Making the Grades
Seven years after its last installment, the Scary Movie franchise is back with a new offering, Scary Movie 5. But unlike aged cheese or beef, time has done nothing to improve the palatability of this gross fest. Even Anna Farris, who had her breakthrough film debut as Cindy Campbell in Scary Movie and went on to star in the next three films, isn’t reprising her role.
Instead the blonde female lead is played by Ashley Tisdale who may be best known for her recurring role in the TV series The Suite Life of Zack and Cody or the High School Musical movies. Like the spoofs Date Movie and Epic Movie that take stabs at romantic comedies and Hollywood hits, the Scary Movie films purport to parody horror films, in this case Mama, The Cabin in the Woods and Paranormal Activity along with a host of other recent releases like The Black Swan, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Inception, Evil Dead and the Madea movies. But what Scary Movie 5 ends up being is little more than an excuse for disgusting depictions of bathroom humor, the comedic portrayal of illegal drug use and ongoing crude sexual content (including Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan wrestling under the sheets, a lesbian encounter involving food items and a vacuum cleaner used as a sexual stimulator for an animal).
Parodies, at least clever ones, require intelligent writing and creative use of the original content. Neither of these is apparent in this script that involves flying excrement and a baby with his head on fire. A spoof also needs audiences to be acquainted with the material it is lampooning. As neither Mama or Evil Dead have released to home video yet, fewer viewers may be familiar with the story lines that dominate this script.
While the first two films in the franchise earned R-ratings, the next three all made it under the PG-13 wire, giving even more young audience members access to them without parental approval. But don’t let the lighter rating fool you. Viewers deserve better than jokes about bulimia, water boarding tactics and below-the-belt anatomy. Spewing vomit, spurting blood and implied incest don’t make the grade either.
Although the tag line for the first film promised “No mercy. No shame. No sequel”, the second film’s tagline just read shamelessly, “We lied.” . And there is doubtless little future mercy to be expected either. With a production cost of only $20 million dollars, it’s a good bet Scary Movie 5 won’t be the last in the series. Especially if this production follows in the footsteps of its predecessors, which earned $157 million, $71 million, $110 million and $90 million respectively.
But after sitting through 89 painful minutes of crude, lowbrow jokes, one has to wonder what perverse messages these films send to teens about sexuality, relationships and quality humor. And why a new generation of young people will line up at the box office to see them.