Didn’t the “Scary Movie” films used to be parodies? It has been 13 years since the first one came out, so my memory is admittedly a bit foggy, but I seem to remember the Wayans Brothers taking pointed jabs at “Scream,” “The Blair Witch Project,” “The Sixth Sense,” and other ‘90s horror staples. They made fun of the genre’s inherent absurdities.
Ever since David Zucker (forever famous for his one funny movie, 1980’s “Airplane!”) took over the franchise with “Scary Movie 3,” the films have continued to be billed as parodies, but in truth they contain very few parodic elements. Instead, they simply take the premises of popular recent horror (or, increasingly, non-horror) films—the biggest inspirations for “Scary Movie 5” were “Mama,” “Paranormal Activity,” and “Black Swan”—and insert tepid gags into them. The filmmakers are no longer mocking the source films, they’re just borrowing the stories to use as vehicles for their juvenile jokes. In fact, they were literally incapable of substantive mocking in a few cases (namely “Mama” and the new “Evil Dead”), as the films weren’t even released by the time “Scary Movie 5” was filmed.
In fact, there’s no better illustration of the common critical quibble that mainstream audiences willingly pay to see the exact same movie over and over than the last few entries in this series, which have sold millions of tickets by rehashing horror films into comedies (err, attempted comedies), as if the existing rehashes within the horror genre weren’t enough already. There’s a cliché joke in “Scary Movie 5” about how redundant horror has become, perpetually putting its characters into cursed cabins in the woods, but without effectively satirizing this trend, the film can simply be counted as the latest to, well, put its characters into a cursed cabin in the woods.
I won’t even get into the fact that a nearly identical riff on many of the same recent horror films, “A Haunted House,” spearheaded by former “Scary Movie” lead Marlon Wayans, was released just three months ago.
For “Scary Movie 5,” filmmaker Zucker resigned himself to just writing and producing, choosing Malcolm D. Lee to replace him in the director’s chair. But if not for the credits, you’d never guess that the film was helmed by the man who brought us the exceptionally funny blaxploitation sendup “Undercover Brother,” as it lifelessly moves from one crude sketch to the next, much like the Zucker-directed installments. If assorted bodily functions and teenage-boy-minded sex gags, like a little girl asking her guardians what a dildo is (holding the mysterious object), stopped being funny for you years ago—which is to say, you’re older than 14—then you’re unlikely to glean a single laugh from “Scary Movie 5.”
Making matters even worse: the series’ only remaining comedic talents in the fourth installment, Anna Faris and Regina Hall, have finally departed. The biggest names in “Scary Movie 5” are Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan, who only appear in the first scene, playing themselves, in an exceptionally pathetic celebration of their respective recent personal indiscretions. After this, Ashley Tisdale (“High School Musical”) and Simon Rex (a non-talent from the prior films) lead the proceedings, and neither manages to render the poorly written material funny via creative line-delivery.
Judging by the near 10-minute bloopers reel tacked onto the credits, every member of the cast (especially Tisdale) found the material hilarious. I won’t bother to wonder what kind of drugs Lohan and Sheen brought to the set to enable this. Instead, I suppose I should just be happy that someone derived a little joy from “Scary Movie 5,” because I certainly didn’t, nor will any other adult audience member with half a brain.