standard one would expect from a recent mainstream production.

The list of extras looks impressive on the back of the box but the actual content is not quite as detailed as this might suggest. The featurettes all last between two and ten minutes and are obviously pieces intended for some kind of EPK promotion. The best of them is the make-up featurette, which contains at least one bit of great trivia for movie fans, while the least interesting is the two minute examination of how the cat was animated. The longest featurette is the Behind The Scenes piece which contains a number of interviews, the most entertaining of which is with James Woods. Beware the chats with the Wayans brothers, pure ego-gratification at its most obnoxious. The Scary Effects feature is a mildly interesting look at how to do broken glass effects on film. As for the Special Effects feature, those of you fascinated by how to manufacture fake cat excrement will find it more engrossing than I did.

The most impressive element of the extra features is the collection of 22 deleted or alternate scenes. I was surprised to see so many because the film is hardly what you'd call long (82 minutes) and some of the bits they left out are funnier than what's been left in. Mostly, however, it's the same sort of infantile humour that the film is already overflowing with.

We also get seven trailers - Gangs Of New York, 40 Days And 40 Nights, Scary Movie, Scream Trilogy, Don't Be A Menace To South Central..., Senseless and Dimension Cutting Edge Films. Oddly, we don't get the trailer for Scary Movie 2. There are a reasonable 19 chapter stops and several DVD-ROM features. The special features menu is accompanied by the foul mouthed parrot being generally anti-social.

If you liked Scary Movie then you will probably like this. If you thought the original was a lazy spoof of a film which was already self-parody in the first place then you will probably find nothing here to appeal. The DVD is very good however, so if you are a fan of the film then you will find it a worthwhile purchase.

Thanks to Ringos for supplying this DVD.

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